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5.0 out of 5 stars At last indeed!!!, 15 Feb 2014
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endorse the favourable comments of the previous reviewers...this is epic Sibelius conducting of vision. LB's first in these performances generally received great critical acclaim but the rest tended to gather less enthusiastic reviews from the professional music critics. however, I find it hard to believe the reviewers could have been listening to the same works. LB is emotional but the results are fascinating and I wish I had the privilege of sitting through those concerts...but I have the next best thing in these recordings which come off better than some of his other live DG recordings....I wouldn't want to be without the distinctive perspective they offer on these Sibelius masterpieces.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn the fire of cold here, 2 April 2012
Pedro Sena Lino "Bizancian" (Berlin, Germany) - See all my reviews
This is a superb recording.
The First Symphony is generally not considered as big as the other ones, like the 2nd or the 5th. Bernstein creates quite a psychological environment here, with jaw-dropping crescendos, and a hauting, noble atmosphere. The first and fourth movements are dashing, with an unparalled sense of drama and restlesness. There is a Sibelius here that we cannot hear in the other symphonies, a more heroic and elegiac one.
The Second is a wonderful account, and Bernstein seems to convey the architecture of the piece. However, Beecham's recording is even more dramatic; nevertheless, if you want a second version to compare to your Beecham one, this will be yours.
If the 1st and the 2nd already are wonderful reasons to buy this set, wait for the surprises the 5th and the 7th can bring you. Bernstein reads and plays them as an expansion of the 1st and the 2nd: drama, heroic pain, a romantic and cosmic sense of life.
There is fire in the cold landscapes of this music: and here you can learn them.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, 28 Oct 2011
enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
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These four symphonies have been available for a while coupled with some Elgar and Britten - making for a strange mixture and sold by Amazon with a title implying a full set of Sibelius Symphonies. So it is good that DG have issued the four symphonies at a really cheap price and without the Elgar and Britten. Bernstein recorded a full set of Sibelius with the New York Philharmonic but the accounts here were recorded from live performances made towards the end of his life with the Vienna Philharmonic. Are they any good?

Well, yes - I rather think they are! Each performance is at the very least totally effective. And the orchestra, of course, sounds wonderful. So this is a very good way to buy versions of Sibelius's four most approachable symphonies.

I don't really want to go into comparisons with competing versions of these works but if I did I could well choose Bernstein's Fifth as an excellent first choice. But I would rather talk about whether these are worthwhile accounts for someone who already has a set or two of these marvellous symphonies.

Bernstein's way in these performances is expansive and loving. He relishes details and sometimes this indulgent approach leads to a loss of tension and even to a loss of our sense of there being a coherent overall structure to the works - they can seem longer than usual and begin to sprawl. But ... but ... there is so much here that is just wonderful. Often this seems more about the wonderful sound the orchestra can make than about a telling interpretive point - there is surely a kind of restraint in fashioning the performance as a showcase of the wonderful noises that your orchestra can make. The whole conception is about loving the music and celebrating these symphonies as big romantic works. The First is an astonishing conception, wonderful - barely a hint of Tchaikovsky but more than a hint of Mahler! It is big, very big and demands to be heard. The Fifth is more taut than the others and is all the stronger for that. It is glorious and is surely a truly great performance. The Seventh also is very powerful indeed.

How can you compare these performances with others? They are Bernstein being very Bernsteinian! They are effective and they are uplifting and staggering. They are out of the ordinary. And the current price for two CDs is less that 5.
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Sibelius: Symphonies Nos.1, 2, 5 & 7
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos.1, 2, 5 & 7 by Wiener Philharmoniker
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