NZSO Perform Sibelius Works With Charm

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra perform Sibelius' Symphonies Nos 6 & 7 and Finlandia with a delicate luminosity

Composer: Sibelius
Repertoire:  Symphonies Nos 6 & 7; Finlandia
Artists: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra/Pietari Inkinen
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: NAXOS 8.572705

The Music: Sibelius’s Sixth is misunderstood and ignored but utterly charming. It was Sibelius’s most organic, free-flowing symphony, until he wrote the Seventh. This, the last, is a miracle – it lasts just one-third of an hour yet appears to summarise its composers’ entire life, career and outlook with unending poignancy.

The Performance: Technically, the NZSO sounds better on this disc than on any of its three predecessors; there’s delicacy and subtlety in the textures and solos and impressive warmth in the slow-burn orchestral crescendos. It’s a shame that things don’t really flow in the Sixth Symphony; there isn’t the feeling of inevitability – of one idea being born from another. No such problems in the Seventh, where only a slight thinness in the string chorale trespasses on a performance that oozes authority, control, delicacy and pace. A solemn Finlandia comes as the crowning glory of a cycle that holds no great revelations, other than how lucky those Kiwis are who get to listen to this orchestra and conductor week in week out.

The Verdict: With each disc a fiver, you can hardly go wrong with this Sibelius cycle – it’s both the perfect introduction and a worthy addition for collectors. Bravo Naxos! Can we now have a Kiwi Lemminkäinen?

Want More? ...until then, Paavo Järvi’s Royal Stockholm Philharmonic recording of Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen Suite is the best around (Virgin 522 0552). Andrew Mellor