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Thread: Favorite Sibelius Symphony

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Default Favorite Sibelius Symphony

    As a die-hard Sibelian, I could list any of the master's 7 symphonies as a personal favorite piece of music.

    However, if I were asked to pick only one, it would be the 2nd. Okay, so this is Sibelius's most universally popular symphony, but I do feel ashamed to admit it's my favorite.

    Anyone else?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    I agree on 2nd.Its finale overwhelms me in a way that is so rare.
    Kopachris and musicrom like this.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    I agree with the above posters' choice of favorite... however (at the risk of seeming curmudgeonly) this is ground we have trod upon before.

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    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Oh my, indeed we have...and I even participated in it...I completely forgot!

    Well, I suppose if a moderator would like to delete this thread...!
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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    #1 #1 #1 #1 #1

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    What I say is: if a thing's worth saying once, it's worth saying twice. Why shouldn't we celebrate the great man's symphonies multiple times, like this?

    I don't care how popular the 2nd symphony is: that's a reflection of its intrinsic greatness. Either it, or no 1, would be my personal favourite. I can't remember what I said before, but on this occasion I'm going to vote for number 1, on the grounds of that unforgettable clarinet solo at the beginning, and the wonderful windsweptness of the music that it leads into. If a musical equivalent can be found for images of snow and fir-clad slopes in wild northern landscapes, then surely this is, definitively, it.

    Seasonal, too. Jingle Bells, anyone?

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    I can't remember what I said before, but on this occasion I'm going to vote for number 1, on the grounds of that unforgettable clarinet solo at the beginning, and the wonderful windsweptness of the music that it leads into. If a musical equivalent can be found for images of snow and fir-clad slopes in wild northern landscapes, then surely this is, definitively, it.
    Indeed, that clarinet solo is absolutely unforgettable. It's rather in the same family as the equally haunting cello solo of Pohjola's Daughter.

    I'm still keeping with No. 7, although there may be some contenders for once ; we'll see about it.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    Senior Member David C Coleman's Avatar
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    Hmm that's really hard as they are so very different from each other.

    But I would put them in order:-

    No. 5
    No. 2
    No. 1
    No. 3
    No. 7
    Kullervo
    No. 4
    No. 6

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    I've listened to Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 & 7 and the one I like best is No. 4. It was written at a time when he was struggling with depression and alcoholism, and the music reflects that. I like the way in which the finale begins to build up to a conventional climactic ending, but then in the last few minutes the music concludes in a slow and moody way. This perhaps expresses the mood swings he was suffering from. I think he really found his voice in this symphony.

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    Ah, it makes me happy to see Sibelius lovers =)
    I love the 2nd. If the mere idea of being in 6/4 isn't cool enough (I wrote something in 6/4 before I knew about the 2nd), what he does with it (1st movment) is amazing. He ties the original 2 bar motif in throughout the movement very nicely. The 2nd movement is very powerful; I believe it is about opression?

    I don't know if it counts as a symphony, but Valste Triste is a great work. Playing it was quite an experiance--good cello part.

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    Though Carl Nielsen is, and will remain, my all-time favorite Scandinavian symphonist, the seven orchestral symphonies of Jean Sibelius are indeed some of the strongest works to come out of the first quarter of the 20th century.

    My all-time favorite? I have a soft spot for the E minor symphony, having conducted it a couple of times and would love to conduct it again. But I also echo Habib's choice of the fourth, a masterwork of personal angst, compositional concision and a natural use of the orchestra where all of his demons abide and roost. It is a very dark composition that needs to be played with an impersonal touch.

    That said, No. 2 is always going to be the favorite no matter what. It's a big, sweeping Nordic symphony with clear-cut themes and a classical structure that keeps the mind attuned. The best recording of this work for me is Sir John Barbirolli's with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1962. It's far more vivid than his older recording with the New York Philharmonic from 1938, and his later recording with the Halle Orchestra for EMI.

    No. 5 was my introduction to Sibelius, and is my third favorite. It's a powerhouse that says it all. My favorite recordings? Georges Pretre from the late 1960s for RCA, and Karajan's EMI recording from the mid-1970s.

    After that, the sixth. No one plays it, which is very sad. It's a very nice symphony that deserves more exposure, which leaves the third and seventh.

    I'm not a fan of the third, even though I have heard two splendid recordings - Ashkenazy and Colin Davis (his first recorded cycle with the Boston Symphony is the one to really own), while you have to be in the right frame of mind for the seventh. Beecham's old recordings are worth owning, though the first one he did with the New York Philharmonic is a bit on the shaky side.

    There are my takes on this great symphonist.

    As for other Scandinavian symphonists, what does the panel think of the symphonies of Holmboe, Pettersson, Valen, Rangstroem, Segerstam, Alfven and Tubin?
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    Senior Member handlebar's Avatar
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    The 2nd is my favourite indeed!

    Jim

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KScott View Post
    I'm not a fan of the third, even though I have heard two splendid recordings - Ashkenazy and Colin Davis (his first recorded cycle with the Boston Symphony is the one to really own), while you have to be in the right frame of mind for the seventh. Beecham's old recordings are worth owning, though the first one he did with the New York Philharmonic is a bit on the shaky side.
    Maybe you should hear different recordings of Sibelius' 3rd and 7th symphonies. Colin Davis' Boston cycle is not all it's cracked up to be; he has too much of a "let's be civil" attitude that does not befit Sibelius. For the 3rd symphony, I'd look to Paavo Berglund and Osmo Vanska. These are really two of the greatest Sibelius conductors I've ever heard, period, and the 3rd is a high point in both of their respective cycles (though I don't think Vanska has a low point, while Berglund has only one: the 7th).

    As for the 7th, I would take a listen to Leonard Bernstein's older recording with the New York Philharmonic. It is a very good introductory recording of this work, and Bernstein, typically, whips the orchestra into a veritable storm of intensity toward the end. Another favorite for me is Colin Davis' LSO Live recording (not to be confused with the studio LSO cycle he made some time earlier). This is the real Colin Davis Sibelius to own, in my opinion, as the suffocating civility has given way to a burnished passion for the music and some truly stunning and moving interpretation--no more evident than in the 7th.

    By the way, I speak as someone who is exactly the opposite of you as far as the Sibelius symphonies go: 1, 2, and 5 are at the bottom of my list, 4 is in the middle (though I too count it as a true masterpiece), and 3, 6, and 7 rest at the top in no particular order because I couldn't bear to put them in one.
    You get a frog in your throat, you sound hoarse.

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    #1, and i do enjoy the others.

    dj

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    Anyone a fan of Esa-Pekka Salonen? I like his interpretations; he really seems to get inside the music. He also has a personal connection with Sibelius because he comes from Scandinavia: Sibelius's folk-originating themes remind him of home or something to that effect.

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