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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Jean Sibelius


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biography
One of Finland's great national treasures, Sibelius (1865-1957) represents a fascinating paradox in 20th-century music. While a latter-day romantic who remained aloof from modernist stylistic currents, Sibelius nevertheless developed a supremely original voice, above all in his contributions to the symphonic tradition. His austerely beautiful compositions express a characteristic love of nature.
recommended recordings
Sibelius: The Complete Symphonies Vol 1 / Davis, Boston SO
Composer: Jean Sibelius
Conductor: Sir Colin Davis
Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra
Uni/Philips - #46157 / June 13, 1995

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As so often happens in the classical record business, Sir Colin Davis has been busily rerecording all of this music for RCA, with the London Symphony. And because he's an English conductor working with an English orchestra, the British critics are raving, as if these earlier, much better, and much less expensive versions didn't even exist. Well, ignore the hype. Not only does the Boston Symphony play rings around today's London Symphony Orchestra (Davis's current group), but they are much better...Read more


Sibelius: The Complete Symphonies Vol 2 / Davis, Boston SO

Composer: Jean Sibelius
Conductor: Sir Colin Davis
Performer: Salvatore Accardo
Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra
Uni/Philips - #46160 / June 13, 1995

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It was clever of Philips to couple Sibelius's least popular symphonies with the extremely popular Violin Concerto and tone poems. Don't let the words "least popular" scare you off, however. If you like Sibelius, you'll love the Third and Sixth Symphonies. The latter, in particular, is one of the most purely beautiful pieces of music in the history of sound; its only flaw is a quiet ending that makes conductors unwilling to play it at live concerts. Sir Colin Davis and the Boston...Read more


  Sibelius, Goldmark: Violin Concertos / Bell, Salonen, LA Philharmonic
Composer: Jean Sibelius, Karl Goldmark
Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Performer: Joshua Bell
Ensemble: Los Angeles Philharmonic
Sony Classics - #65949 / August 22, 2000

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Joshua Bell has returned to the mainstream repertoire from his recent successful excursions into film (The Red Violin) and bluegrass-crossover (Short Trip Home), and his playing, always brilliant, and arresting, has reached a new peak. Despite the booklet's claim to the contrary, these two concertos have nothing in common except fiendishly difficult bravura solo parts; rather, they represent a perfectly valid pairing of opposites. Bell makes the most of the contrasts, bringing out each work's idiomatic character. The Sibelius, from the eerily icy opening to the exuberant ending, is heavy, rugged, austere, majestic, expansive, with grand, intense climaxes. The Goldmark has a Hungarian flavor with its romantic, melancholy lyricism, poetic, almost religious inwardness, charm, and vitality. Bell's effortless virtuosity is unlimited but entirely unobtrusive; his intonation is perfect, the passage-work crystal clear. He seems incapable of producing a bad sound, even in double and triple stops; his tone is ravishingly beautiful, radiant as golden sunshine, warm as dark velvet. Best of all, he makes music: every note is expressive, everything has shape and direction; the playing is always noble, honestly felt, and without excess or exaggeration. --Edith Eisler

Sibelius: Finlandia, Valse triste, etc / Ormandy, Bernstein
Composer: Jean Sibelius
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy
Performer: Louis Rosenblatt
Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra
Sony Classics - #48271 / November 17, 1992

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This budget-priced disc contains some very fine performances. Eugene Ormandy and Leonard Bernstein were both dedicated Sibelius interpreters, and their approaches are both complementary and shrewdly highlighted in this collection. Bernstein is represented by a single work: Pohjola's Daughter. This is not only Sibelius's finest tone poem, but this performance has also long been regarded as the best available. Ormandy, on the other hand, selected the kind of Romantic, colorful music that he always...Read more


works & recordings

  • Chamber Music
    Trios, Quartets, Quintets

  • Choral
    Secular and sacred choral music. Oratorios, Masses, Partsongs, Hymns, Carols

  • Instrumental
    Sonatas, Suites, Overtures, Minuets, Variations, Transcriptions, Dance Music

  • Orchestra
    Concertos, Symphonies

  • Theatrical Works
    Ballet, Stage, Incidental Music, Film Scores

  • Vocal and Opera
    Opera, Operetta, Song, Lieder, Musical Theater

Complete List of Works and Recordings

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