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Sibelius: Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon Box set, Collector's Edition

4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (12 Mar. 2013)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set, Collector's Edition
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B0001WGDXK
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,042 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I must say that I bought this following some reviews of the DVD versions. Having expected that Bernstein would be totally 'inside' the first I was disappointed to find it self-conscious and unatmospheric. Indeed the unidiomatic, over-sized playing of the VPO is really the problem. Gloops string lines and uncontrolled brass are the biggest issue, so the entire final section of the last movement sound overblown, ruining the experience.

The Second receives similar treatment, but it responds much better as a piece to this kind of playing. I was left with a sense of enjoyment, though nothing like the same experience as with Vanska (Lahti NOT Minnesota), Ashkenazy (take your pick) Colin Davis (take your pick), Barbirolli or Alexander Gibson (Chandos).

I DID enjoy both the Fifth and Seventh much, much more I must say. The Horns really ring out in the finale of the Fifth, and I love the way that the lower strings unerpin everything by digging into their lines with real conviction.

The Britten pieces are not all that well played, but OK as fillers. You'd do much better with the LSO under Previn, or with Andrew Davis.

As for the Elgar, well I would say that it should be heard, but absolutely not as your only version of Enigma. That extraordinarily slow Nimrod draws some very amusing responses from most people - you can just hear that the orchestra is desperate to get onto the next note every second. It's actually fun to listen to this version, but only if you really know the work and understand that it's not Elgar's fault!

So in short I would buy this for Sibelius' 5th and 7th, and possibly to have a laugh at the expense of Bernstein's Elgar! Just crazy!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Carol Haynes on 5 May 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have only just received this CD set and after reading the negative review by Battle-Famous I went straight to the Enigma Variations to see what the fuss was about.

I have to say I am bowled over by this performance and it is worth the set to hear Lenny's Elgar (shame he didn't record more IMHO).

The recording is with the BBC SO playing their socks off and the string sound is like pure velvet. The playing is so intimate at times you almost thing you are listening to chamber music and at other times there is a grandness to the playing that is very uplifting.

Nimrod is VERY slow - agreed - but it made the hairs stand up on my neck and my eyes water. Lenny knew exactly what he was doing and the impact of this affectionate tribute to Elgar's close friend is full of emotion and warmth. A glass or wine, lights off and the music cranked up and you have no soul if this does not move you. My only regret is I can't write a letter to Lenny and say thank you.

Haven't listened to the Sibelius but already I am more than happy with this set.
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17 of 26 people found the following review helpful By J. Gale on 11 April 2007
Format: Audio CD
I try not to write reviews but this made me so angry: Battle-Famous, the previous reviewer, really doesn't know what he's talking about. This is an absolutely brilliant take on Elgar and just because it's not the same as all the other boring interpretations on disc doesn't mean it doesn't have significant value... This is an incredible record. Bernstein's speeds are thoroughly considered and, in my view, extremely authentic (whatever that word means). Before listening to this I found much of Elgar's music troublesome. Bernstein makes this a truly convincing performance of sincerity and passion.
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10 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Battle-famous on 12 Mar. 2007
Format: Audio CD
Bernstein might have been a good Sibelian, but he was certainly no Elgarian. His recording of the 'Enigma' Variations was the first to be released on CD in the 1980s, and it is a shame that some people might have snapped it up at the time and got accustomed to this version.

Most of the Variations are performed adequately (the orchestra is certainly trying its best) but Bernstein doesn't seem to realise that the music is the most important thing here, rather than the conductor's egocentricity. His version of 'Nimrod' is simply perverse: stretched out to three times its natural length and of Mahlerian proportions, it ceases to be a celebration of friendship, and a testament to the nobility of Beethoven's music, and becomes instead an overblown dirge.

His reading of the entire work is eccentric rather than enigmatic, and one wonders why he bothered as he clearly did not understand Elgar's particular sound-world.

The star is for the Sibelius symphonies, as the reading of 'Enigma' pulls this recording down so badly that it is best avoided.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful performances, but often self indulgent 28 Jun. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
These are wonderful performances, demonstrating the drama and intensity of Bernstein's later years. That said, they also represent some of the criticisms that are often made of the late Bernstein: extremely slow tempi, a self indulgent approach that often ignores entirely the intentions of composers, and an over the top approach that can come across as crass and vulgar to those familiar with more traditional interpretations of these works. This is not a set to own if you wish to have only one Enigma or collection of Sibelius symphonies.
For those interested in a different approach to some familiar works however, this is an excellent buy. Bernstein pulls out all of the stops in these works, presenting a powerful Sibelius first symphony filled with grand gestures and arresting moments. The second is somewhat less succcessful, as its slow movement often loses momentum at such a slow tempo, and Bernstein's decision to accelerate the tempo during the development of the final movement fails to enhance what is already one of the weaker moments of the work. The fifth and seventh are also filled with dramatic moments, though the famous horn theme from the finale of the fifth gets buried at points, marring the otherwise brilliant movement (a conscious decision on Bernstein's part, but there is little counter melody beneath this theme that really demands to be heard over it). For a good fifth, see Karajan's Berlin recordings (on either EMI or DG), and for a good seventh, go to Maazel or Davis. If you are looking for a complete set, Colin Davis' set with the Boston symphony still remains the linchpin of the catalogue.
A final word needs to said about the Elgar. Alone amongst these recordings, this is the only one that Bernstein did not record with Columbia, and so unlike the other works, there is no means of comparison with how Bernstein might have done this work with the New York Philharmonic. This performance has its moments, but Bernstein's agonizingly slow (Nimrod for example), dramatic approach robs the work of much of the light and intimate character that makes the work so distinctive amongst orchestral show piece. A testament to friendship is hardly a work that warrents such a self important, Wagnerian interpretation, and this remains, as it did when it was first released, a recording to admire from afar, rather than be enjoyed.
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Best recording of Sibelius's First Symphony in History 6 July 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Leonard Bernstein's live recording of Sibelius's First Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic(from 1990, the year Bernstein died), featured on this 3-CD set (and previously out-of-print), is easily the greatest recording of this symphony ever. No one--not even Bernstein himself in his earlier NYP recording for Sony--has brought out the depth and power of this work as Bernstein does in this recording, making a strong case for this symphony as one of the greatest Romantic symphonies of all time.(Those looking for a taut, lean, non-sentimental performance should look elsewhere, but they'd be missing the message of this symphony). The opening clarinet plays the main theme hauntingly and the main theme from the first movement is played like no other recording. Instead of a brisk, no-nonsense tempo that makes this theme sound a bit abrupt, Bernstein draws it out with intense passion, making it sound more Tchaikovskyesque than ever before. Lest one fear that Bernstein is all around too slow in this movement, he speeds up the tempo at just the right moments to create a nail-biting excitement that other performances lack. The slow movement is done beautifully, again with increased tempos in the development to the fast part, making one forget that this is the adagio. The scherzo is very exciting, with the drummers playing their hearts out to keep up with Bernstein's conducting. It is the last movement that really stands out. Bernstein starts it at a very deliberate tempo, to enhance anticipation for what's to come. The "big tune" is, in its first appearance, very powerful, but on the brisk side. The rest of the development is truly astonishing in its excitement but it's the return of the "big tune" that never ceases to amaze me. Bernstein draws it out to tear-jerking effect, making this tune perhaps the most moving one in all of classical music, topped by a crackerjack finale. Throughout, the sound quality is amazing in its realism and clarity(especially the drums and percussion), giving the entire performance a very hard-hitting effect. In sum, this performance of the First Symphony is worth the price of the entire set, as it is the best performance of this work you'll ever find, and one of the greatest classical performances of all time.
The Second Symphony is more idiosyncratic and is at times(especially the second movement)too slow. Still, Bernstein's pacing brings out elements of this score that you won't hear elsewhere, and if it isn't the first choice (try Ormandy/Philadelphia) it remains an important alternative perspective. The Fifth and Seventh Symphonies recieve very powerful performances that can easily be first recommendations (although Bernstein's own earlier Fifth with the NYP is even better), especially with powerhouse sound.
The Elgar was very controversial due to its slow tempos, but like the Second Symphony, remains a viable alternative. The Britten is performed flawlessly and could be anyone's first choice performance of this work.
In short, while everything on these 3 CDs is classic late Bernstein, the First Symphony is worth the price of admission and anyone who likes this work, or is just looking to discover Sibelius's Late Romantic style, must buy this CD set.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A great bargain if you know what you're in for 18 Mar. 2006
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Fifteen years after his death, DG has decided to give us ultra-bargain box sets of Bernstein's late recordings. As is well known, he could be eccentric in this period, often too slow and self-indulgent. Those flaws are at their worst here in the Sibelius Sym. #2 form Vienna and the Elgar from London. But the other Sibelius, particularly Sym. #7, shows real depth of feeling and justifies Bernstein's expressive indulgences. The Four Sea Interludes are moving for being part of the last public concert he gave in Tanglewood with the BSO, and the orchestra plays wonderfully for him. The rest of the performances fall somewhere in between these extremes. They will all remain controversial, I imagine, but there's a great deal of enjoyment to be had here if you know what you are in for.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Great Sibelius 2nd 24 Mar. 2007
By Muslit - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Bernstein was an interpretive conductor. This is a performance which makes an event out of the 2nd symphony. The Breitkopf and Hartel score includes a duration of 45 minutes under the scoring page. Bernstein's performance is not far off. As personal as his intrepretation is (including a few changes in dynamics), most of Sibelius' tempo markings are meticulously followed. Molto largamente, Andante sostenuto, Poco allegro, Allegro, are tempo markings which appear in the 2nd movement - all are followed. Bernstein rigorously applies the 'Tempo Andante, ma rubato' to the eight-note (3/8), not the quarter. As a result, the 2nd movement is taken at a slower pace. But the pacing is entirely logical within that context. Careful listeners will also notice that one measure of the 3rd movement Vivacissimo (taken in 1 - one of the fastest on record) equals exactly one quarter note of the tempo in the finale. These correspondences (and there are many) give cohesiveness to the structure of the work.

The 2nd movement, one of the great tragic symphonic utterances, and the finale, one of the most uplifting in the repertoire, are perfectly realized in this great performance. Absolutely not to be missed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps too much Chaff 21 Oct. 2012
By J. R. Trtek - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
In the end, I find this set to be a very mixed bag, both in terms of content and level of performance. The disc of English music is a split decision: I'm not particularly enamored of this performance of Elgar's Enigma Variations, which seem to grind on in a heavy way, but the Britten Sea Interludes are adequately done. For the Elgar, my preferences are Boult, Barbirolli and Zinman; for the Britten Interludes, if I must state a preference, I'd opt for Previn on EMI. So one disc out of the three doesn't make a compelling argument to acquire this set. The remaining two discs are all Sibelius: Symphonies 1, 2, 5 and 7, the only ones that Bernstein recorded for Deutsche Grammophon. More than one reviewer has described this performance of the Second Symphony as overwrought, and I wouldn't disagree, although there are times when I'm in the mood the handle it done that way. This Bernstein recording of the Fifth Symphony, on the other hand, strikes me as rather amorphous -- and in my opinion the music is a bit amorphous to begin with and requires some analytic definition, which we don't get this time. So, to me, this is not a good performance of the work. At least one other reviewer has raved over this rendition of the First Symphony, and I'll admit that it's okay, especially in the beginning, but as time goes on it strikes me as a bit too brash -- not as bad in that regard as the performance of No. 2, but getting there. The performance of the Seventh Symphony is the real gem of this set. Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic set their emotional gears just right as this work shifts in and out of its varying moods. So where does this put us? If you just want to hear Bernstein do Sibelius, I find the old New York Philharmonic recordings to be superior overall. If you want a full Sibelius cycle, my top recommendations would be Davis and the Boston Symphony or Segerstam and the Helsinki Philharmonic. For the cost of a full-price disc, however, you do get a good performance of the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 and performances of the Nos. 1 and 2 that you'll enjoy if you like this music played with somewhat undisciplined emotion. Your own preferences will have to tip the balance one way or the other.
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