(February 11, 2013) The Swedish label BIS Records has released the second recording of the Minnesota Orchestra’s acclaimed Sibelius symphonies series, a disc that includes the First Symphony, the work that confirmed Sibelius’ status as a Finnish national hero, and the enigmatic, starkly emotional Fourth Symphony.
Conducting the performances is Music Director Osmo Vänskä, whose Sibelius interpretations have earned international acclaim.
The album, the newest chapter of the highly praised collaboration between Vänskä, the Orchestra and BIS, is available now through the Orchestra’s website, minnesotaorchestra.org.
It will also be available in stores and as a download on major online music sites.
Vänskä and the Orchestra recorded the two symphonies at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall in sessions during May and June 2012.
The BIS team, led by producer Robert Suff, recorded the album as a Super Audio CD (SACD), using surround sound recording technology to reproduce the sound of the concert hall as faithfully as possible.
BIS Hybrid SACDs are playable on all standard CD players.
Vänskä and the Orchestra have received high praise for their prior recording projects together, including the first disc in the Sibelius symphony cycle, a recording of the Second and Fifth Symphonies that earned a 2013 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance; and a five-disc Beethoven symphony cycle with BIS that The New York Times wrote “may be the definitive [cycle] of our time.”
The Beethoven recordings earned honors including a Grammy nomination for the Ninth Symphony album and a Classic FM Gramophone Award nomination for the disc of the Second and Seventh.
Now in progress is a project to record the complete Beethoven piano concertos with soloist Yevgeny Sudbin, a series in which the first disc was released by BIS in 2010.
The Minnesota Orchestra, founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued its first recording in 1924 and has since recorded more than 450 works.
The Orchestra’s recent Sibelius and Beethoven recording initiatives have been funded through donations to the artistic initiatives component of the organization’s $110 million Building for the Future campaign, which is designed to support the organization’s international artistic profile.
Sibelius’ First and Fourth Symphonies
Sibelius’ First and Fourth Symphonies reveal the furthermost poles of the composer’s symphonic art.
The First, which dates from 1899, balances Classical economy with Romantic gestures.
The Fourth, premiered a dozen years after the First, is a work so original and inward-looking that it opens up an entirely new world, inconceivable from the vantage point of the 1890s.
The First Symphony opens with a long, dark clarinet melody.
After a second movement rich in Romantic sonorities, the Scherzo brings dramatic accents and vast dynamic contrasts.
Lush and impassioned themes rule in the Finale before the music, now seeming disjunct, closes on a haunting note.
Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony is dark music from a dark moment in the composer’s life, when he was in the shadow of severe illness.
The beginning question, elaborated by a solo cello, is pondered throughout the work.
The scherzo emerges as if from nowhere, and the Largo rises slowly, singing, to a Brucknerian climax. Before the finale’s brusque ending, it brims with ideas and the sonority of bells.
SIBELIUS: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 (BIS-SACD-1996)
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Symphony No. 1
Symphony No. 4
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