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CD & Download: Pristine Classical

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46 [12:41]
Jean SIBELIUS  (1865-1957)
Legends (Lemminkäinen Suite) Op. 22
I. Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island [1429]; II. Swan of Tuonela [9:38]; III. Lemminkäinen in Tuonela [14:31]; IV. Lemminkäinen's Return (1895-6) [5:33] [44:09]
John Minsker (cor anglais) (Swan of Tuonela)
The Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
rec. 22 November 1947, Academy of Music, Philadelphia (Grieg)
First issued on Columbia 12744 and 12745 in album X-291; transferred from Columbia LP ML-5181 (Grieg); 2 April 1950 (Swan) and 16 December 1951, Academy of Music, Philadelphia. First issued on and transferred from Columbia ML-4672 (Sibelius)
PRISTINE PASC 299 [56:52]

Experience Classicsonline

We can now hear the long-awaited new Obert-Thorn transfers of these classic recordings. Our wait has been generously rewarded.
The Grieg Suite is exemplary not least for the passion Ormandy brings to every bar of Grieg’s music; not least the extraordinary Morning Mood and the savagery of In the Hall of the Mountain King. All very grown-up.
Ormandy's Sibelius is amongst the very finest. His Sony Classics coupling of Symphonies 2 and 7 is outstanding. His late flowering recordings for EMI made at the end of the 1970s were set down in The Old Met Hall in Philadelphia. His Lemminkainen Suite made in February 1978 reminded Sibelians everywhere what a force in the land was Ormandy and his orchestra. That recording should be a permanent catalogue presence. It was reissued as CDM5651762 then in 2007 on Encore. I was able to compare that version with this one.
First of all this 1950s taping (also issued some years ago by Haydn House as SDA 2003-364) is mono. Ormandy placed the Swan second in the sequence in 1978 but third in the 1950s though that has been remedied here. Interestingly Ormandy in 1978 is generally slower than he was a quarter century before. Lemminkainen the ardent lover flits desperately from maiden to maiden on the isle of Saari in 1951 - at the sort of breakneck speed we expect from Beecham's version of Lemminkainen’s Return - speed-dating or what? In 1978 he took things at a more measured pace. Perhaps the maidens appreciated this. His Swan takes only 26 seconds longer in 1978 and is otherwise very similar. My how he made the trembling strings sing (9.00) in 1951. There is a distinct cough at 00.26 in Lemminkainen's Return as well as a roaring and romping pesante gruffness. At 4.27 onwards Ormandy demands and gets visceral acceleration. Even so there’s complete reliability from the Fabulous Philadelphians. It’s breathtaking - almost unbelievable. This is the way Golovanov might have done it. There's a toweringly great Return and the same goes for the Saari poem not that the other two tone poems are anything less than remarkable. Indispensable Sibelius but the same goes for all the Sibelius Pristine Ormandy discs: Symphonies 4/5 and tone poems.
The comparative timings are:


Lemminkainen Suite to remind us of Ormandy's Sibelian fire and of why he was rated so highly by the composer himself.
Rob Barnett 







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