Osmo Vänskä

Nielsen: The Symphonies

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Since the 1960s, the six symphonies of Carl Nielsen have become firmly established in the repertoire, though complete recordings of them have been comparatively scarce. That's why this box set from BIS is a welcome offering, and Nielsen collectors will also be glad to have the Helios Overture, Saga-Drøm, and Pan and Syrinx, which round out the three discs. Perhaps the performances of the symphonies by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, will not be everybody's favorite, because they are interpreted with an unsentimental approach that at times makes the music quite rigorous, severe, and even combative, especially in the last three symphonies. However, with this seriousness comes considerable excitement, especially in the Symphony No. 5, which has probably never had a more volatile climax in the first section, nor a more thrilling presentation of the fugues in the second. This is not to say that Vänskä eschews beauty, for there are many lovely passages of an idyllic nature that he handles with grace and ease, and the abundant lyricism of the early symphonies is certainly given its due. Vänskä conducts the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in the filler pieces, and the performances are of equal quality and similar character to the symphonies. BIS provides exceptional sound in all these all-digital recordings, which were made between 1999 and 2006.

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