> Jean Sibelius - Violin Concerto - Symphony No. 5 [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto (1905)
Symphony No. 5 (1917)
Ida Haendel (violin)
Bournemouth SO/Paavo Berglund
rec 1976, 1974, EMI


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This bargain price disc uses analogue tapes licensed from EMI Classics. It is issued without any notes at all which always seems fair enough to me if the price is right and the performances are good. There is too much grumpy hoo-ha about inadequate sleeve notes when the music is the thing. This is especially the case in the bargain reaches of the catalogue and this is right down there with Regis, Naxos and Eloquence.

So to the music. The Fifth Symphony is given a solid, honest and tellingly grave interpretation. Berglund was always good at conveying the epic even in a half hour symphony. I would not have this as a first choice but it is satisfying and representative of an unadorned and sincere approach to Sibelius exegesis. The soberly majestic Fifth is also to be found in the super-bargain Royal Classics box of the complete Bournemouth SO Sibelius symphonies.

The Concerto is the reason why you would seek out this disc. Sculpted, pointful, spontaneous seeming, fresh and eventful. There is no trace of the ordinary about it and it catches Haendel at her mercurial and feline zenith. Listen to her lilting melt and legato at 4.13 in the first movement. Odd how I was reminded more often than not of the sound of Kogan - as in his 1950s recording of the Tchaikovsky concerto with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra. Berglund is likewise in the mood to convince you that this is no time-serving session to fill gaps in EMI's frontline Sibelius series of the mid-1970s.

If you are primarily focused on the Concerto then the Haendel version is also to be had on the HMV Classics label (only HMV shops in the UK) for about the same price as the Disky item. It shares the same shelves as the partial Rattle symphony cycle in the same series. The HMV Classics disc also includes, amongst other Sibelius items, Gibson's Karelia Suite. Haendel and Berglund do not displace my reference version (Oistrakh/Rozhdestvensky - Melodiya-BMG) but theirs is counted amongst the 'Top Ten' recordings of this ideally romantic work of the last century.

High-tide analogue recordings with an almost tacit bed of hiss completely forgotten almost immediately the music gets under weigh.

Rob Barnett

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