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4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 21 February 2013
I ordered this half expecting to end up feeling like a gullible mug (as has sometimes been the case in the past when, swayed by gushing Amazon reviews I've splurged on yet another box set of familiar repertoire.) On the basis of 2, 3, 5 and 6 I already feel I got more than my money's worth - they are terrific in every respect. If the quality holds for 4 and 7, then yes, this truly is the bargain of the year. Everything is right here: transparency and exquisite delicacy in the ensemble passages; perfect timing and huge, gorgeous, enveloping sound in the dramatic climaxes; and those beguiling Sibelius timbres rendered perfectly throughout. The Bournemouth players acquit themselves here with real distinction, and they are not let down by the sound engineers. Sibelius simply doesn't come better than this - at any price.
PS I have now listened to 7: wow, wow and wow. The structural lynchpin of this one-movement work is a glorious hymn-like theme that first emerges, blazing and golden, on solo trombone at 5'17". Berglund handles its two subsequent appearances amazingly, achieving real power and menace at 10'51" (love those dark, rumbling, wave-like chromatic ascents and descents on the cellos and basses!) and a breathtakingly beautiful aural sunrise at 17'47". (The trick in the latter is the clarity and deliberateness with which he builds up, layer by layer, the accompanying repeating six-crotchet figure in the strings until it comes to the fore with searing intensity.) After such extremes, the sense of serene - or should I say exhausted - valedictory repose in the theme's final statement at 20'09" is all the more deeply felt: this has been a real journey. It's the most urgent, dramatic reading of Sibelius 7 I've ever heard, and the Bournemouth players pull it off brilliantly. A must-hear, and one to come back to again and again.
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Five hours of Sibelius, 14 great works including 7 symphonies, a range of approaches to the natural world, one of the world's greatest conductors - Paavo Berglund. There are two movements from the jovial Karelia Suite. There is the melancholy inner grace of one of the Lemminkainen Legends depicting the Swan of Tuonela with lovely cor anglais playing. Then there is the powerful patriotism of Finlandia and two movements from the King Christian Suite. The mighty and magnificent symphonies numbered one and two are given powerful advocacy by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing in the fine acoustic of the Southampton Guildhall. Sibelius, money-earning, Valse Triste is revealed in its tender terrible beauty. The third and fouth symphonies are shown in riveting detail. In the tone poem The Bard, antiquity, and folk memory are tended by great solo harp and some reflective string playing. As with Beethoven, the fith and sixth symphonies are appealing for different reasons. No 5 is full throated and filled with tension and crescendos and climaxes. No. 6 is gentle and lyrical and pastoral. Sibelius related it to snow.
Finally there is the fusion of movements into one in a wonderful performance of the 7th Symphony. And relating to the forests of Finland there is the lengthy tone poem - Tapiola. It is a fitting conclusion to a momentous 4 CD box. This is delight.
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on 1 February 2013
Oh god, I hope I'm not turning into one of those "things were better in my day" type of person. However, this box set has set me thinking. I find the trouble with most recordings of today (not all), Is the striving for beauty of sound above all else which can result in rather bland results. That is not a problem here. Not that the Bournemouth orchestra don't play beautifully here,they do. What matters here is structure and cohesion. Briefly:
Symphony number 1. One of the few recordings of this symphony that look forward to Sibelius's later works rather than back or sideways to the Russian romantic tradition. The scherzo in particular sounds a bit like Janacek in places with beautifully observed dynamics, which is a constant feature in this set.
Symphony number 2. Absolutely thrilling,especially in the development section of the 1st movement where tension can easily drop.
Symphony number 3. Quite simply the best version available of this symphony anywhere. You are left in no doubt that from bar 1 Berglund has his eyes on the final few bars.
Symphony number 4. Again very fine. Listen to the opening cello solo, beautifully played but with the colour drained from it. Some versions make it sound like Brahms.
Symphony number 5. Properly observed dynamic markings especially in the transition between movements 1 and 2 (trumpets only F not FF) and at the very end of the last movement make this one of the best version available.
Symphony number 6. This really elusive work, which has elluded most conductors, receives a lovely performance here.
Symphony number 7. Wonderfully layered performance. again you sense that from bar 1 Berglund has his eye on the symphony's moving conclusion.
Very rich and warm vintage EMI sound. One complaint. How about a 5th disk with Haendel's magnificent performance of the violin concerto along with Pohjola's Daughter. Oh well you can't have everything.
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on 12 January 2013
It's great to see this fine set reissued - thanks to EMI. It is arguably the best of Berglund's three cycles recorded in studio. There are also live performances with the LPO and the Concertgebouw which are well worth hearing, though the latter comes in a large, expensive box. I was particularly struck by the sheer quality of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's playing, the equal of any other band in these works, I suggest. A set to put alongside Sir Colin Davis on LSO live. Perhaps EMI will now consider issuing a box of the Shostakovich symphonies AND concertos which Berglund recorded in Bournemouth.
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on 19 August 2013
I used to own an LP of one of Berglund's recordings of Sibelius. When I saw these recordings I just had to buy them, because Berglund (to me at least) he managed to extract more of the mood of the music than any other conductor. Beautiful music and well recorded.
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on 1 March 2013
One of my favourite composers. A very good album.
I am 90 years old, and it is good to listen to such wonderful music.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 15 February 2014
I need not add much in the way of detail to support the favourable reviews from others raving about this set. Berglund was a natural Sibelian, as I recollect from concert performances attended with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra when I was a student many moons ago and also towards the end of his career when I heard him conduct Sibelius at the Edinburgh Festival with the chamber Orchestra of Europe.

All of these are committed performances, especially the 4th and 7th. The last symphony is especially memorable and is by a small margin my must have performance of this masterpiece.... It would be worth buying the set even for that account alone but there is much to enjoy.
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VINE VOICEon 9 February 2013
Rob Cowan rates Jean Sibelius as "the greatest symphonist of the 20th century" and this reviewer agrees with him. Sibelius is completely lacking in self-indulgence and conductors do better when they are the same. In spite of the many fine Sibelius symphony cycles by such noted figures as Maazel, Ashkenazy and Davis, this is the one to which I can return again and again.

These recordings have languished in the EMI vaults for far too long. They were re-issued by a bargain label, Royal Classics, in 1998 and that was welcome by those of us brought up on the vinyl releases of the 1970s. Possibly the recent death of Paavo Berglund has reminded music lovers what a great and inspiring conductor he was. There can be no better tribute than these landmark recordings, where a provincial symphony orchestra, led by a little-known conductor, surpassed itself and set a standard by which others can still be judged.

These analogue recordings have been freshly remastered for this release and comparing them against the 1998 issues demonstrates the improvement in digital mastering techniques in the past few years, ironically when the CD format is in rapid decline.

Such are the straights in which the classical recording industry find itself that these marvellous recordings, and many more beside, can be issued at prices that are just such amazing bargains. Don't hesitate - such opportunities will not recur.
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on 6 March 2014
On the basis of the reviews i read on Amazon about these recordings ,i bought this set, both the penguin
guide and the Gramophone at the time of the original releases on lp ,did not give unconditional praise to this cycle, i think it is the
best in one way,that is tension, and the sound is fantastic, i have owned the Karajan both dg and EMI ,Davis Boston and LSO, Mazzell , Vanska and a few individual issues,Bernstein included,but this cycle is my desert island set now ,thanks for the feedback from amazon buyers
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on 13 October 2014
I've only just started listening to this set. I shall join those who rave about it.

I guess one way, perhaps, to reach a critical and comparative response to a set of Sibelius' symphonies is to listen to one substantial movement. I'be been listening to how the orchestra and the conductor treat the final movement of the second. It seems to me beyond praise. It is beautifully constructed, balanced, and amazingly clear in all its levels of sound, so that the noble theme moves steadily and inexorably towards its end. It doesn't swagger, it doesn't plod, it seems inevitable and "right." It resounds most movingly and thrillingly.

Each listener will apply his/her own touchstones - some reviewers use the 7th. I shall listen to it next.

This set is ridiculously good value.
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