This isnít a new
release but Iíve been given the opportunity to audition Segerstamís
coupling of the Third and Fifth, my first experience of his
conducting of the Sibelius symphonies. My impressions are generally
The Third seems
to me the superior performance. His control of tempo relations
in the first movement especially is first class and he inspires
the Helsinki Philharmonic to give of their very considerable
best. Wind playing is of a distinguished standard. Just listen
out at 4:40 in the first movement for the kind of expressive
personalisation with which they present the music. Throughout
he brings a galvanising sense of rhythmic freedom to bear Ė
though not one that in any way steps beyond musical bounds.
The noble peroration at 9:35 is just one moment among many when
one feels the life force of Segerstamís conducting. Nor does
he stint on finesse; the central movement is notable for it
with some beautifully shaped lines at a good tempo. Furthermore
the sectional balance between choirs is perfectly maintained
and the important theatricality of the string/wind dialogues
no less so. The finale is just as good and caps an impressive
addition to the catalogues.
The Fifth opens
powerfully, Segerstam taking the first movement at roughly the
same tempo adopted by Colin Davis in his LSO Live recording.
The recording is felicitous in exposing a great deal of the
kind of detail often blurred in other recordings. So some of
the inner writing becomes clarified; the more desolate wind
lines emerge with decisive drama. He brings a kaleidoscopic
sense of power, brooding and relaxing lightness as well. With
the slow movement we find him again balancing with care and
experience the contrasting characters embedded in the music.
And so too in the finale, again well-paced and exuding strength.
Perversely however he seeks a solution to the supposedly problematic
ending by holding back the tempo very slightly and then making
a furious accelerando to the final bars. The last two chords
are slightly beefed up as well. This wonít find universal favour
and materially limited my appreciation of his success elsewhere.
are splendidly played and recorded performances and the contentious
ending to the Fifth aside worthy additions to the Sibelius catalogues.