> Jean Sibelius - Symphony No.1 & 4 - Lorin Maazel [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 1 (1899) [35.54]
Symphony No. 4 (1910) [32.31]
Vienna PO/Lorin Maazel
rec Sofiensaal, Vienna, Sept 1963, Mar-Apr 1968 ADD
ELOQUENCE (DECCA) 461 325-2 [69.00]


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The VPO is the heart's home for the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Bruckner and Franz Schmidt. How many would have predicted that Decca would select that orchestra for their premium Sibelius and moving Anthony Collins' mono seven to Ace of Clubs and then to Eclipse? However it worked and in Maazel they also chose well.

The Tchaikovskian First Symphony in Maazel's hands is over-brimmingly passionate, gruff and at times quite furiously paced though starting off rather low key - almost casual. Decca spotlighting comes into play to good effect - listen to the harp towards the end of the allegro energico. The rapidity of the scherzo puts the VPO through their paces and they more than pass anyone's muster without smudging; quite something at this clip. Maazel slashes into the Finale; clearly meaning business.

The Fourth Symphony is the antithesis of the romantic indulgence of the First. It was written under the shadow of Sibelius's encounter with throat cancer and a decade after the symphony's partner on this disc. The two works stand poles apart - one written within the heritage of high nationalistic romance; the other forbidding, mustering only an icy lyricism.

The three discs onto which the seven (shorn of the Tapiola which would have made this a rather profligate four disc sequence) were transferred are part of the Eloquence Primavera series. This is a subset of the Eloquence catalogue and is marked out by the covers which use details from Melinda Harper's untitled abstract oils. All three show what can perhaps be described as a hailstorm of sticks of colour.

Rob Barnett



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