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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 1, Op. 39 (1898-9) [37:05]
Symphony No. 7, Op. 105 (1924) [19:38]
Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra/Carl von Garaguly
rec. 1967

My last encounter with Carl von Garaguly come in Maestro Edition’s transfer of Nielsen’s Second Symphony (see review) where I wrote a brief paragraph about the conductor for those yet to encounter him.

The qualities of trenchancy and vibrancy I noted in his Nielsen apply just as much in his 1967 Dresden recordings of these two Sibelius symphonies, taken from either end of the symphonic canon. It really isn’t nostalgia for an older generation of conductors that drives this admiration, given that sonically whilst the recording was fine for its day – with prominent winds – there is also a slight shrillness to the violin’s upper strings. For Garaguly had the gift for immediately establishing a tempo and a mood and through subtle variations of tempi never relinquishing that elemental grip. This doesn’t result in extremes of tempo but in a true symphonic control motored here by tight-bore trumpets and an electric current in the strings. There’s a similar grip in the slow movement of the First Symphony and in the resilient and punchy rhythmic direction of the scherzo. The finale isn’t taken as swiftly as others of greater repute, but his elasticity is convincing, and he moves toward the apex of phrases with surety, even if the cymbal crashes are icy cold. Above all he makes the work sound big, fully formed, and a true symphonic statement, not an entrée to the cycle but as the inevitable start of it. He makes Sibelius sound fully formed here, not something that always emerges from other performances.

In the Seventh Symphony Garaguly may not be as electric as Nils-Eric Fougsted and the forces of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (see review) but he’s not far behind. Here Garaguly shows once more his satisfying command of symphonic architecture, which is all the more critical in a one-movement work. His marshalling of the brass, of those Sibelian running string figures, of the sense of concentration located on a focused goal, all point to an interpreter of the most distinguished qualities. What a pity he didn’t have the opportunity to record a sheaf of LPs.

This transfer derives from Philips Festivo 839 580 VGY and was made, finely, by Chris Bereton. If you are partial to Hannikainen and Fougstedt in Sibelius, then lend an ear to Garaguly.

Jonathan Woolf

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