The most popular Sibelius symphony receives another exciting live performance by the Concertgebouw in the Concertgebouw and in rich hi-res surround sound. While Finlandia was a patriotic hymn to his homeland, he had no program in mind for the Second Symphony. The work was composed in sunny Italy and when its premiered took place in Helsinki in 1902 it was one of the greatest successes of Sibelius’ entire career.
The four-movement structure is conventional, but the composer’s arrangement and development of his themes is not. The opening of the impressive first movement is especially unique. The 11 chords in the strings which start the work seem to be “an accompaniment waiting until there is something to accompany.” The main theme comes in over them in the woodwinds. The joyous main theme of the final movement is probably the reason for the work’s popularity with audiences – it carries a feeling of triumphant victory over vissitudes of any sort.
The soundstage is again extremely wide and deep, as on the RCO’s recent Bruckner 8th SACD. Some may grouse about the lack of a filler work by Sibelius (I think Night Ride and Sunrise would have gone very well) on this 43-minute disc, but the quality of music, playing and sound all promise a gem of a disc, slightly short though it may be.
– John Sunier