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. 1 (1899) [36.22]
Symphony No. 7 (1924) [22.49]
New York PO/Leonard Bernstein
rec. Philharmonic Hall, New York City, USA, 14 Mar 1967 (1); 28 Mar 1960, 12 Oct 1965 (7) ADD
Bernstein Century Series
SONY CLASSICAL SMK 89576 [58.35]


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Sibelius's symphonic alpha and omega are separated by only a quarter of a century. What a journey! From the First Symphony, rooted in Balakirev and Kalinnikov as much as Tchaikovsky, to the same grandeur in the economical and succinct Seventh Symphony.

The original CBS recording sounds good, more so in the relishable portrayal of detail after detail, without quite evading the raw glare typical of CBS’s 1960s. Analogue hiss only obtrudes in the whispered opening measures of the Seventh. Harps and woodwind solos are given an engineer's helping hand … and very welcome too. The recording is apt to Bernstein's impassioned way with the First Symphony. Listen to the petulance - almost vituperation - at 4.30 in the first movement of the First and again at 10.30 in the Seventh. He injects a snappy edginess to the scherzo. In a world thronged with weaker Sevenths Bernstein's can be counted among the strong. A notch down from Mravinsky (BMG-Melodiya, 1965) and Ormandy (also Sony) his sturdily compulsively organic interpretation reflects the grandeur with which Sibelius invested this outstanding score. Bernstein’s readings represent healthy, risk-taking Sibelius with the safety protocols disengaged. In the First Symphony he cannot stand up to the superb competition of Barbirolli’s EMI version (only in a boxed set, I am afraid), Stokowski’s 1976 account (Sony nla) or Maazel’s Decca VPO recording. The issue has nothing to do with exegesis; the issue is sound quality.

This CD has been in the Sony catalogue since 1993; clearly a survivor. It is a component of the 'Bernstein Century' series. Let us hope that if ever it is deleted its disappearance will be the harbinger for the release of the complete cycle. Such a pity that instead of indulging DG with various re-recordings in his last years Bernstein did not return to these symphonies. They suited his temperament so well.

Rob Barnett



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