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on July 16, 2016
An excellent and, over the years, a very popular recording of the Sibelius symphonies--very well recorded and obviously well played. How could it be otherwise. I know I'll keep listening to it because there are some that are quite good and unique. However, for the most part, as compared to others I've heard (John Barbirolli, for example, or an old recording by Akeo Watanabe) much of it impresses me as being rather mechanical--everything in its place and a place for everything with nothing to specific to criticize. All I can say is that It just doesn't hit me, much as I normally admire the work of Maazel. Don't get me wrong--it's a fine recording for anyone that hasn't heard many others and become a bit more critical in their own way (Everybody loves to be a critic).
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on January 10, 2013
I collect Sibelius symphony cycles, now over 15 sets on the shelf.

This set is showing its age. You can clearly hear the difference to Neeme Järvi, Vänskä and Berglund. The modern Nordic method. English conductors have also done well from time to time.

However, it is a great orchestra and Symphonies 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 are played very well with enthusiasm. The ones I did not list have some oddities, for example with the woodwind players. I will not name instruments, check it out. So it's not a perfect set but a very good one for a good price.

This is Maazel's best Sibelius cycle.
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on November 22, 2007
Two things: if you are someone who pursues a lot of different recordings of all the famous symphonies, then this is one of your stops. More than likely--as a taster of different readings--you'll find it mixed. The Gramophone Guide praises the Fourth and Seventh in this set. But just about anybody, especially people who aren't that familiar with Sibelius' music, or who don't plan on getting more than one version of each, can enjoy all these performances.

Maazel is a steady hand: he pushes for some definite lines in the music, while cutting back on the "will-o-wisps" aspect. That's not to say the playing is heavy-handed, it isn't. But the emphasis is on themes, rather than mood. Yet mood prevails, especially in the Fourth, which is appropriately mysterious and dark.

The advantage of Maazel's way with Sibelius is that he will make it more accessible for new Sibelius listeners. So I recommend this set for these folks: if you don't yet know your Sibelius, this is for you.
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on March 4, 2015
Although Colin Davis' set of Sebelius' symphonies is great. No one has achieved the beauty of Maazel.
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Enthusiast: Pianoon February 23, 2012
This set has several merits in the current (2012) environment: an unbeatable bargain price, the marvelous Decca sound (still holds up well, even from the 60s) and beautiful playing of the Vienna.

If you are looking for an inexpensive set as an introduction to the Sibelius symphonies, this could fit the bill. Several reviewers (and Gramophone) have alluded to the staying power of this set in the catalogue over the years. Its easy to see why: (in addition to the attributes listed above) the performances are immediately accessible, and straight up. A good way to "learn" Sibelius without getting too bogged down in worrying about the deeper points of meaning, Sibelius's experimentation in structure and harmonics, or the richer sonorities he offers.

And indeed that's the main problem here. These performances are like the Hollywood "story board" version of Sibelius...all fast moving, chunked out in bite-size scenes, dwelling mainly on the surface. Sibelius' sound world, as conveyed by Maazel, is bright, energetic, cordial, even perky. At times I wondered if I somehow had put on Mendelssohn by mistake. In a world in which the catalogue still holds tremendous Sibelius efforts by Barbirolli, Vanska, Segerstam, Davis, Rattle, Von Karajan and (even) Ormandy or Beecham, the Maazel set unfortunately isn't competitive on anything but price and sheer beauty of the VPO playing. For most Sibelians, that's not enough.

If you want the complete symphonies and you're willing to pay a little bit more than the cost of the maazel set, you could do far worse than to start with the 2 twofers of Colin Davis and the BSO on Philips (see below); other reviewers will of course have their own preferences for inexpensive complete sets.

Sibelius: Complete Symphonies, Vol. 1 ~ Nos. 1, 2, 4 & 5
Sibelius: The Complete Symphonies 2
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on March 1, 2015
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on October 7, 2014
This is a wonderful collection. The conductor has done a great job of interpreting Sibelius.
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on August 24, 2014
Good performances - really good sound - not a bad choice
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on October 10, 2014
Historic, fine recordings.
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on May 31, 2017
Sibelius sets that are completely successful are hard to find (for my money, Sir John Barbirolli's set with the Halle Orchestra comes the closest). The reason may be that few conductors are capable of embracing the full range of Sibelius's sensibilities. Certain of his works are "romantic", others "classical," some are admixtures. Conductors thus tend to do best with such of his works as reflect their own preferences and prejudices. With Maazel's set it is no different. Some Amazon reviewers find this set somewhat, er, perfunctory. I understand why they feel that way: Maazel's thing is to make sure the trains run on time, which is not always fruitful approach with Sibelius (not, at least with his marquee works). Still, as one who bought vinyl copies of some of these symphonies way back when (and the complete cd set later), I kind of like the set as a whole: call it nostalgia, but it is not only that. Maazel absolutely excels with at least one of these symphonies -- one which seems to have bedeviled some of the very best Sibelians -- No. 3. The very briskness of his approach, which (some may argue) compromises his performances of other symphonies, works wonders with this one. I can see why a bulbously egotistical martinet like Von Karajan would not want to waste his valuable time on such a seemingly simple and inconsequential work. It seems to have taken a lesser order of genius to penetrate its simple beauty -- such beauty as reminds me, not so strangely, of a Haydn symphony. I think Maazel's bourgeois approach (which could more sympathetically be called "classical") also works well with the sixth and seventh -- not so much with the first and second (the "romantic" symphonies). But for me, it is his wonderful rendering of the third that makes this bargain-priced set worthwhile.
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