Paavo Berglund / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius: Complete Symphonies

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Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra recorded this cycle of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius between 1972 and 1978, with additional recordings of the tone poems dating from the same period. These analog recordings have held up remarkably well over the years, and the sound, which is surprisingly warm and vibrant, has lost little in the digital transfer. Berglund's Sibelius interpretations have been honored for years, not only for the achievements in this important set, but also for his later recordings with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, chiefly because of his profound understanding of the composer's methods and expressive modes. In order to bring across the coherence of the symphonies, Berglund treats the music as an organic process, accepting the fluidity of tempos, idiosyncratic use of motives, and shifting moods as something more than just a rhapsodic stringing-together of ideas. Because the music evolves audibly and communicates authentic emotion along the way, the performances are extremely compelling and deeply enjoyable. The recordings of the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, Finlandia, and the other tone poems are more than filler, though the real substance of this legendary set is found in the symphonies, and they are recommended as essential listening.

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