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Views on S1 recordings

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 11:07 pm    Post subject: Views on S1 recordings Reply with quote

I know there's a recordings section, but this S1-2 board is rather dead, and it may be more convenient for newcomers to find such info in this part of the forum. So.... here I try to give my newbie opinions.

Personal ranking of Sibelius Symphony #1
Descending order from best to worst:

Bernstein / Vienna PO (1990)
Berglund / Helsinki PO (1986)
Stokowski / Stokowski's PO (1950)
Colin Davis / LSO (2006)
Sanderling / Berliner SO (1976)
Jarvi / Gothenburg (1982)
Ashkenzaky / Philharmonica Orch (1984)
Segerstam / Danish National SO (1992)
Vanska / Lahti SO (1996)
Maazel / Vienna PO (1963)

Brief newbie views:
In my opinion, S1 should be played in a Heroic / Tragic / Romantic way with beautiful dynamics.
The Bernstein version is cheaply available as boxset everywhere, but I find it greatly delivers what I am expecting from S1. I feel the Power, Energy and Music from this version.
I think Berglund's one is good in terms of musicality; it sings better.
Stokowski's one has transformed the whole piece into a very beautiful fierce storm, which may also be its drawback.
Collins one is powerful but sounds flat without enough beautiful contrasts.
For Sanderling's one, you can easily feel different emotions: tension, excitement, joy. It is very expressive. You sense nothing tragic nor heroic, but glory. The first three movements are especially nice.
Jarvi's version overall gives little sense of heroic or power, but it gives a very smooth, warm and melodic atmosphere in an intended way.
Ashkenzaky's version is okay melodic-wise, but I feel it unable to build the tension it was trying to, and not being expressive enough.
Segerstam's version feels like lack of determination, and sounds like it is getting tired in certain important moments.
Vanska's one has a crazy speed in the first movement, I thought I hit the fast forward button and was like mad listening to it the first time. However, you can feel the musical greatness and the very unique way it is telling the story. The last movement was very wonderful.
Maazel's one sounds like he's in a great hurry, you don't even have time to breathe. Instead of heroic and romantic, you feel rush and messy.

- I'm a Sibelius newbie from somewhere in Southeast Asia, and my opinions do not reflect my great admiration of all these great conductors and orchestras.
- Everyone has different perception and feeling changes every second; my views today do not represent my view yesterday nor tomorrow.

I hope my first ever music review, although very short, would stimulate some nice discussions in the appreciation of Sibelius S1.
I will start an S2 topic later on, but I find S2 more difficult to compare than S1. Haha

Have fun~!



Edit: I have added a few versions which I missed, and I forgot to mention that Berstein's was my first recording of S1, so I think I am highly extremely very biased. (Still, his cd brought me to Sibelius... So I think I should give him an honour.)
It is now a day after I posted the ranking, and I find my ranking yesterday ridiculous. But I don't think I am going to make a major update.
Instead, I think I should add a remark that each of the rankings can go plus/minus five positions.

Last edited by tissues on Sat Mar 20, 2010 10:37 am; edited 4 times in total
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david johnson
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 20, 2010 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

s1 is my favorite. my recordings are conducted by petri. berglund, sanderling, & watanabe. i think i would very much enjoy a chicago recording of this.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I absolutely LOVE Bernstein's S1 on DG from 1990. Perhaps it's a little self-indulgent in that classic Bernstein tradition, but man, does he milk that score for everything it's worth. I suppose this approach may be considered unorthodox but it works really well for me.

When I first heard it, though, I was a bit taken aback by it. Lenny's tempi are slow (ponderous, I thought), especially in the first movement. Upon a second listening, however, it still sounded slow but not "ponderous" as it had before. I could now appreciate the gravitas and literal weight Bernstein was opting to put on display. I was won over.

A great reading with great sound. Love the enthusiasm of the timpanist, too. An epic recording of any epic, turbulent, youthful score.

"Music is not philosophy."
-- Akira Ifukube

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Joined: 09 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right, Tapkaara, I cannot agree more.

He is slow compared to most other versions,

However, it is able to make the whole thing BREATHE
it also unfolds the VASTNESS of the Landscape.
which together beautifully brings out the depth of the piece.

It is his unique and successful approach that brings him above other great performances which are done in the perhaps more "traditional" way.

A point to mention is that you must be rather relaxed while listening to his version, because sometimes when I feel nervous or in a hurry or looking for excitement, I would definitely prefer something faster and more fierce.

However, Berstein's S2 is unbearably slow, I just can't stand his S2.

I still have a long long long long way to practise and improve till I can write some professional reviews like you guys~

And thank you Tapkaara for letting me know that I was not THAT biased.....
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2010 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Count me among those whose "favorite" First is Bernstein/Vienna, and his New York ain't too bad neither. Wink Listening to the latter now.

I'm also very impressed by the Sanderling, whose budget-priced cycle I recently received. My previous favorite First, Ashkenazy/Philharmonia, is beginning to sound downright prosaic in comparison.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can agree that Bernsteins Sib 1 from Vienna is electric. I happen to have a video of that very concert which was given to me by the films director Humphrey Burton. Love him or hate him, Lennie was the most charismatic conductor of his time. I also rate Kurt Sanderling highly. He combines romantic ardour with a classical discipline. Akeo Watanbe with Japan Philharmonic on Denon is essential to any collection. Ashkenazy gives a rather Slavic view of Sibelius, but he is superior to both Karajan and Rattle in this first Symphony. The Russian maestro is spot on in the Scherzo [dotted minim = 104] Karajan and Rattle are far too timid here!
Segerstam is rarely dull, his Helsinki account may lack Vanska's drive but every bar exhudes conviction. Stokowski's 1976 recording with National P.O. is astonishing for a 90 year old, but I can't forgive the terribly rushed opening to the finale. I do enjoy Jose Serebrier with Melbourne S.O. on ASV.
I have still got many more versions of the first symphony, but top of the pile is the incomparable J.B.--kp

Peter Frankland
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Playing one of the Segerstams now.

I find I can only enjoy Symphony 1 on my best stereo out loud, not headphones for example. Symphony 2 as well.

There are versions of 5 I enjoy on headphones, and pretty much all the rest.

It may be a wile till I hear the 1st live. We get 2,5 and 7 here.

Good fresh version of the 1st by Saraste with Nordea youth orchestra, Finnish EMI. Which is probably no longer in business.

Warner owns a lot of Finnish popular music. Classical is poorly handled.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
I can agree that Bernsteins Sib 1 from Vienna is electric.

I also agree. However, in my "Sib-1-hall-of-fame" this recording is rather a special guest than an ordinary member.

I like Sir Colin Davis' recording on LSO live. The first Tutti is full of energy, vehemence and wideness. In particular, from the first climax until the end of the movement, there is a continuous moving forward. The begin of the development already points in direction of the 4th symphony, very fascinating. - In the 2nd movement I find very charming moods in this recording, breezy, aromatical, but also intense and menacing. In the last movement, Sir Colin takes the "Grand theme" very broadly, however, he keeps the voltage high. This is a "ordinary member" in my Sib-1-hall-of-fame.

I also like to hear Ashkenazy's Philharmonia recording. However, with Ashkenazy's Sibelius, I never know, what remains if you subtract the spectacular Decca sound. Difficult.

Best regards
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