Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sibelius and von Karajan

Sibelius makes good late night listening. His music does not tug the deepest emotional heart strings, nor plumb the depths of human emotions. But it is stirring and attractive stuff that, as far as his symphonies are concerned, needs only a first class orchestra, a virtuoso conductor, and a first class recording.

I made a rare excursion into Herbert von Karajan listening with Sibelius's fifth symphony this evening, and didn't regret it. The Berlin Philharmonic in the 1960s was a great orchestra; Deutsche Grammophon in the later 1960s produced superb recordings; and von Karajan was in his element in this kind of music. Rather like Tommy Beecham, to hear him at his best I find you have to listen to von Karajan in music that suited him. Anyway, I've loved Sibelius's fifth symphony ever since my teenage years, and still thrill to the sound of the cranes flying over the Northern landscape in the finale. Sends you to bed feeling happy and satisfied.

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