Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5 Import
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Top Customer Reviews
The date was 9 August, 1968. Sir John had brought his Halle Orchestra to the Royal Alb in London Town. He was no doubt a Prom favourite. When he first walked on stage, the crowd went nuts. He loved it, flailing around on the podium, grabbing onto the railing for support. I will say no more....kindly form your own conclusions.... Shortly after, Sir John went to work. It was a long concert, with music of Schubert, Elgar and Bax preceding the Sibelius. We were standing far above, on the Promenade Circle. The sound was glorious, a facet that is most successfully conveyed on this recording, convincingly rendered by everyone on stage. Hearing this performance once again after all these years makes me nostalgic. It was wonderful to be in London in the late 1960's, at a time when life seemed much less complicated - very much the place of a Golden Age of music making.
In particular, I recall the very ending of the Sibelius.... Sir John delivered the last six chords as I believe they should be: short, loud and balanced, with the tympani grace notes before the fifth and sixth chords removed. As if one were in a forge, hearing hammer-blows striking an anvil. Prior to these last two chords, Sir John dramatically pointed to his elevated tympanist with his left arm, then giving the chords with his right. It was electric. It was almost like he was cueing Ilmarinen, the Eternal Smithy from "The Kalevala." As one can hear on this CD, we all went wild.Read more ›
The 2nd was indeed released by Reader's Digest Records (those were the days!). The recording was produced by Charles Gerhardt and recorded by the legendary RCA engineer Kenneth Wilkinson at Walthamstow Hall, London, on October 1 and 9, 1962, some four years before he would record it for his complete set of the Sibelius symphonies. The Royal Philharmonic is in fine form here. It is simply glorious.
The 5th, however, is not from 1959 as stated elsewhere. It is a live performance (in fine stereo)from a BBC Proms broadcast concert at Royal Albert Hall on August 9, 1968, some two years after Sir John's recording of the same symphony, with the same orchestra, for his complete recording of the Sibelius Symphonies. There are profound differences in interpretation here. Not so much in tempi. The live performance clocks in at about one minute less than the commercial performance. But within the confines of the movements there is much more a feeling of ebb and flow in the live performance. Yes, the horns and strings are slightly less precise here (the treacheries of live performance) but the playing is so heartfelt. It is impossible, in my opinion, to walk away from this performance unmoved. I would never take a thing away from Sir John's recordings of the complete Symphonies. As a set, they have never been equaled.
But this single disc, capturing as it does one of Sibelius' greatest interpreters conducting, arguably, Sibelius' two most popular symphonies, should not be missed.
Where does one start with this Second? The meta-narrative that spans the first note to the last? The magisterial control of its ebb and flow? Its radiant honesty? Superlatives abound but they all fall short. The Royal Philharmonic may not have been the greatest orchestra in the world at the time but lordy, they give their all and then some more. True, the performance as a whole could benefit from greater expressive weight from the strings but that's a mere sunspot. Sibelius' all important woodwind are near centre-stage and that makes a welcome change. Triumphal but not bombastic and aglitter with sorcery, this Second is an overwhelming experience. Yes indeed: Herbie goes 'back in the rack'.
The Fifth from August 1968 is less memorable and try as one might, one cannot exculpate the Hallé orchestra: the strings in particular lack presence, let alone incandescence. Thor's tap-hammer rather than his usual weaponry makes an appearance in the finale. One defaults to admiring the conception over the execution. Even so, as another reviewer commented, Sir John saves the best until last: I have never heard the last six chords delivered with such immense power, majesty and precision - whack, whack, whack, whack, GOD ALMIGHTY WHACK, whack. No wonder the audience went nuts.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This disc is a compilation of two recordings made in two locations at different times by two orchestras. Read morePublished on January 4, 2014 by I. Giles
The second has always occupied a special place in music lore, and the fifth is one of Sibelius's best...the sound is more than OK. Read morePublished on December 19, 2012 by DaddyD
This CD gives you the world-beating 1962 performance of the Sibelius 2, now coupled with a very energetic rendition of the 5th from the 1968 proms. Read morePublished on February 11, 2012 by John K. Gayley