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Sibelius: The Symphonies [4 CD/Blu-ray Combo]
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Audio CD, Box set, November 6, 2015
To celebrate Jean Sibelius's 150th birthday, Decca will re-issue conductor Lorin Maazel's symphony cycle with the Vienne Philharmonic which was recorded in the 1960s. Decca and Abbey Road Studios have gone back to the original tapes to make a definitive transfer and present the re-mastered recordings on 4 CDs and a High Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray disc - an unprecedented opportunity to hear these legendary recordings in the best possible audio quality.
Still the best all-round version of the complete Sibelius cycle --Penguin Guide
- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Language : English
- Product Dimensions : 5.71 x 5.2 x 0.91 inches; 8.89 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Decca
- Original Release Date : 2015
- Date First Available : August 26, 2015
- Label : Decca
- ASIN : B011WEVXZ8
- Number of discs : 6
Best Sellers Rank:
#137,680 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- #4,243 in Symphonies (CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Maazel performs Symphony No. 1 as satisfying as anyone, although I still like my recording of Barbirolli, 1957.
Symphony #2: maybe not as spectacular as George Szell or Toscanini, but excellent.
#3: as good as any, although i won't give up my Bernstein, NYP; or Rattle and his City of Birmingham S.O. recording.
#4: Maazel is one of the few who take the scherzo at the proper tempo (it is, after all, marked MOLTO vivace). AND you can actually hear the bells. (Bernstein is the ONLY one who uses tubular bells all the way through. Which means you can ACTUALLY hear ALL the pitches and rhythms AND dynamics every time they come on. I always imagine that recording when I think of this symphony.)
#5: Excellent... although I suppose Ormandy and Karajan make the most of the ending.
#6: As good as anyone.
#7: Also as good it gets. Although again I wouldn't give up the Bernstein/NYP, and his fabulous trombone player.
#8: Eight? Ha—yes, for my money there IS a Symphony no. 8, and Maazel includes it in this set. That is, the 'tone poem' TAPIOLA, which seems to me the true heir to Symphony no. 7. And it's the last major work Sibelius composed...
...Although he did write a short ... wait for it ... violin concerto! It's called, "Suite for violin and orchestra" op. 117. And it's delightful.
So there you have it. If you MUST have a single collection, I do think Maazel with the Wiener Phil is the most overall satisfying. And the Decca/London engineers seem to have been the only ones who ever figured out how to record this orchestra and give the timpani an attractive sound. I guess Deutche Grammaphone never did. (Well—maybe they did... by Karajan's final two recordings, which are with the Wiener, they seemed to have worked it out.)
Of course, there's nothing stopping you from getting this compilation... AND another one. Can you really listen to just *one* interpretation of these endlessly fascinating compositions?
Fine interpretations, especially on No. 2, 4, 6 and 7 (my personal favorites). Maazel was able to relax to a certain
degree and he lets the orchestra play naturally without trying always to control the outcome. He seems here to have
been deeply engaged in the works, and the true Finnish beauty of nature comes forth in mystery and majesty.
Look also on youtube for Maazel's excellent, expansive "live" Sibelius Sym. 5 with a different orchestra.
But I'm here to review these Decca recordings, not the Sony set.
As these Decca recordings are very well known - and as people already have their opinions - I will focus this review on the sound quality to be had on the BluRay audio disc, and on the CDs, which use the same new mastering as does the BluRay disc.
Here's my impressions of the BluRay audio compared to the 1991 3-CD box set. I did a thorough, in-depth listening comparison of IV:i in both sets, and then hopped around and did spot checks on the rest of the cycle:
First off, the 1991 set sounds pretty darn good. I was expecting to hear more tape hiss, but it's hardly there at all. I think that for most people this set will continue to foot the bill.
That said, the BluRay audio does have advantages. The easiest way for me to describe it is that were you to hear this recording blind, you'd think it was a digital recording. Instrumental colors are a bit more realistic than in the earlier set. There's no audio huskiness around the celli and violas when they crescendo. The oboe sounds less reedy than in the old set. The clarinet is less edgy. The background is absolutely quiet.
In the third movement of the Fourth, there's still a bit of congestion when the violins soar into their highest register. Compare this to the sound on Maazel's digital Sony set and you'll see what I mean.
In the 4th's finale, the glockenspiel sounds are as realistic as anything you'd hear on a digital recording. You can make a clear distinction of the string sections in the motor rhythms. Instrumental colors are very true and balances are excellent.
At first, the 1991 set seems to have more depth in the sound stage than the new set. But going back and forth between the two, said depth on the 1991 set began to sound artificial when compared to the new issue. It's possible that there's actually less manipulation on the new set. Or, perhaps advances in noise reduction technologies in the past 24 years have enabled the process to be more nuanced. The ridiculously spotlit harp glissandi in VI:iii sounds more artificial than ever in this new mastering (this is the least-successful Symphony in the cycle - it's simply too fast).
For me, there's enough of a difference to justify the purchase, but this is definitely NOT the kind of difference one hears in, say, Karajan's digital recordings that were refurbished in that " Karajan 80s" box. The differences here are much more subtle.
In the end, the biggest gain is in the instruments sounding a bit more realistic, and in the sound stage being slightly more open. That, and the packaging is really, really gorgeous.
Recommended, especially for those who don't mind splitting hairs when it comes to differences in the overall sound of a recording. For others, I'd say to get Maazel's Sony version (for around $15), or if you want the Decca cycle, the 1991 issue at budget price is probably just fine.
Top reviews from other countries
The question likely to be paramount importance to collectors therefore will centre on whether the new audio only BD, remastered in 2015 from the original analogue masters at 24/96, really makes an audio advance sufficient to justify further investment. For this collector the answer is a clear affirmative and has brought new and enhanced respect for those recordings within the set which seemed less satisfactory.
The audio gains are really very striking with a far greater sense of immediacy, clarity and consequent listener involvement. This is apparent with the earliest recording of the first symphony revealing clarity but perhaps lacking a little in compensating weight but a fine performance of grip throughout. That slight caveat certainly does not apply to symphonies 3-7 and Tapiola where the mid to late 1960’s sound entered an altogether exalted level of fidelity and range for which Decca was justly and internationally renowned.
Musically the symphonies 4 and 7 and Tapiola, previously singled out for a 24/96 ‘Legends’ CD issue, easily remain at the top of recommendations and the new format is a further advance on that presentation. More significantly symphonies 3, 5 and 6 have far greater impact than previously and are now stronger contenders for collectors than before.
Maazel’s tendency for climatic rapid tempi in these three symphonies is at clear variance with the steadier and more powerful views of 4 and 7 especially. However the previous sense of haste towards climatic points is now replaced with a compensating sense of dramatic urgency and a more satisfying interpretive direction is made apparent. As the recordings are obviously from the same sessions these differences of effect can only be the result of this 2015 remastering allied to the new audio-only BD format.
In conclusion, this audio-only BD set marks a clear sonic improvement which deepens an interpretive appreciation of these readings. This set is a strong contender for collectors therefore.
una meravigliosa rimasterizzazione apprezzata già con l'ascolto del CD
Meraviglioso con il BluRay
Spero che non sia un caso sporadico ma una normale usanza di pubblicazione soprattutto dell'enorme catalogo Universal
Non conoscevo il compositore che ho apprezzato immediatamente soprattutto per l'eccezionale direttore d'orchestra che ha eseguito nella completezza il ciclo sinfonico...
Stiamo parlando degli anni sessanta, forse un periodo d'oro per le incisioni DECCA
Grazie ad Amazon per la celerità di spedizione.