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09 Sibelius 34Sibelius 3 & 4
Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal; Yannick Nézet-Séguin
ATMA ACD2 2454 (atmaclassique.com/en)

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Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63 - II. Allegro molto vivace - Listen on Spotify

Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63 - III. Il tempo largo - Listen on Spotify

Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 - I. Allegro moderato - Listen on Spotify

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Whatever was eating Jean Sibelius, he managed to churn out a decent number of fascinating and varied symphonic works, some, more well known than others. The latter set includes the brief Third Symphony in C Major, Op.52, and the not quite as brief Fourth Symphony in (something like) A Minor Op.63. Fluid and diverse in character, they rush through a month’s worth of angst and elation in just over an hour TOTAL. None of his symphonies stretch beyond 50 minutes, and most are less than 40; it almost seems he was either too modest or too smart to restate all the moments in order, as might Bruckner or Mahler, or others adhering to classical structure without its restraint. Motif rules, but so does organic development.

There are the usual Sibelian tropes: jollity and delight in folk idioms, a sense of awe possibly induced by the Finnish landscape, grand builds to grander climaxes, and especially in opus 63, tonal freedom (not to mention dark explorations of the wandering soul). I never forget that the composer battled the bottle for most of his life.

Congratulations to the spirited and excellent Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal, led by the supernova legend Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Were I prone to envy (yes) it would irk me to know that not only does Montreal have the Habs, but they also have two excellent symphony orchestras playing all the big repertoire, this one led by YN-S, and that other one with a similar name. The strings are particularly strong, as are the woodwind soloists, who are afforded many juicy moments. YN-S and his crew sweep us along the turbulent and gorgeous soundscapes. Bravi tutti.

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Author: Max Christie
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