Vladimir Ashkenazy

Sibelius: Symphony No. 2; Tapiola; The Swan of Tuonela

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After Vladimir Ashkenazy's magnificent 1979 recording of Sibelius' Second Symphony with London's Philharmonia Orchestra, this 2006 recording with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra is an enormous disappointment. Ashkenazy's conception of the piece as a heroic symphony in the Tchaikovsky tradition is unaltered; one hears the same long lines, the same surging climaxes, the same sustained intensity, but one hears it so poorly and so unenthusiastically played by the Swedish musicians that it all goes for naught. It's not clear if it's because they are not that polished an orchestra, or don't much care for the conductor, or don't like the music. But the orchestral performance is remarkably substandard, with ragged entrances, shaky ensemble, slippery string lines, and bloated brass. The other pieces included, Sibelius' Tapiola and The Swan of Tuonela, are as poorly played and as uninteresting to listen to. Fans of the composer should certainly be acquainted with Ashkenazy's earlier Sibelius, but listeners need not bother with this disc.

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