Does Simon Rattle’s Sibelius set outshine his previous best?

It’s my album of the week on sinfinimusic.com, and there’s a lot to beat out there:

The set faces testing competition, starting with Rattle’s 1990s Birmingham cycle for EMI-Warner and Herbert von Karajan’s 1970s Berlin cycle for DG. In one important respect, there is no comparison: for tonal beauty and playing skill, this set outshines the other two by a factor of laser to gaslight.

The current Berlin Philharmonic are a crack ensemble who deliver precision music making at high power. Birmingham sounds stressed in contrast and Karajan’s Berliners cautious. The playing here is massively impressive, almost overwhelming on the open roads of the Second Symphony. Not much can beat the sensual pleasure of listening to this kind of aural perfection.

However….

Read on here.

simon rattle vesa siren

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  • Norman, there is no HvK DG cycle from the 70s. He did the last four symphonies for DG at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in 1965 and 1967 (indispensable readings) and the first two for EMI in 1981 and 1980. He had also recorded the 2nd and last four for Columbia between 1951 and 1960, and he redid the 5th and 6th for EMI in 1976 and 1980. That’s all, except for a handful of concert air-checks.

  • Vänskä’s interrupted set with the Minnesota Orchestra, now to be completed post-lockout will be something to reckon with. Their pre-lockout 1st and 4th CD won a Grammy.

  • Vänskä & Lahti.
    Why even try to act as if you ever had to listen to another set?
    As a big Sibelius fan who owns hundreds of recordings of his music,
    Rattle’s BPO Sibelius just sounds boring to me.

    The early Karajan and Kamu recordings are fine too but nothing compares to the Lahti set.
    Certainly not Rattle’s earlier or newer set.

    The MPO sounds pretty good too, again with Vänskä.
    Why can’t we all just agree, if you need to listen to Sibelius, go to Vänskä. It’s what he does. 🙂

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