8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
God Bless Naxos!,
This review is from: Sibelius: Symphonies 1 and 3 (Audio CD)
In my earlier scribbling about Inkinen's last disc of Sibelius miniatures (Naxos 8.570763) I prayed that Naxos would have the wisdom to let him loose on the symphonies in due course. To their eternal credit they have done so and this first disc in a new full cycle is an absolute triumph - and comes at a cracking, bargain price to boot.
As with his previous two Sibelius discs Inkinen proves himself beyond any shadow of a doubt to be an absolute master of the composer's idiom and has obviously no problem adjusting to the longer spans and greater intellectual demand of the symphonies. On this showing he can justifiably stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of messrs. Davis and Segerstam without suffering the slightest tremor.
The quality of the musicianship and sheer skill of the New Zealanders continue to impress mightily with alert, lithe muscular playing that conveys all the power and delicacy of this tricky music. The brass choir is in gloriously mellifluous voice yet again (I love the "fat" tuba sound) and the woodwinds are an absolute delight. Rarely have I heard the individual lines come through so cleanly and the crystal clear recording does them ample justice. Time and again wonderful detail comes through the orchestral texture to a beautifully judged degree - the harps and deep woodwind in particular. The string section engine room puts in sterling performances in both works, with razor sharp attack going hand in glove with a sustained, rich tone throughout.
In the First Symphony Inkinen keeps the whole thing well groomed and coherent throughout all its episodes and the yearning ebb and flow of the "nature" music comes across with a real intensity and without overdriving things or giving in to the merely grand or dramatic. He negotiates the music's frequent mood and gear changes deftly, keeping the argument's invisible "thread" intact all the time (though I did feel the opening of the Andante a tad on the slow side. That said the pulse was firm, tightly controlled, it certainly didn't sag and the transition on to the main part of the movement was beautifully judged). The power in this score is undeniable and Inkinen wisely keeps his powder dry for the "real" moments making them tell all the more. I have to say that the First isn't my personal favourite among Sibelius' symphonies but I shall be returning to this particular jewel frequently.
And it just gets better. The performance of the Third Symphony is a stunner. All the positive aspects above are repeated - with knobs on. The orchestra are on top form again and obviously revel in this vigorous, triumphant piece. Inkinen has it all superbly controlled to deliver the maximum just when needed and manages the light and shade brilliantly, avoiding any temptation to let things get overblown. Again the nordic feel permeates everything and the power of nature-painting is almost overwhelming at points. This is music making that really makes you sit up and pay attention.
This release is also the clearest illustration yet that the old view of Naxos as a "flog `em fast, flog `em cheap" outfit is patent rot. They have recognised something truly special in the Inkinen/NZSO alliance - despite the fact that they have already released some worthy Sibelius offerings under the batons Sakari and Leaper. This new enterprise promises to be something of real excellence and deserves to be fully supported - all the way.
So. A thousand thanks, Naxos. Hit me with the next release any time you like!