Mark Elder / Hallé Orchestra

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; Oceanides; Pohjola's Daughter

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The English affinity for the music of Jean Sibelius is beyond conjecture, with the growing discography of outstanding performances as evidence, including essential recordings by Thomas Beecham, John Barbirolli, Colin Davis, and Mark Elder. This 2013 release presents Elder and the Hallé Orchestra in stirring performances of the tone poems Pohjola's Daughter, The Oceanides, and the Symphony No. 2, and the feeling of a continuity of tradition is pronounced in the orchestra's committed playing and full-throated expression. Often, the stereotypical view of Sibelius' music is that it is austere and cool, if not cold, due to its Nordic subject matter and typically somber coloration. Yet the Hallé embraces these pieces passionately, and the live performances on this CD show what Sibelius' music sounds like when infused with sincere emotion. Elder draws out a wide array of timbres and moods in Pohjola's Daughter, and this tone poem on a mysterious story from the Kalevala is the most varied and subtly shaded piece on the program. The Oceanides, on the other hand, is a steady swelling of waves of motives, though the Hallé's massed sonorities are only modestly impressive at the work's climax. The Symphony No. 2 has long been one of Sibelius' best-loved works, and this exciting performance demonstrates the Hallé's clear affection for it. Elder's interpretation is organic and thorough, so the music's logic is always clear and easy to follow, and the orchestra gives the piece its all, even in the famously bombastic Finale. The Hallé Concerts Society recorded these performances between 2006 and 2012, so the noise-free audio has benefitted from advancements in digital recording.

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