Sibelius: Complete Symphonies and Kerelia Suite and Finlandia by NZSO review

by Fiona Rae / 04 February, 2012
A near-perfect set of all seven symphonies from Pietari Inkinen and the NZSO.
It makes sense for the Naxos label to record all the Sibelius symphonies with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra while they have conductor Pietari Inkinen here. This young Finn has Sibelius in his blood.

Other than his underwhelming climaxes in No 1, Inkinen hits the mark with all other six. In the finale to No 2, for instance, mediocre conductors tend to freeze the processional cavalcade of nationalistic grandeur to a standstill. But Inkinen brings a vitality to this long and repetitive shape I haven’t heard from others. It says much of him and the NZSO that this is one of the most consummate versions in a competitive market for Sibelius’s most popular symphony.

It’s the same with his No 3. String detail is crisp even in the difficult viola writing in the first movement. Hemiola rhythms underpinning the slow movement’s Slavic melody are clear, as is the finale with its horn pedal points giving strong forward momentum to the last few minutes. You won’t get a better No 3 on the market than this. Why this fresh and direct work is neglected baffles me.

There is an interesting inverse correlation between popularity and greatness in Sibelius, which reaches its peak in No 4, to my mind his greatest work, yet his least popular. How well Inkinen portrays its desolate bleakness, with the harsh dissonances of its four-note tritone motif used as melody and also chordally by trumpets, climbing up these chords like a ladder from C to F sharp major. Inkinen turns this into one of Sibelius’s most ominous moments. In the second and fourth movements, positive starts are fatalistically snuffed out by the pessimism of the pervading tritone motif. Inkinen portrays that most clearly in this sharply defined reading.

Clarity is to the fore, too, in the popular No 5, with crisp woodwind detail and the swaggering positivity of what Donald Tovey called “Thor swinging his hammer” in the finale. The self-effacing No 6, with its pastoral serenity almost hiding its intellectual subtlety, is so modest it sounds chamber orchestra-like much of the time. Inkinen exposes its motivic interrelations well.

No 7’s powerful contraction of thought creates a sense of scale well beyond its 20-minute time frame. Its most sublime section, a chorale two-and-a-half minutes in that starts with divisi eight-part strings, is blossomed out endearingly by Inkinen. I imagine No 7 might be his personal favourite. While Inkinen is here, Naxos should involve the NZSO in Sibelius’s best symphonic tone poems such as Lemminkäinen, Oceanides and Tapiola.

SIBELIUS: COMPLETE SYMPHONIES, KERELIA SUITE and FINLANDIA, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Pietari Inkinen (conductor) (Naxos 4CDs).
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

TVNZ confirms job losses in news reshuffle
69723 2017-03-24 08:31:59Z Business

TVNZ confirms job losses in news reshuffle

by Colin Peacock

An overall reduction in news jobs at TVNZ is likely, staff have been told, as the broadcaster reveals a new plan to cut some roles and introduce other

Read more
Did New Zealand make any impact on the UN Security Council?
Pasifika Festival: What to do, see and eat
The best magazine cafes in Auckland
69708 2017-03-23 12:30:03Z Where to go in Auckland

The best magazine cafes in Auckland

by Paperboy

Sometimes it’s nice to just spend a lazy morning in a cafe reading a good magazine, while you nibble on a scone and order copious amounts of coffee.

Read more
British PM condemns 'sick and depraved' attack
69696 2017-03-23 12:05:13Z World

British PM condemns 'sick and depraved' attack

by RNZ

Theresa May says a terrorist has chosen to strike at the heart of London, as world leaders pledge their support for the UK.

Read more
If anyone's making a buck out of our fresh water, surely it should be Kiwis
69660 2017-03-23 10:40:26Z Politics

If anyone's making a buck out of our fresh water, …

by The Listener

The debate on bottled-water exports is based on two heartfelt beliefs: free access to clean water and national assets should not be given away.

Read more
A big Dunedin Study discovery is owned by an American university
Gigs coming up in Auckland: Yumi Zouma, Nadia Reid, SWIDT, plus more top events
69557 2017-03-23 00:00:00Z What's on

Gigs coming up in Auckland: Yumi Zouma, Nadia Reid…

by India Hendrikse

Music! With SWIDT, Nadia Reid, Yumi Zouma and The Slacks, plus check out our picks for dance and theatre events, and the Vegan Food Fair.

Read more