35 of 47 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Segerstam's Sibelius will probably appeal more to those who appreciate a somewhat soft edged, relatively slower paced, more richly textured quality. In other words, if you like tauter, cleaner lines, a more vivid and energetic pace and a cooler interpretive style, then Segerstam may not be your man. There's no doubt he can be quite musically expressive, but the issue is in what way[s] ? One of the chief considerations with Sibelius is atmosphere. Aside from nature's colors playing a vital role, grandeur or an epic quality frequently demands representation. While Segerstam is capable of projecting a swelling sense of intensity when called for, I feel he doesn't reveal enough in the way of that Sibelian attribute of loftiness. However, the Sixth Symphony's recipe calls for a somewhat different set of ingredients. Though there are still aspects of the usual mystery and grandness, more flowing textures and some lighter considerations significantly come into play. Segerstam deals with these things in a most disarming way by bringing warmly expressive detail to what is often referred to as a wintry toned work. I do not rate him as highly however in the other symphonies...In the First, my main criticisms are along aesthetic grounds---his characterization of particular phrases, the prominence given to certain instrumental sections over others and some pauses that are too long...The popular Second Symphony is the kind of piece that runs the risk of being twisted and pulled excessively by some conductors. The worst case I'm familiar with is Thomas Schippers' New York Philharmonic account from the 1960s. Segerstam does not go that far, though I'm still not especially enamoured with his reading. Moreover, he does not entirely avoid some congestion. I also do not respond well to some of his heavier accents. My disappointment with his conception of the Fifth Symphony is based on similar grounds...I rate Segerstam's Third Symphony performance as being next best after his Sixth. It is nicely tuneful, although the final minutes of the last movement would have benefitted from a little more textural clarification...The conductor's perspective on the Seventh Symphony misses a taut, vivid quality. Musical lines could be cleaner. There's not much of that epic presence either...Finally, in the Fourth Symphony, Segerstam is appropriately dark and moody, but there has to be more evidence of life's vital signs. I find his pace too slow and his musical outline a bit spongy. There is another version of the Fourth that I feel stands above all others---Vanska's. Though his Lahti Symphony Orchestra does not enjoy the reputation of other greatly acknowledged ensembles, with Vanska at its helm it paints a compelling portrait of the symphony's mystery and starkness as it explores virtually every nook and cranny of its landscape...As for Finlandia, it begins in fairly routine fashion though near the close there is a nice contribution from the Male Polytech Choir; however, they and Segerstam never really bring the piece to inspired heights...In the Violin Concerto the conductor's mostly plodding pace carries all the way to the end. Though technically fine, violinist Pekka Kuusisto doesn't project much personality. There seems to be little range or depth of feeling in his rendition.
Here are my favorite choices for these pieces, not necessarily in order of preference: Sym.1--Maazel/Vienna Philharmonic, Collins/London Symphony ( All of Collins' Sibelius readings are in mono.) and Stokowski/National Philharmonic; Sym.2--Ormandy/Philadelphia Orchestra (Columbia/Sony) and Collins; Sym.3--Kamu/Helsinki Radio Symphony and Segerstam/Helsinki Philharmonic; Sym.4--Vanska, Maazel/Vienna and Collins; Sym.5--Bernstein/New York Philharmonic, Barbirolli/Halle Orchestra, Collins and Ormandy/Philadelphia Orch.(lp nla); Sym.6--Vanska, Collins, Karajan/Berlin Phiharmonic on EMI and Segerstam/Helsinki Phil.; Sym.7--Maazel/Vienna, Vanska, Collins and Koussevitzky; Finlandia--Ormandy/Philadelphia ( with Mormon Tabernacle Choir ), Collins and Ashkenazy/Philharmonia Orchestra; Violin Concerto--Oistrakh/Ormandy, Heifetz/Hendl and Repin/Krivine. Otherwise, the recorded sound on Segerstam's Ondine set is very fine.