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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orama and his orchestra on home ground, no highlighting, a revelation, 14 Mar 2014
By 
Charles Voogd (Underwaterland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nielsen: Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 [Sakari Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra] [BIS: BIS2028] (Audio CD)
The recording of Elgar’s second symphony with this orchestra/conductor was so disappointing for me – I’m very much used to the punch and drive of Solti in that one – that I was skeptic of this release. I was totally wrong. This is the most enjoyable reading of these 2 symphonies I can imagine. One fine thing of it is that there’s absolutely no highlighting of snare drum in the 5th and timps in the 4th. It all sounds very natural so it’s more wonderful and effectfull than ever. Most producers can’t stay away from their mixing panels and pull the percussion in both symphonies forward to get some extra drive, force, energy or whatever. But with that they drown the other instruments, Nielsen didn’t ask for it in his scores – the dynamic markings are there to see – and the symphonies tend to get heavy footed. Orama, the orchestra and the production team manage a very natural sound and that gives the listener the opportunity to delve into the wonders of Nielsen’s orchestration technique, which is totally individual. So with this release you get a natural and forceful Nielsen, not forced!, not highlighted but very well played and engineered. I’d especially ask attention for the great climax in the first movement of the 5th symphony, what a built up of tension!!! A winner, bravo!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Nielsen, 16 Feb 2014
By 
enthusiast "enthusiast" (sussex, uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nielsen: Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 [Sakari Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra] [BIS: BIS2028] (Audio CD)
Oramo is turning out some great records with his Stockholm orchestra. Their Elgar 2 was astonishing. I rarely buy a record hot from the press but got this one as soon as it came out. Although I do value both Ole Schmidt's and Vanska's accounts of the work, I've long looked for a really successful Nielsen 4 in modern sound and I hopes this might be it. I think it is but I was still not really prepared for a performance of such character. Oramo is a conductor who tends to have strong views about how a piece should go and then sets about giving it to us in a way that is hard to resist.

Nielsen is a hard composer to get. Performers can sometimes be divided into those who hear him as a Romantic and those who hear him as a modernist. As a noted Danish composer we perhaps expect (and some performers seems to want to give us) another Sibelius but that is a bit like expecting British and French music to sound the same. Nielsen's music is not elemental and timeless; it is more homely and of its (admittedly often troubled) time. So how should Nielsen sound?

Oramo's Nielsen is rather uncomfortable and Oramo is very much in the "Nielsen is a modernist" camp. He maintains pulse and flow - essentials in Nielsen - and I know of no Fourth with such overall integrity - while at the same time keeping the music unsettled. At the same time, and between his perturbed big movements, he gives us a very beautiful and relaxed - almost still - slow movement with some lovely flute playing. We get a really compelling 4 - as compelling as any since Martinon's fiery account - that is astonishingly full of incident and character.

Nielsen 5 has done better than 4 on record and is easier to bring off. There have been quite a number of excellent accounts. Being distinctive here may be a sterner test of Oramo's mettle but in the event we get an account that is again very distinctive and filled with character, that has drive and horror and that again delivers an overall integrity and seems "whole".

So much Nielsen can sound like the performers casting around in search of the elusive essence of the work. This is not how these performances are. Here you are very conscious of Oramo disturbing and pushing the music around but he does this somehow without any sense that he in unsure how the work should go. It is just that he seems to hears these works as deeply unsettled and unsettling. The sound and playing are first rate.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong, acerbic readings and superb recording and playing combine to make this a strong recommendation., 14 Feb 2014
By 
D. S. CROWE "Music Lover" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Nielsen: Symphony Nos. 4 & 5 [Sakari Oramo, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra] [BIS: BIS2028] (Audio CD)
The symphonies of Carl Neilsen, while never as popular in the concert hall as those of his friend Sibelius, have always had a strong representation in the recording catalogue. Nielsen's music is always recognisable, and his distinctive style straddles late Romanticism and Modernism with consummate ease.
The most popular of the symphonies are undoubtedly those presented on this new release from BIS, and individually and in this pairing they face stiff competition, and I am happy to report that this Swedish Orchestra conducted by a Finn and playing Danish composed music takes its place among the top ranked.
Oramo takes a more spare approach to these works, driving the music forward with incisive rhythms and eliciting a lithe, steely string tone from his first rate players.

In the Fourth this is in direct contrast to the massive weight of tone and more majestic approach of Karajan, and where Karajan almost seems to find the duel between the timpani in the fourth movement somewhat vulgar, and has his timps a touch recessed, Oramo has no such reservations and lets rip at a breakneck pace in spectacular sound that puts even the Blomstedt/San Francisco recording in the shade.

The Fifth emerges as a nervous, troubled piece with stark tones and all the plushness of other readings eschewed in the passages of emotional resolution. The insistent chatter of the obligato snare drum is punctuated by piercingly shrill woodwind, incisive brass and is underpinned by the pulsating drive of the low strings.

Both readings look to the future of music, rather than any nostalgic looking backwards.
The Fourth is a bold statement of the strength of the human spirit, the Fifth emerges as a the horror of mechanised warfare offset by the redeeming spirit of humanity whether Neilsen intended that or not.
The playing is superb in all departments, the recording is as ever from this company extraordinarily detailed and well balanced, and in SACD is even more spectacular.

However, if you are expecting a well upholstered wallow in the manner of Karajan or Blomstedt on Decca-his set with the Danish RSO is nearer to this one in character-you may be disappointed by the more lean and strident sound picture adopted by Oramo.

These are very powerful readings indeed, all steely Northern Light with little Southern Warm Glow, and if this appeals-and it should in these works-you will be well satisfied with these performances.

Alternatives abound, though none are as well recorded as this set, but Blomstedt, Jarvi and Salonen are all fine alternatives, as are Bernstein and Ole Schmidt to name but a few-sadly the Davis/LSO recording is compromised by harsh sound-and Karajan in the Fourth is a "must hear" at least.

I am delighted to find Maestro Oramo back to full form and his recordings with this orchestra have so far been a total success. Highly recommended. Stewart Crowe.
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