Pietari Inkinen

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; Karelia Suite

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Chalk it up to high latitudes or the influence of the aurora if you will, but the set of Sibelius recordings by Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra has many excellent moments. Recordings of the stirring Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, by the giants of 20th century conducting (George Szell, Herbert von Karajan) are still available, but Inkinen stands up to this strong competition with aplomb. Each of the symphony's four movements is taken slightly slower than average, and Inkinen somewhat plays down the score's high-energy, nationalistic aspects in favor of its pastoral qualities. The long D major melodies in the symphony's opening movement are beautifully shaped and radiant. When the big fanfares so beloved by symphonic audiences do come, they seem almost inevitable developments of the lyrical mood. It's not that Inkinen doesn't like to let loose with motor rhythms; the "Alla Marcia" of the Karelia Suite, Op. 11, is as blaring as could be desired. It's just that the rhythmic subtleties in the Symphony No. 2, not often a work associated with them, are really entrancing here. Highly recommended for Sibelius lovers, even those who think they've heard it all when it comes to the Symphony No. 2.

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