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Thread: Sibelius Swan of Tuonela (suite)

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Is it the one with Karelia Suite as well?? great disc - Halle plays superbly - Barbirolli has them up and running - just jumping on the music...
    Yes it is. It's the whole symphony box set with the suites as well.

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    Robert--Yes, I thought I remembered you thanking me, but I wasn't completely certain, so I didn't want to claim it outright.

    Hope you're well.

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    Senior Member Robert Pickett's Avatar
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    Alive and kickin', J! Exam season is starting, so stressed, but otherwise all good! You?

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    Glad to hear it. Yes, I'm little stressed too, but fortunately no upcoming exams, except for the occasional math test dreams...

    I am having some health issues at the moment (vertigo, dizziness, & head pressures), and find that I worry more about whether the doctors are competent (& whether my insurance will pay out) than with what's actually wrong with me (though that too), since I've had several misdiagnoses in the past. The short of it is they still don't know what's going on. & I find myself returning to the old Monty Python sketch, where John Cleese tells the nurse to get the machine that goes "bing"!

    I suppose it'll get resolved in time, one way or the other... ;-)
    Last edited by Josquin13; May-01-2018 at 20:14.

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  9. #20
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    The mysterious Swan of Tuonela conjures up such vivid imaginings of the north. it is simply a brilliant piece.

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    Senior Member Robert Pickett's Avatar
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    J - chat over on the Amazonians register here thread? Sounds less than fun.

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    The Bergland/Philharmonia video is "not available" where I am, unfortunately. I've enjoyed the Philharmonia playing Sibelius symphonies under other conductors (Ashkenazy, various) Rattle (5). Are certain orchestras noted for being Sibelius specialists?

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    Senior Member Robert Pickett's Avatar
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    You'd need a better person than me to give you a proper answer to that one, Mal! I suppose it's going to be down to where Sibelius is or became popular for the specialist orchestras. I seem to remember the Karajan DGG accounts were especially hailed at the time for bringing this out-of-the-mainstream Nordic composer to the home of the Germanic tradition, ie Berlin, but I suspect the BPO by now are pretty well versed in such weird and wacky stuff (!) Maybe the same was once true of Vienna, but Maazel did a relatively early full cycle there, Bernstein 4/7ths of one several years later.

    I suspect the most experienced orchestras would have to be the British ones, or some of the Americans, simply because of Sibelius' long-standing respect and popularity in those parts of the world. I'd raise an eyebrow if a French orchestra braved the northern chill, or indeed someone like the Czech Phil or Budapest Festival, not of course that there's anything to stop them.

    I'd take Finnish expertise in this field as read! It may be just me, but I cannot vouch for the quality of the typical Finnish orchestra fifty years ago, the Lahti lot seem to have only been going since BIS "discovered" them. Nowadays, the label "world class" would not be inappropriate.
    Last edited by Robert Pickett; May-02-2018 at 08:54.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal View Post
    The Bergland/Philharmonia video is "not available" where I am, unfortunately. I've enjoyed the Philharmonia playing Sibelius symphonies under other conductors (Ashkenazy, various) Rattle (5). Are certain orchestras noted for being Sibelius specialists?
    The Helsinki Philharmonic has a strong tradition of playing Sibelius as you would expect. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1910 but it is only relatively recently it has gained international prominence.

    The Halle Orchestra has a strong Sibelius tradition and recorded all the symphonies (and numerous other works) with Sir John Barbirolli. Barbirolli also recorded Symphonies 1 & 2 with the New York Philharmonic ca. 1941; he received a warm letter of thanks from the composer regarding No 2. The Halle has more recently recorded some of the symphonies with Mark Elder.

    Karajan recorded Symphonies 2, 4 & 5 with the Philharmonia Orchestra and also received an appreciative letter from Sibelius. He later recorded most of the symphonies, some of them more than once, with the Berlin Philharmonic.

    For the centenary celebrations in 1965 Barbirolli and Karajan were the only non-Finnish conductors invited to take part. After the celebrations were over Barbirolli took the Helsinki Philharmonic on a successful European tour.

    Sir Thomas Beecham was a great champion of Sibelius and made recordings with the orchestras he founded (LPO & RPO). All four of the independent London orchestras have had Sibelius in their repertoire for many years and made numerous recordings with Colin Davis, Ashkenazy, Berglund and others.
    Last edited by Biffo; May-02-2018 at 09:32.

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    The Swan is one my absolute favourite pieces of music, and just might be the last thing I would choose to listen to if given one last choice. It's THAT amazing to my ears.

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    Mal writes, "Are certain orchestras noted for being Sibelius specialists?"

    That's a great question. I'm inclined to agree with Robert, who writes that "the most experienced orchestras would have to be the British ones, or some of the Americans, simply because of Sibelius' long-standing respect and popularity in those parts of the world." Yet any orchestra will inevitably grow younger over time, so a long standing Sibelius tradition will likely get lost or altered (or modified) to some degree (as the orchestra members change over the years).

    For example, does the Staatskapelle Dresden still play the music of Richard Strauss with the same approach, sound & tradition that they once did when Strauss conducted & premiered his operas with them, or even later during the Rudolf Kempe era? I hope so, but since Sinopoli, Luisi, and now Thielemann have been at the helm, I have to wonder whether the Dresden Strauss tradition hasn't been altered to a good degree?

    Of course, the same would apply to any orchestra that had a strong tradition playing the music of Sibelius. For example, certainly the sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra has changed since the days of Ormandy (and Muti), so I would imagine their Sibelius no longer sounds quite as it did during the decades of the orchestra's renowned string section (known as the "Philly strings").

    Paavo Berglund claimed that his own interpretations of Sibelius were most "inspired" by Ormandy, Barbirolli, and Rosbaud, which makes me wonder whether he was similarly influenced by the orchestral sound & playing of the Philadelphia, Halle, & Berlin orchestras, respectively, as well?

    In his formative years, Berglund played as an orchestra member in the Finish Radio S.O. in the 1950s, and began his Sibelius conducting with the FRSO and the Helsinki Philharmonic in the mid to late 1950s. His first Sibelius recordings came with the Bournemouth S.O. in England in the early 1970s, and he later made an interesting remark about the difference between working with the Bournemouth orchestra in the 1970s and the Helsinki Philharmonic in the 1980s:

    “Sibelius himself conducted in Bournemouth, so the tradition was there. When I recorded the symphonies again in the 1980’s with the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Sixth Symphony was pure gobbledygook to the orchestra and the work was hard. The orchestra was enthusiastic, nevertheless. The Second and Fifth Symphonies went well." Which makes me wonder--by implication, does that mean the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 6th & 7th Symphonies didn't go as well?--that is, did the Helsinki orchestra have more problems doing what Berglund had asked of them in those symphonies?

    I find it very interesting that Berglund found the Bournemouth orchestra understood the Sibelius "tradition" better than the Helsinki orchestra--which was a younger orchestra in the 1980s--who didn't get the "tradition", according to Berglund, but had to be taught how to play Sibelius. In other words, the English orchestra already knew what Berglund wanted from them, as they had kept the tradition of playing Sibelius alive from the time when the composer had conducted there. I wouldn't have expected that (even though I consider the Bournemouth cycle to be one of the finest Sibelius cycles). (It should also be mentioned that, to my ears, the playing of the Helsinki Orchestra sounds better on Segerstam's later cycle, as apparently the lessons Berglund had taught them were incorporated?, and the orchestra had aged & improved; even though Segerstam's approach to Sibelius is different from Berglund's.)

    Berglund additionally recorded a 3rd cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and had some more interesting remarks to make on that experience:

    "Initially, the orchestra's way of playing did not work with Sibelius. You can't play Sibelius like Mozart, which is bread and butter for this ensemble. You need a totally different type of phrasing. But these are good, professional people. They are good to work with." So, once again, Berglund found that he had to work very "hard" with the COE, in order to teach them how to phrase in Sibelius.

    In addition, there's the question of the size of the orchestra in Sibelius. For his COE cycle, Berglund recorded the 3rd, 4th, 6th, & 7th Symphonies with a small ensemble of around 50 players (adding only one cellist to the 3rd), and the 1st, 2nd, and 5th symphonies with an expanded, full sized orchestra. As he said,

    "The size of the orchestra is not a problem. For instance, the Fourth Symphony is so totally absolute music that the mass of the sound affects the result very little. It is almost like Bach’s Art of the Fugue, which was not composed for any particular instrument."

    Indeed, Berglund's remark closely accords with two comments that Sibelius made to his son-in-law, the conductor Jussi Jalas, about performing the 3rd Symphony. On October 1, 1939, Sibelius told Jalas that

    "The 3rd Symphony is well suited for a very small orchestra", and again in 1940, Sibelius mentioned, "I performed it [the 3rd] in Moscow with an orchestra that had 12 violas, etc., and the woodwinds were almost wiped out. When I had it published, I was going to add a note that the orchestra should not exceed 50 players." However, evidently Sibelius didn't add a note to the published score (i.e., the first Hansen edition that was used by most conductors, except for Berglund, prior to the new Hansen edition being published in the 1980s.)

    In other words, most conductors have performed the 3rd Symphony with too large an orchestra, and not in accordance to Sibelius' wishes. So, naturally the question arises, are the woodwinds "almost wiped out" by the viola section on most recordings? I suspect they are. Hence, Berglund's COE 3rd is essential listening, as the orchestra size is more authentic to what Sibelius said he wanted.

    Yet looking back at his COE cycle, Berglund apparently later came to view the diminished orchestral sound of the COE as too "thin" for the 4th symphony, and preferred his other recordings of the 4th (& 5th):

    “A recording reflects the interpretation of the moment. I already think differently of certain things as compared to the recordings [of the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies]. But I certainly claim them as my own, nevertheless, and the older ones as well.”

    (Here's my source for the above quotes:

    https://fmq.fi/articles/sibelius-the...rom-the-podium)
    Last edited by Josquin13; May-04-2018 at 21:06.

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