The first thing to say about this disc is that the sound is spectacular even by Chandos's high standards. I've been listening to the stereo SACD version and the spatial distribution of the instruments left to right and front to back is very convincing. As so often the SACD recording also reveals a wealth of detail and I've heard things in these recordings I have missed before.
Ms. Pike's performance of the violin concerto is fine, abreast of my previous favourite by Hilary Hahn. The fillers consist of old favourites Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse Triste and the the Swan of Tuonela couple with two rather more unusual items, Valse Lyrique and Andante festivo. I wouldn't automatically associate Sir Andrew Davis with Sibelius but he directs the Bergen Phil. with aplomb and generates mystery and excitement along the way.
No matter how many recordings of these pieces you already own, I encourage you to add this one to your collection.
This is a superb disc containing a lovely selection of the great Finn's most popular orchestral works. The centrepiece is, obviously, the violin concerto and Ms. Pike gives an outstanding performance of a work that has never been short of interpreters of the highest calibre from Jascha Heifetz down. However, the interpretation conjured up by Ms. Pike reminds me of the great Ida Haendel, surely one of the most distinguished of this mighty concertos interpreters. (And Ms. Heandel has a letter from the great man to prove it!) There is a lean quality to her tone that suits this work down to the ground and at no point does she simply play to the gallery and resort to a monotonous throbbing vibrato that defies Sibelius's sound world. There is also much excitement generated as we follow her round the incredibly difficult violin writing that simply demands the best from all soloists.
While I'm writing about comparisons, I was reminded of another great English conductor whilst listening to the other works on this disc in the figure of Sir Malcolm Sargent. His classic HMV Lp with the Vienna Philharmonic was one of the first photographs my eyes must have focused on as a child. My father had that record and I badgered him constantly to play the 'Karelia Suite' from it! Doing a side by side comparison (some 40 odd years later!) shows both conductors simply letting the music speak for itself. Of course, the up to the minute sound quality of the Chandos disc is very good indeed although the older EMI 'studio' disc still holds up well.
In conclusion, for me, this disc is a joy and is a real credit to all concerned.
How many times have I heard this concerto and come away thinking forces have not done justice to a masterpiece!
I believe I have finally found a version, the one here that uncovers many of the scores hidden secrets. Perhaps its to do with the orchestral tuning, the balance, Andrew Davis's miraculous way with detail, the rhythms in the last movement for instance, the balancing of Sibelius's bass timbre orchestration. Jennifer Pike's uniquely refreshing solo never gets dull, this is no empty virtuoso show but a performance of amazing depth and character that's fits, like hand in glove Davis's awesome accompaniment. The Bergen Philharmonic play beyond expectation.
I love this concerto. Despite the questionable artwork, I would say this is a fantastic recording of one of my favourite pieces. I listened to this once whilst driving beneath a lightning storm. Less than a hundred yards away I saw a bolt strike the adjacent field. It was a most theatrical and potent moment enriched by this wonderfully appropriate music. Such contemporaneous happenings are rare and precious. I have since written-off my vehicle by colliding with BMW driven by an ill-mannered philistine. I was listening to Haydn at the time. His music did not suit that occasion. I have now retired as a motorist. However, one can never retire from music of this eminence.
A long disc with a varied mix of Sibelius. The violin has a warm and powerful sense of presence but doesn't relegate the orchestra to the back seat. The slow movement is graceful and uplifting and not sentimental and cloying as it could be with some. The last movement has a delightful flowing pace with moments of great vigour. Soloist and orchestra must look back with great satisfaction at this collaboration, as will listeners to this generous recording.