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These are some of the best recordings ever made of these wonderful pieces.
Composer: Sibelius, Lutosławski
Repertoire: Symphony No.5, Pohjola’s Daughter, Concerto for Orchestra
Artist: London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Label: LPO 0057
The Music: Thanks to its heroic ending (who doesn’t like those?), Sibelius’s Fifth symphony is one of his most-played works. Much less known is the story-telling magic of the symphonic poem Pohjola’s Daughter. And in Witold Lutosławski’s folk-influenced Concerto for orchestra, Polish music came up with a spectacular tour de force.
The Performance: Among Finland’s current vintage of admired conductors, there’s none finer than Saraste, who here conducts an exceptional performance of the Fifth symphony, marvellously purposeful and exciting (although a couple of gear-changes have the orchestra momentarily confused). The LPO’s quality response to Pohjola’s Daughter, too, reveals this as another, much less familiar Sibelius masterpiece. While Lutosławski’s Concerto doesn’t explore anything like these depths, it’s performed with a crackling virtuosity that wows its Royal Festival Hall audience.
The Verdict: This has to be one of the best recordings around of Sibelius’s Fifth. And Lutosławski’s Concerto can never have been more brilliantly played.
Want More? Saraste conducts the Finnish radio symphony orchestra in Sibelius’s romantic First symphony and the much darker Fourth (Apex, 2564 622032). The symphonic poems, including The Swan of Tuonela and Finlandia, are memorably performed by the Scottish National Orchestra under Alexander Gibson (Chandos, Chan 24119).