Pietari Inkinen / New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7; Finlandia

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The series of Sibelius symphonies from Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen has been consistently worthwhile, with fresh readings from the conductor and fine efforts from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The good news continues with this pairing of the final two symphonies (at least until the hinted-at reconstruction of the burned Symphony No. 8 occurs), complete with obligatory aurora in the album graphics. What Inkinen lacks, or perhaps just avoids, in power and sheen, he replaces in detail and intelligent shaping of the music. The benefits really come to the fore in the composer's late music, which is an intricate web of small motivic details. In the single-movement Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105, Inkinen teases out the first appearances of ideas in the orchestral background, without ever losing a sense of the long line. To keep things going he takes the music a bit briskly, especially so in the diatonic celestial-world episode that begins about 13 minutes in. It is here where listeners may miss the sparkling strings of the big European orchestras, but Inkinen's reading is coherent and absorbing. There are many fine details likewise in the Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104, and Inkinen simply never lets the music sag. The album and the series end with Finlandia, Op. 26, Sibelius' most popular work, which receives what you might call a revisionist reading; Inkinen does find a motivic detail or two, but the music lacks excitement. Still, Finns must get tired of this piece, and there's more than enough here to interest anyone who likes Sibelius.

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