"Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony capture five of Sibelius' finest tone poems on this disc. The Karelia Suite is deeply brooding, refined and tunefully beautiful. En Saga has an incessant and turbulent drive to it topped with almost Spanish flourishes (rather like the Russian military does the fandango). It is a great piece. Pohjola's Daughter is as appropriately dissonant as The Swan of Tuonela is touching. Levi's Finlandia is a spectacular fireworks display. What else can you say about Finlandia except that it is a masterful tour de force and I wish it was longer than just 8 minutes. As always, Telarc's sound is crisp and spacious. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra acheives the perfect Arctic chill-in-the-air atmosphere necessary. I cannot help but be moved by the music of Sibelius. This recording is one of my favorites."
Spectacular Telarc sound and moving instrumental masterpiece
jean couture | Quebec city - Canada | 05/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sibelius: Tone Poems & Incidental Music, Telarc CD-80320, Atlanta S.O./Levi (1993).
When i first heard this cd, i was immediately impressed by the majestic sound and hearty interpretation these beloved classical pieces have received ; only God knows why Levi and the Atlanta Symphony were not looked upon with more attention. I agree with the other reviewer that this orchestra achieves "the perfect Arctic chill-in-the-air atmosphere necessary." Undeniably, this album sounds great and does not "Americanize" the Finnish sonorities of such marvelous music. The exception here, perhaps, is 'Finlandia', a startling orchestral extravaganza--and a well-known piece--which needs fierce energy. Here it receives an urgent, muscular treatment which certainly produces lots of sparks ; however, i still prefer Fennell's powerhouse recording for Mercury--by and large, the finest American interpretation of the work.
I come to disagree with Tom Godell's commentary [...] that the Levi/Telarc renderings are "bloodless performances [ . . . ] without any feeling" : I think Levi's technique is, on the contrary, quite sensible and astute in regards to those compositions from Sibelius. The music--in particular on 'Karelia', 'Swan of Tuonela' and 'En Saga'--has that appropriate coldness, and without sacrificing drive it maintains a right "fringe" on the penetrating Nordic silence that resounds in the distance. In a recording of, say, 'Karelia Suite', if you can't feel the sense of space or if you simply lose track of the requisite effects, then the final result will hardly sound like Finland or Sibelius. Levi and the Atlanta S.O. got it right definitely, from start to "Finnish"...
The Atlanta performers and Yoel Levi brought out a hell of a good record, packaged with some fine Telarc sound. No wonder Stereophile® have included this cd in their ''1994 Records To Die For''. According to reviewer Lewis Lipnick, the recording has "a breath of fresh air. [. . .] The dark, brooding colors and dramatic, dynamic contrasts he injects into Sibelius's rich orchestration are nothing short of breathtaking. [. . .] A recording not to be missed". *****"
jean couture | 10/23/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This music has a unique quality that my musical vocabulary is unable to adequately describe. Other reviewers make mention of the composer's Finish-ness and even the liner notes mention his ability to capture the "soul" of his country. There may be something to this view as many of his works were written for nationalistic purposes and he had a singular knowledge of Finnish folk music and history; however the marches and fanfares are the least engaging works to my ear.
The better pieces are simply beautiful and intelligent works with a great sense of overall balance.
The recording quality is top-rate."
Gary D. Warner | Saginaw, MI | 03/30/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I heartily concur with the Seymour, Couture and Lipnick reviews of this recording. Ironically, the magic of Sibelius is how he fills that "chill-in-the-air" with his own brand of uniquely fresh originality, warmth and loveliness. How deftly and seamlessly his compositions move from stimulating serenity, to formidable mystery, to shimmering triumph.
Telarc's technology captures Maestro Levi's inspired conducting sumptuously. This is Sibelius done proud! The Karelia Suite's Intermezzo is particularly outstanding. Appropriately, Levi demonstrates he's in no hurry to get through it as he subtly accents the offbeat in a way that makes this music pop; a most refreshing contrast to other seemingly rushed renditions, yet with a delightfully judicious sense of forward sweep.
Moreover, each track delivers exceptional power with trenchant execution, ideal tempos and vividly dynamic color. Music critic, Victor Carr, succinctly assesses this disc as, "...magnificent...an amazingly authentic Sibelius sound." Atlanta's virtuosic brass section, I must say, is stunning: a tightly disciplined crew, sporting a prowess of superbly honed muscle; consistently proving itself a puissant yet balanced asset to the transcendent sound of this premier orchestra.
These then remain my favorite versions of Sibelius' tone poems. Finlandia here is the most potent rendition I have yet heard, beginning with the opening bars conveyed with exceptionally portentous threat by the brass. The wonder of Sibelius' best known work is its brevity. Certainly, its majesty merited development into a full symphony. But alas, may I submit that its efficient perfection as a musical speech, if you will, is comparable to Lincoln's Gettysburg address as the ideal verbal speech. Indeed, Sibelius grabs our hearts and leaves us hungry for more!