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on 10 June 2011
You look at the price for this download and do a double take. £[] for all the 7 Symphonies, Violin Concerto, the complete Lemminkainen Suite, Karelia Suite, Finlandia, Valse Triste, En Saga, Snofrid, Tapiola and an Overture in E Major?

And then you think that there must be a catch? But, no, there isn't, and you really can get all these for just £][ and, what is more, these are the highly rated Vanska performances that have met critical acclaim as possibly the best overall SET of the Sibelius symphonies. I highlighted "SET" as many, as I, may have individual performances that they prefer, but as a set Vanska is close to the top of the tree, if not at the top.

The sound quality of the recordings is remarkably consistent from work to work and, as has already been mentioned in another review, the bitrate used by Amazon for the transfers is pretty good. The bitrates indicated in Windows Media player run from 204kbps to 337kbps, which indicates that Amazon use variable bitrate encoding using a lower rate in less demanding sections, where it won't be noticed, and increasing this to accommodate, usually, the loudest passages. And it shows in the sound here, which is clear and open with a well defined bass where necessary. The loudest passages are accommodated with ease.

All the performances are first rate, and so are the recordings, but I would draw attention to the balance of Kavakos in the Concerto, in case you are used to a soloist being projected in the foreground. He is placed within the orchestra, but from live concerts I've attended, this actually sounds more natural and, fortunately, he still comes through and is not lost within the orchestra.

All in all, a super bargain. Christmas has come early and I would recommend you download ASAP before Amazon realise their mistake!
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on 14 June 2016
I'm in a 9th floor flat,south facing...sunshine all day plus views of the hills.
so I'm always standing at the window to listen to my orchestral downloads.
I'd only got to the 2nd movt.1st symphony...had to sit down...overwhelming.
never heard sibelius like this before....compelling and very clearly differentiated musical voices.
decided that 2 symphonies with this degree of controlled intensity,is enough for today....bet I can't let today end without listening to the 3rd....NB....this is BIS....at any price this VANSKA set is a treasure...and what is it about the Lahti S.O. that's so transparently compelling.
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on 8 March 2016
Great to have all Sibelius Symphonies
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on 31 July 2017
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on 10 April 2017
Wonderful recordings of these works - amazing value.
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VINE VOICEon 4 July 2011
Others have commented on the bargain that this represents: all the symphonies, plus the orginal version of the 5th, the Violin Concerto and a good selection of the tone poems, including a work new to me, Snofrid. And all for less than half the price of a normal BIS CD release. Moreover these have been recorded well within the last decade, and some - like the two versions of the 5th symphony - have been highly praised elsewhere. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra is less well-known than other leading Scandinavian ensembles, but under Osmo Vanska, a leading Sibelian, they have shown themselves to be no whit inferior. Highly recommended.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 October 2011
At £5.99, if this download turned out to be inferior recordings with a less than good quality orchestra, it would still be worth listening just to discover different ways of playing Sibelius to help you appreciate better ways. I do not usually download, preferring to have the CDs as a fail safe and fall-back but I was looking for a Sibelius set and saw this. The later symphonies and "Finlandia" and the "Karelia Suite" (both of which I heard in school for the first time and have loved ever since) have been favourites for many years and I already had CDs, but I thought I would take the risk with the early symphonies.

It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made looking for CDs. Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra have produced a wonderful set which turned out to be more than "just" the symphonies. I did not know what to expect and bought this on trust - and a few reviews from Amazon!

Buy it quickly and, if you do not write reviews, start today to help other people.

Highly recommended
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on 6 December 2012
Prior to purchasing this collection of Sibelius,I had only previously heard Finlanda which I enjoyed so thought I would take a punt on hearing some more from this artist. I have listened to all of the songs several times and find them to be some of the most beautiful classical music that I have ever heard. Sibelius has become my most favourite of composers and the quality of the recordings and the beauty of the music is just stunning. For the outlay the music is just worth every single penny and then some not just a bargain but more a bargain of the century.

This album is a great introduction to the music of Sibelius and it will want to make you want to search out more of this composers amazing works. I just love it and have to play at least one cd's worth of his music every day because i find it so inspiring and uplifting. If your new to Sibelius or have listened to just one or two of his works take a punt on this glorious album you will not be disappointed.

Jason leefarr
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on 1 December 2011
Everyone else has said it so I shouldn't need to, but this is such a steal! What about the recordings themselves? This set has several things going for it before you hear a note: 1. It's BIS recording and the clarity of their sound engineering is second to none: 2. Vanska, like other Finns, is a Sibelius specialist; and 3. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra are a superb ensemble and their relatively small number of players means that no detail is lost. Admittedly, the bigger works can sound a little thin - e.g. the first two symphonies and En Saga but the series really comes into its own with the later works.

So I expected to like this before I'd heard a single note. Reviews have been great even though the competition is fierce indeed. I own a few and there is much to enjoy in all, but none can claim to be indisputably superior to the others. I'm not sure it's worth even trying to rank them; it's better to appreciate the different qualities each one brings.

This Vanska cycle really is different though. The small orchestral forces and clear sonics make for detailed and, yes even luminous sound: The woodwinds positively glow.

With the cycle as a whole Vanska is also not afraid to take chances with tempo either slowing or quickening in very marked fashion that differ from most of the competition without being out of place. His use of extended held chords / notes at the end certain passages, also sounds like no one else but is highly effective - listen out for this in "Tapiola" for example. He is never afraid to make a pause an extended silence - again try the pause before the dissonant string blizzard near the end of "Tapiola". Taking such risks can go badly wrong but work best here in these later works. Indeed it's this risk taking that marks out his "Tapiola" as outstanding.

I guess if you've grown accustomed to one or more other conductor's interpretation and /or grown up with that, this set might not be to your tastes. I will not say that each individual piece is better than anyone else's interpretation but it is certainly the a compelling set overall. The added works are more than an interesting bonus: The Violin Concerto is a major work; "Tapiola" possibly his greatest work, Lemminkainen Legends, an Overture, "Snow Peace" and the original version of the Fifth Symphony.

Including the original version of the Fifth must be a big selling point to many and may make this set the preferred choice for some. Let's not forget though that Sibelius revised it into the masterpiece three movements final version we all know. The original then is both a curiosity and an insight as to how Sibelius built his works and refined them. Certainly Sibelius's final version is an improvement but whilst the material is essentially almost the same the original is darker and more dissonant with more frequent shifts between light and shade throughout. If anything, the startlingly dissonant finale works even better in the original because this feels like a hard fought victory. This sounds like a work born in the shadow of the Fourth and still fighting the same demons. The final version is purged of that almost completely: the way ahead had been cleared. It is still the preferred version but don't dismiss the original it is a great bonus to have. It is clearly the more personal and heartfelt, if less effective version. Having this one work is worth the price alone for its rarity value.

As for the other works: the small forces and transparency of the recorded sound really pay dividends with the later work: In particular, I've heard fine versions of the Sixth and" Tapiola" without thinking I'd quite heard them at their best. Now I think I have. The Sixth is so hard to get right - Davis is too reserved and neo classical, Barbirolli and Karajan too romantic but Vanska, marking out the slower and quicker passages in the central movements, inbuing the work with the most luminous woodwinds and clear strings gives an interpretation that lacks sentimentality but is as fresh as the pure spring water that Sibelius referred to about the piece.

Some might find the stately tempos in the Seventh not to their tastes but it emphasises the interest Sibelius then had in the polyphony of Palestrina and you are less conscious of this being a four movement symphony stitched into one, as it sometimes can sound.

Whilst it was no surprise that these forces worked well in the later works; this luminosity and clarity was a revelation in the Fourth as were the extended held notes / chords that made the slow movements appear to float: It sounds like amore intimate, chamber piece.

As for the earlier symphonies: The First is much leaner and energetic than we expect but the epic Second could benefit form a larger ensemble. The Violin Concerto receives a fine performance but there's stiff competition elsewhere.

The Third Symphony sounds like the lean, energetic and spring like piece we know even though Vanska takes the slow movement very slowly (it still sounds light on its feet) and keeps his powder dry with the introduction of the hymn like theme in the finale: that soon builds up the necessary momentum to the finish.

If you're serious about Sibelius and can afford the massive £7.49 download outlay you can't ignore this cycle. For the revelations about the Fifth and the later works this is a must. Highly recommended. Never mind the price; what a find this has been!
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on 26 July 2012
Make no mistake this set is up there with the very best Sibelius cycles and in some cases trumps the lot.

The finale of the third symphony may seem an odd place to start but Vanska gets this tricky movement so right that he immediately goes to the top of the tree in the marvellous and inexplicably neglected symphony. Many performances settle for a kind of aggregate tempo for the scherzo and finale sections of this movement to the detriment of both. Vanska's scherzo dances magically (a feature of this set as a whole) whereas his finale has terrific gravitas.

The elusive and equally neglected 6th is given its best performance since Beecham and Karajan. Vanska might be said to combine the best of those predecessors: Beecham's feel for atmosphere with Karajan's drive. This would imply that Vanska is anything other than his own man. The end of the symphony, too often a kind of afterthought, becomes here the true climax, quite as affecting in its own way as the more celebrated endings of the 7th and Tapiola.

These last two are given wonderful outings here. I still prefer Karajan's first DG Berlin recording of Tapiola but this performance can regard famous recordings like Koussevitsky and Beecham as it's only peers. The 7th is fabulous with the Lahti strings playing their hearts out at its conclusion.

The first two symphonies are rather more ordinary. Vanska is highly tuned to the half lights in the 1st and nobody could possibly be disappointed unless measuring it against the very best. Colin Davis' Boston recording comes to mind but even that yields to Kajanus' famous set. The same could be said of the 2nd though I must confess to being unconvinced by Vanska here, particular in the notoriously difficult slow movement which can hang fair and sound like endless empty rhetoric.

Of the bonus an excellent Lemminkainen stands out. The Lahti strings cannot match Ormandy's peak era Philadelphia band but who can? An excellent violin concerto from one of the most thoughtful violinist around and you can't really go wrong.

Finally the original version of the 5th symphony was a fascinating one off listen but I don't think I will be returning much. In almost every instance Sibelius' changes were improvements. Snofrid, on the other hand, a work I had not previously heard, should be required listening for anyone who loves Sibelius.

All in all a terrific set and the price is bordering on the immoral!
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