Sibelius: En Saga / Lemminkäinen Legends - Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Mikko Franck
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Audio CD, July 25, 2000
Top Customer Reviews
In the years since that experiment, I have repeated it many times over, both with the music of Sibelius and with the music of a wide range of other composers. For reasons that I am totally incapable of explaining, the effect has always worked best for Sibelius. (This is almost to the total exclusion of other composers, quite a few of whom I otherwise rank at least as high as Sibelius in terms of more conventional music values.) So I quite simply accepted the fact that there is something special in the ability of Sibelius as a shamanic conjuror, whether that was his intent or not. Certainly, others can listen to his works as "absolute" music and not share this odd conclusion of mine.
Of all the music written by him, the tone poems are certainly at the top of this "lights out" experience. While I will not attempt to list and rank every one of them in terms of this eerie phenomenon, certain ones - "Pojola's Daughter," "Tapiola," "Nightride and Sunrise," the "Lemminkäinen Legends" - would be included. And "En Saga." Definitely, always, and first at the top, "En Saga." This led, over time, to a collecting frenzy, to see if it were possible to pick a performance which outdid all the others in terms of this effect. For quite a length of time, my personal "best of breed" had been the Ashkenazy performance on Decca, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, coupled with the 5th Symphony.Read more ›
Most of the remaining tracks are promising without being quite so remarkable. I compared "En Saga", which opens this disc, to my reference version, Colin Davis' vivid interpretation done with the London Symphony on RCA. Franck doesn't equal Davis' amazing combination of exciting pacing, delicate blending of instruments and a visionary conclusion, but he does provide a solid and successful interpretation, although the dream-like ending does drag a bit. The final two tableaux from "Lemminkainen" also are done well, although the versions aren't as fine as the two outstanding recordings of the Four Legends I have, the still excellent Eugene Ormandy recording and a very original and individual recent version by Leif Segerstam (also on Ondine).
The one track that I found unsatisfactory is the extensive opening Legend, "The Maidens of Saari", where Franck and the Swedish Radio Symphony show insufficient finesse in the wind playing. Instead of swelling dynamics -a gradual increase in volume -- the winds often simply enter. This is not the way to play this Legend.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This very fine disc, very well recorded in 1999, has garnered considerable praise from a wide range of reviewers ever since its first appearance. Read morePublished on June 21, 2013 by I. Giles
Finnish conductor Mikko Franck is a force of growing importance in the concert halls around the world. Read morePublished on April 20, 2007 by Grady Harp