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Reviews: Sibelius: Karelia Suite, Finlandia, The Wood-Nymph etc. - Vänskä

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Geohominid February 26, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:    
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

Review by DSD April 1, 2011 (8 of 41 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Jean Sibelius is one of my favorite composers and the Karelia Suite is my very favorite composition of his, so I was thrilled at this release. I wanted desperately to LOVE this SACD however it was sonically a big disappointment and musically it was not competitive to my favorite performances.

Geohominid said in his review "There is plenty of extended bass, especially from the thunderous bass drum and deeply-digging string basses."

I am sorry but I have to strongly disagree with this quote, in my system the low frequencies are almost non-existent. The double basses are almost inaudible, the bass drum is weak and the strings could be smoother. For me everything is important, the lows, the highs and the critical midrange, I want it all!

In Sibelius' music sometimes the bass is soft, however even soft bass still needs to be captured, as can be verified by any other version of these tone poems. It is just NOT bass percussion, double basses and deep wind instruments need to be both heard and felt. Sibelius deserves better than this!

Of the thousands of recordings I have heard on hundreds of labels I have only heard two so far from BIS with deep bass, yet with other recording companies such as Telarc, Reference Recordings and Delos all of their recordings have deep bass. It does not count if there is a little deep bass but it is recorded at such a low level as to be nearly inaudible, soft bass should be "soft" not non-existent. And string basses should ALWAYS have the deep bass sound of string basses whither playing softly or loudly.

The nearly inaudible deep bass on this recording is too low in level thus lacking depth, weight and impact of other recordings of Sibelius' Tone Poems. By contrast audiophile labels achieve deep bass with weight, intensely and impact nearly all the time.

I have verified that my system does great bass by hearing megabuck systems at CES and T.H.E. Show 2011 and recordings that actually have REAL bass.

My loudspeakers are the Infinity Reference Standard 7 Kappa with 12 inch woofers which give the weight and body to bass instruments that smaller cones cannot, very smooth sounding 3 inch midranges and EMIT tweeters which are perfect for high resolution sources. They have a frequency response from 37Hz-45kHz +/-3dB and in reviews they were down about 8dB at 25Hz. My vacuum tube preamplifier is the AMC CVT 1030 whose frequency response with high level inputs is 4Hz-80kHz - 3dB. And my high current power amplifier is the Adcom GFA-555II with 325 watts per channel into 4 ohm loads, it's frequency response is 1.7Hz-100kHz - 3dB and has a damping factor greater than 800 for excellent woofer control.

I adjust the volume to suit the recording, on the best recordings there is a level where the soundstage snaps into place and magic begins. This is NOT one of those recordings.

The bass was anemic through both speakers and headphones even at uncomfortably high levels. The problem could be something as simple as microphone placement.

Through Sennheiser HD 580 headphones whose frequency response is 12Hz-38kHz the lack of bass is even more disturbing plus there is an irritating shrillness to the strings. Speaker playback is more forgiving. Not the worst BIS I've heard, that honor goes to Grieg: Holberg Suite, Music for Strings - Ruud with it's shrill CD-like string tone.

There are thousands of SACDs and other recordings that actually have realistic deep bass including two I have discovered (so far) on the BIS label Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Petrushka - Litton and Aho: Symphony No. 12 - Storgårds

These recordings prove that BIS can record the full spectrum of sound even at 24/44.1kHz! Listen especially to the double basses and deep wind instruments!

This review is of the 2 channel high resolution stereo layer. In the thread on this SACD, some have actually claimed to hear deep bass so perhaps it is only the stereo layer so adversely afflicted. I have no way to confirm as I am a devoted 2 channel stereo music lover and abhor multichannel in any form. However there are few who love TRUE AUTHENTIC "REAL" DEEP BASS more than I. I want deep bass with the frequency, impact and warmth I hear in the concert hall. And many, many recording companies who do not use equalization and preserve bass all the way through the recording process provide plenty of recordings for me, including for the first time the two BIS recordings mentioned above.

I purchased this SACD as I was waiting for the Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Petrushka - Litton to show up at since Robert von Bahr correctly thought I would love his new recording techniques. I was looking though the list of sale SACDs at Acoustic Sounds, The Sibelius: Karelia Suite, Finlandia, The Wood-Nymph etc. - Vänskä was on sale for $12.50. In the USA BIS SACDs and CDs usually cost $19-$22 new so I looked here for reviews to see if maybe it might be like the Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Petrushka - Litton , I found Geohominid's misleading review and purchased it. My order totaled 6 SACDs, the other 5 sounded fantastic, this was the only dud.

I needed this SACD to replace my set of Sibelius Tone Poems (including the Karelia Suite) with Yoel Levi conducting the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Telarc 320kbps MP3. This low resolution MP3 blew away the BIS SACD both musically and sonically. I am extremely disappointed with the poor sound of this BIS SACD, I didn't believe there were any SACDs that sounded as bad as CD, well here is an SACD that sounds worse than MP3!

This SACD was to replace this one: Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, Sibelius: Suites - Sir Colin Davis which has excellent sound and deep bass but I sold it as I have better performances and sound of the Tchaikovsky works on Telarc SACDs.

My other Sibelius Tone Poems with deep bass were on LP and 7½ IPS prerecorded Reel to Reel. Such as Alexander Gibson conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on a 180 Gram RCA Living Stereo/Classic Records LP of Symphony No. 5 and the Karelia Suite. I am considering trying the Ashkenazy/Stockholm Philharmonic "Complete Symphonies with Tone Poems" on Exton SACDs next.

To hear Sibelius with realistic deep low frequency energy check out Sibelius: Kullervo - Spano , or Sibelius: Symphony No. 2, Tubin: Symphony No. 5 - Cincinnati SO/Järvi and for BIS with deep bass listen to Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Petrushka - Litton or Aho: Symphony No. 12 - Storgårds

I still want the Sibelius tone poems on an "acceptable" sounding SACD and the Karelia Suite is a must have!

I do not recommend anyone actually purchase this SACD unless one likes BIS so much that poor sound quality does not matter or if one wants to hear for themselves how full of hot air the BIS Brigade is. The BIS Brigade are blind to obvious sonic defects in BIS SACDs but are quick to point them out in other labels.

From now on I will be purchasing high resolution music files from BIS' rather than the SACD version as they have a satisfaction guarantee. I have listened to hundreds of BIS recordings and have discovered four 24/44.1kHz recordings so far that are not bass-light (2 of which are also on SACD) and I will be listening and searching for future BIS recordings with acceptable bass and will purchase when I do.

The BIS Brigade by falsely propping up this SACD are dissing and undermining all the THOUSANDS of wonderful recordings that ACTUALLY do have REAL deep bass.

UPDATE 4/2/11: It is important to note that I was never going to do another negative review as I do not enjoy doing them. I prefer to be positive, if everyone would just START making good recordings, negative reviews would NOT be necessary. I will not say there will be no further negative reviews in the future, I will just say I pray and hope there won't be. If I can save even a few people from wasting their "hard earned" money on this poor recording, my efforts will be rewarded.

It is fine to love a recording company (I love Telarc) but to defend even their terrible recordings with blood-thirsty revenge as the BIS Brigade does is UNETHICAL and IMMORAL.

I played this recording 8 times over a three week period, it is now sold of course which is what I recommend everyone do with recordings that they cannot bear to listen to. The BIS Brigade have now begun attacking this review and me, which I view as the actions of scoundrels when they cannot silence dissent in any other way. Yes this review is full of emotions and the listening impressions though both speakers and headphones is 100% accurate and honest. As I have said even BIS can do better than this, just listen to the two BIS SACDs linked above.

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Review by Luukas February 10, 2014 (2 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Osmo Vänskä and Lahti's Symphony Orchestra done it again; fantastic Sibelius album with superb recording sound. These works are recorded at the Sibelius Hall, Lahti November 2006 and May 2007, and recording balance is much better than orchestra's older recordings.
This SACD contains Sibelius' nine famous works (Karelia Suite, Op. 11, The Swan of Tuonela Op. 22 No. 2, Lemminkäinen's Return Op. 22 No. 4, Spring Song Op. 16, Valse triste Op. 44, Kurkikohtaus (Scene with Cranes) Op. 44 and Finlandia Op. 26) and one quite unknown work (The Wood-Nymph Op. 15). Karelia Suite (13'46) is performed very well: first movement's dazzling theme, second movement's lonely beauty and last movement's rhythmically melody. In the second movement, Vänskä does stunning effect: the singing second theme begins very quietly, and when it repeats, the orchestra plays it "normally". All in all, Vänskä directs very good, and orchestra plays marvelously. The Wood-Nymph (21'37) is very long and interesting work: young Sibelius' orchestration is amazing! Vänskä's tempi are quite same than his earlier recording (21'36), but in this release orchestra plays much better and recording sound is spectacular.
This release's other works are performed fantastically (specially beautiful Spring Song and Lemminkäinen's Return) and this is the best way to listen these classics. If you don't know these works, this is outstanding way to listen them.

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