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This review is from: Sibelius: Finlandia/Karelia (Audio CD)
Although I'm not a Sibelius expert, I would wholeheartedly recommend this disc to anyone looking for a collection of his tone poems. In the other versions of Finlandia I own, they come across as concert lollipop performances, here it is performed with full bloodied fervour complete with rasping brass and a relentless pace in the allegros, whilst the 'hymn' sections are treated with passion and no artificial sentimentality. You get the impression that Ashkenazy, who has spent many years in Iceland, really feels an afinity with this Scandinavian music. The Karelia Suite is also well performed, albeit with less brio.
I was not familiar with the other pieces although I'd heard odd moments here and there, I must say on the whole I am very impressed despite the fact a few years ago I would have found some of them too modern in form. The orchestration in Luonnotar for example is beautiful, and while some pieces remind me a little too much of film scores in places (Tapiola for one) there is so much to admire here. On the second disc Pohjola's Daughter and The Swan of Tuonela are my favourites, but both discs are full of compelling music. Unlike some other reviewers I cannot draw a distinction between the quality of conducting between Ashkenazy on disc one or Stein on disc two. Recording quality in both is very high, and is very similar despite disc one being digital and disc two analogue.
For me this disc represented outstanding value and I hope others who are so far only familiar with a few of Sibelius' works (Finlandia, Karelia, or the Sky at Night theme tune) venture like me into exploring further.