Related Reviews
The Times
4 Stars
Prom 6: 'Brilliant music, this; masterful music-making as well.'
more >>
The Arts Desk
Prom 6: 'The result was a moment of almost Mozartean elegance: clean, precise and quite, quite beautiful.'
more >>
BachTrack
4 Stars
Prom 6: '...the BBCNOW’s strings really shone in those moments of rich writing...'
more >>
The Telegraph
4 Stars
Prom 6: '...in Søndegård’s hands the bombast seemed radiant, and moving.'
more >>
Evening Standard
4 Stars
Prom 5: '...there was a strong sense of the organic growth that makes this compact work so mysterious.'
more >>
The Independent
4 Stars
Prom 5: '...the BBC National Orchestra of Wales [was] in top form under Thomas Sondergard’s direction...'
more >>
BachTrack
4 Stars
Prom 5: '...a clean and ringing sound that rendered Sibelius' orchestral writing transparent but wonderfully warm.'
more >>
Limelight
'This project cycle should appeal to those who like their Sibelius cool, crisp and bracing.'
more >>
Gramophone
'Another disc with a live feel, this Sibelius coupling with the BBC NOW under Thomas Søndergård will bring out the best in any well-matched [hi-fi] set-up.’
more >>
Fono Forum
5 Stars
,,Das ist kein bukolisches Rauschen nordischer Wälder, sondern eher ein Ausloten von Seelenlandschaften.''
more >>
Klassik
5 Stars
Audiophiles Highlight: 'Das ist kein bukolisches Rauschen nordischer Wälder, sondern eher ein Ausloten von Seelenlandschaften. Das verklärte En de des Werks stellt daher nicht nur das zu erwartende frohe Ende dar, es scheint vielmehr fast eine Art Erlösung zu symbo lisieren.'
more >>
Classical Candor
'Sondergard's rendering of it is, frankly, gorgeous, one of the most brilliant, moving performances I've heard.'
more >>
Applaus
'Das ist die perfekte CD für Sibelius-Einsteiger wie auch für den Kenner, der schon Referenzaufnahmen im Regal stehen hat, denn es stimmt alles: der ganz spezifische Klang in perfekter Balance, die Tempi, die Spannungsbögen.'
more >>
Classics Today
4½ Stars
'Søndergård gets it right...if this is the first disc in a planned cycle, it looks like it's going to be a very good one.'
more >>
Classics Today France
4 Stars
'Qui veut un Sibelius bien enregistré en SACD multicanal trouvera ici un produit de choix.'
more >>
Sinfini Music
'[Sondergard's Seventh Symphony] feels nicely organic with some delectable moments of musical blossoming, not least towards the signature trombone solo.'
more >>
The Observer
4 Stars
'...intense and rigorous...'
more >>
Scene Magazine
'The immersive Nordic soundscapes of Jean Sibelius' aural world are immaculately rendered on this release from Linn.'
more >>
Pizzicato
4 Stars
'Thomas Sondergard gives Sibelius's Second Symphony a very expressive character, while the Seventh is deeply reflective. Excellent playing by the BBC Symphony Orchestra of Wales. The recorded sound matches the excellence of the performances.'
more >>
Robert Music Blog
'The performance of the 2nd is sublime.'
more >>
InfoDad
4 Stars
'An outstanding Symphony No. 2.'
more >>
The Sunday Times
'The BBC National Orchestra of Wales here shows itself to be in fine fettle, offering cogent, clear-textured performances.'
more >>
Politiken
4 Stars
'[Sondergard] livtag med Sibelius’ 2. Symfoni matcher nogle af de bedste...Kombinationen af klarhed, varme og Sibelius’ svimlende symfoniske vidder, som de langsomt samler sig i symfoniens stadig større, bjergtagende landskabsagtige panoreringer, er flot.'
more >>
Herald Scotland
'I can only welcome, with fast-beating heart, one of the great new Sibelian teams into the record business with the debut recording on Linn Records of Sibelius's Second and Seventh Symphonies by Thomas Sondergard and his BBC National Orchestra of Wales.'
more >>
ResMusica
'Thomas Søndergård impose un Sibelius direct et franc du collier, simplement musical et granitique, mais qui s'avère inspiré et sain.'
more >>
The Telegraph
4 Stars
'The BBC NOW, recorded in the warm, clear acoustics of the Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, responds keenly to the way that Søndergård subtly controls aspects of tempo, instrumental balance and the shifting of mood to create a genuine sense of the music's organically conceived nature.'
more >>
AllMusic
5 Stars
'The comparatively lush orchestration of the Symphony No. 2 probably has never sounded better in any recorded format.'
more >>
BBC Music Magazine
'Thomas Søndergård has a deserved reputation as a fine conductor...there's also much deft and accurate detail...'
more >>

Thomas Sondergard - Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7 - Audiophile Audition


19 April 2015
Audiophile Audition
Mel Martin
4 Stars

Linn Records brings us this thrilling SACD of the Sibelius 2nd Symphony and the 7th Symphony in rich 5.1 multichannel sound.

The 2nd Symphony is probably the most familiar of the composer's symphonies, and for good reason. It is rich with emotion and orchestral color. Composed in 1902, and conducted at its premier by the composer, it was originally associated with the struggle for Finnish independence, as it was written at the time that Finland was struggling against Russian sanctions. As far as I know, Sibelius never spoke to this program, so we don't know if it is wishful thinking, myth, or the truth.

Whatever the program behind the symphony, it is a compelling musical experience. My previous favorite recording was with the LSO under Colin Davis, but this latest disc from Linn is easily the equal, and to my ear has more raw energy and exuberance from the players.

For his 7th Symphony, Sibelius dropped the common symphonic form from four movements to two. Many critics think the 7th is the composer's most unique and lasting accomplishment. Sibelius finished the work in 1924, and it premiered in Stockholm as Fantasia Sinfonica No. 1. By 1925 the work was named the Symphony No. 7 in one movement. Although the composer was working on a Symphony No. 8, the 7th is one of his last major works.

Linn has its origins as a high-end audio equipment manufacturer, and it's not often a hardware company gets into recordings, but the output of Linn Records has been positively noticed by critics and consumers. This disc is no exception. It presents a beautifully wide soundstage, superb definition of the instruments, wrapped up in a beautifully musical recording that really lets the unique sound of Sibelius enter your listening room. The surrounds are subdued with a hint of room ambiance, and there is a very sharp front image. The discrete subwoofer channel never overpowers, but it is there when the music calls for it.

The BBC Orchestra of Wales gets increasing acclaim, and it is well deserved. In addition to a busy concert season, it regularly records TV and film soundtracks. The combination of the BBC Orchestra, maestro Thomas Sondergard, and the music of Sibelius render something musically that is far greater than the individual parts.  Highly recommended!


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Related Links

BBC National Orchestra of WalesBBC National Orchestra of Wales
Thomas SondergardThomas Sondergard
Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7Sibelius: Symphonies 2 & 7