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SIBELIUS: Symphonies Nos. 3, 6, 7 – Minnesota Orch./ Osmo Vänskä – BIS

SIBELIUS: Symphonies Nos. 3, 6, 7 – Minnesota Orch./ Osmo Vänskä – BIS multichannel (5.0) SACD-2006, 82:00 (9/9/16) (Distr. by Naxos) ****:

Three fine Sibelius Symphonies beautifully rendered by the Minnesota Orchestra in a lovely recording. 

The Swedish label BIS Records gives us the final recording of the Minnesota Orchestra’s celebrated Sibelius symphonies series. Conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, who is known for his Sibelius interpretations, the album features the Finnish composer’s Third, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies. 

This is a fine recording and interpretation of the three symphonies. Of Sibelius’ seven symphonies, the Third may be the least known. He conducted the premiere himself on September 26, 1907.  Notable for its lean textures, it culminates in a broad majestic theme. Sixteen years later, Sibelius completed his Sixth Symphony and led its premiere in February of 1923. Annotator Robert Markow writes, “A cool, rarefied air seems to surround the Sixth in music of purity and luminescence. Textures are transparent, colors are muted [and] orchestral forces are modest.” Just a year later, Sibelius led the premiere of the work that would turn out to be his final symphony, his Seventh. Written in one movement, it is the culmination of Sibelius’ lifetime of work in the symphonic form.

The Minnesota Orchestra does a fine job with each symphony. Entrances are precise, and the strings sound divine. The SACD layer, which is in 5.0 surround is realistic and never overbearing. Surrounds are used for reproducing the hall ambiance of Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The orchestra presents a solid image in the front speakers. I listened to the native DSD stream through my Oppo disc player and was pleased with the result.

This disc is a fitting end to this cycle of Sibelius’ symphonic works. At some point I imagine BIS will give us a complete set in one package, and that should be a sought-after presentation.

—Mel Martin

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