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VINE VOICEon 21 January 2009
The Sibelius 5th on this disc is more richly recorded and visionary than Rattle's later remake with the CBSO, now available in a complete set and still good value nonetheless Symphonies 1 - 7 (Rattle) or coupled with Nigel Kennedy's performance of the Violin Concerto Sibelius: Symphony No.5/Violin Concerto. There is, for me, a sense of delighted discovery in the traversal of the symphony with the Philharmonia that is not quite matched in the later recording.

Nielsen's 4th is a splendid performance all round, energeticially conducted and beautifully played and recorded. The "Inextinguishable" was one of Rattle's specialities at the beginning of his 18 years in Birmingham and here you can hear it in all its glory. This has claims to be one of the best stand-alone Nielsen 4ths in the catalogue. And at this price it is very worth while trying.
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on 13 August 2010
Sibelius' fifth symphony, as with his second, represents Sibelius at his best: periods of music depicting desolation, with a fragile, haunting melancholy interspersed with brassy climaxes and interesting percussion effects. I agree with Colin Fortune here, this is one of the best versions around.

However I was bitterly disappointed with Nielsen's 4th., my favourite large-scale work. I purchased in high hopes, knowing Sir Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Philharmonic usually to be a fine combination. The opening lacks the unbridled energy of the finest versions and the pace is slow; the all-important clarinet theme, about 1 minute 35 seconds into the 1st movement, a rallying point for the E major forces, slips in almost unnoticed. Conversely the finale is delivered at too faster pace so that some of the tension is lost as it appears to be rushing towards the climaxes. The vigorous duel between the two sets of timpani is handled and recorded wonderfully well but the final, life-affirming climax is, for me, spoiled by the percussion dominating the brass - sounds more like Rattle's variations on a theme of Nielsen's.

There is the bonus of Nielsen's Tone Poem: Pan and Syrinx, which has many of the haunting or threatening woodwind sounds reminiscent of his fifth symphony, but this is only likely to appeal to dedicated Nielsen fans.

I purchased this CD because I was setting up a Music Library for an organisation where it was useful to introduce members to the works of two great Scandinavian composers. For most dedicated enthusiasts it might be more useful to purchase Sibelius' fifth with his second and Nielsen's 4th. with his 5th (see my comments on Adrian Leaper's outstanding version) or with his wonderful violin concerto, one of the best in the repertoire.

Excellent recording but Jekyll & Hyde performances.
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on 14 February 2015
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on 16 December 2010
Overall this is a magnificent recording of Sibelius 5.
However, it is ruined for me by the lack of prominence given to the trumpets during the climax to the 1st movement.I refer specifically to 13.04 onwards.To me this section really is the "top of the pyramid" but because of the above imbalance it simply doesn't work.
I am so disappointed and will not be able to listen to this recording again.
Any recommendations out there?
(Personally I find the Rattle/CBSO 1984 version,originally coupled with the Violin Concerto, much better although the audible grunting and stomping of Nigel Kennedy is distracting)
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