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These are deeply satisfying readings and are presented in excellent sound, especially when heard in SACD format.
on 21 May 2015
This SACD hybrid recording was made in 2012-13 and commences a much larger series of recordings featuring this orchestra under Oramo and comprising the complete set of six Nielsen symphonies.
That sound in its SACD surround form especially, as with the other two issues in the series, can reasonably and realistically be simply described as spectacular with excellent balances and impressive range. One immediately registers the greater sense of space around the instruments as well as the width and depth of the aural stage.
As sound therefore, this new disc is more than a match for the fine traditional stereo recordings provided by Decca for their set of symphonies featuring Blomstedt and the San Francisco orchestra. Comparisons have not been made with the Danish set on EMI. Sonically, this new disc has achieved a new benchmark setting for sound considerations and especially when heard in its SACD format.
By general consensus, Blomstedt’s earlier 1980’s Decca set has been a clear front runner with only the alternative set made in the 1970’s, also by Blomstedt but with the Danish orchestra, being preferred by collectors. That is now available in improved re-mastering at a very low price and with generous fill-ups. The Danish set is generally felt to have a more idiomatic feel to that of the San Francisco set.
Returning to the current Swedish disc, in terms of interpretation, Oramo provides a warmer pair of interpretations to those of Blomstedt while still fully delivering on the climatic moments, of which there are many in these two symphonies. Generally Oramo adopts fleet tempi which heighten the drama which is delivered with precision rather than brute force. This distinction is particularly relevant and important in these two symphonies with their emphasis upon instrumental opposition, most notably the ‘battle’ between the two sets of timpani in symphony 4 and the assertive solo side drum in symphony 5. The result in both cases remains musical rather than being a physical battering.
This makes a fine recommendation for these two symphonies but the true value of this disc becomes even more apparent as the remaining two discs in the series are heard. At that point there is a consistency in Oramo’s approach which is alluded to in this review and which can be summarised as delivering a new level of empathy with the music and its idiom. This idiom is, not entirely surprisingly, matched by the members of the Swedish orchestra both individually and corporately and the whole adds up to a completely sympathetic set of readings.
The readings are characterised by an onward pulse, with climaxes delivered with bite rather than with a blunt weapon metaphorically speaking and where the lyrical element is emphasised. This latter gives these readings rather more warmth and humanity than can be heard elsewhere. The forward pulse also creates a sense of excitement, of exultation and thrill rather than high-pressured drama. The more delicate elements are also presented with sympathy and clarity.
In summary these are deeply satisfying readings and are presented in excellent sound, especially when heard in SACD format.