Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 4 (1908) [35.03]
Symphony No. 6 (1916) [29.41]
The Swan of Tuonela (1895) [8.57]
Leipzig Radio SO/Herbert Kegel (4)
Berlin Radio SO/Paavo Berglund (6, Swan)
rec 1969, 1970. ADD
previously issued as Eterna 00031432BC


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

Berlin Classics continue to ring the changes on their back catalogue. The mainstay of their Sibelius 'window' is Kurt Sanderling's complete cycle, made in the 1970s and now an astounding bargain on Brilliant Classics. Clustered around it there are isolated symphonies recorded by Kegel, Garaguly and Berglund (pre-EMI).

Kegel engages with the Sibelius symphony one would most have expected this acolyte of the avant-garde to take up. Kegelís Fourth is expansive [35.03]. One could never sensibly accuse Kegel of taking the piece lightly. Sound quality is very agreeable and far from bland. The Leipzig RSO's first cello chose not to infuse as much character into the work as his Viennese counterpart in the Maazel Decca set. Kegel's high violins, when piling on the pressure, sound terrific - refined and yet red-blooded - for example at 6.06 in the first movement. The tempo largo movement is extremely atmospheric recorded in an ideally resonant acoustic. This is a freshly envisioned reading which you are unlikely to leave without questioning assumptions you may previously have made about Kegel.

Now we turn to Berglund. In 1970 he recorded the Sixth Symphony and The Swan with the Berlin Radio Symphony. Between 1972 and 1977 he was to record all seven for EMI with the orchestra of which he had be then become principal conductor circa 1971. The kindling for that Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra cycle was the phenomenally successful world premiere recording of the Kullervo Symphony. For that two LP set Berglund had the orchestra members playing their hearts out - indistinguishable from a world class orchestra. The recording which was also superb technically was as critical to the orchestraís status as had been the Silvestri In the South a decade earlier. It was no wonder that the EMI bosses gave the full cycle the nod.

In Berlin in 1970 Berglund directed a passionate version of the Sixth though its closely miked sonics are not a patch on Berglund's Bournemouth Sibelius. Berglund recorded the seven in three locations: The Guildhall, Southampton, the Abbey Road Studios and, in the case of the Sixth, in the Kingsway Hall, London. Listening to the two versions one after the other the Berglund/Bournemouth (part of a completed cycle on Disky HR703862) trounces with ripeness and refinement the dense and single dimensional Berlin sound. However nothing is straightforward. Just taking the Poco Vivace movement (III) there is no contest: as a piece of recreative work the Berlin version coheres, flows with warmth and radiates energy. The Disky version is halting by comparison even if the sonics are superior.

What can one say about The Swan? The Berlin version has all the virtues and vices of the Sixth Symphony with more than a hint of analogue overload at 5.13. Again I compared this with Berglund on Disky's set. This is naturalistically balanced, refined in string sound, allowing some air and spatial illusion between listener and front row of the violins.

This disc is a mixed bag. Two very good symphonies: Kegel provocatively intellectual without being cerebral in 4, Berglund unblushingly high tensile in 6. The Swan suffers from overload. The Kegel sounds remarkably good despite its vintage but both Berglunds are in your face - too much so in the case of The Swan.

Minimal notes and card fold sleeve rather than jewel case. We must hope for Berlin Classics' versions of symphonies 1, 2, 7 and Tapiola conducted by Garaguly.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.