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  Linn Records -
  CKD 220
  Sibelius: Theatre Music - Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Joseph Swensen
  Sibelius: Pelleas and Melisande, Kuolema Valse Triste, Belshazzars Feast, The Tempest Suite No. 2, Andante Festivo

Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Joseph Swensen (conductor)
Track listing:
  Total time: 65:44
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:
  Recorded at the Usher Hall Edinburgh
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Philip Hobbs and Calum Malcolm
Post-production by Julia at Finesplice

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Related titles: 4

Reviews: 3

Review by beardawgs February 1, 2004 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is a great collection of Sibeliusí music for stage. As comparison, Grieg comes first to mind, but if you donít know this music donít expect something like Peer Gynt. Sibelius is much more ethereal and doesnít have Griegís catchy tunes, but it is by no means less worthy. It comes as a welcome addition actually to hear a completely different Nordic approach (more philosophical and meditative) to theatre music of the same period.

The most famous piece here is Pelleas and Melisande. As expected, Swensen is less grandiose and more humane than Karajan (with whom I discovered this great music) and his reading is concentrated on detail. But he never looses the unity of the sound picture, which is bold and intimate respectively. And the favourite filling to every Sibelius disc, Valse Triste has the same qualities. Swensen naturally understands where this music is coming from, and he treats even the smallest pieces as any of the composerís late symphonies.

The orchestra, for sure one of the best British chamber orchestras nowadays is fascinating and responsive. Swensen is eloquent in slow sections, but never dragging his tempos, how ever slow they are. He never rushes his crescendos, fills in the space with music and meaning likewise. And the music is full of varieties, swapping chamber-like and symphonic episodes all the time.

Sound wise, this is probably the best Linn SACD weíve ever heard. Orchestral sound is homogenous, with every solo instrument given its natural presence (in MC). It is mainly on the quiet side, with quite a few impressive dynamic outbursts, not just loud, but voluminous as well. A winner all around!

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Review by Oscar June 28, 2005 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Sibelius is a composer that took big advantage of the strings section of the orchestra in writing his works.
This attractive volume of Theatre Music, played by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays with verve and commitement. The interpretations are detailed and at the same time very elastic and flexible, giving a wonderful flow to the music. The various pieces are among the lesser known Sibelius composition, a music giant of the XX Century.
While hearing the disc, one sometimes could consider a certain lack of weight from this orchestra: it is after all only a Chamber ensemble, and it seems to me a minor drawback.

Sound is the usual from Linn: excellent. Detailed and with good ambiance. A good buy.

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Review by gonzostick October 21, 2009 (3 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
Great recording of traffic in Edinburgh... Great recording of Sibelius? I don't think so. Prosaic recording? Maybe...

Serious problem with this disc includes subbass traffic noise throughout. The random nature of the noise leads me to think it is not caused by the ventilation system. My system is flat to 10Hz, analog direct from SACD player to 5 large monitors that are capable of extreme reach into bass frequencies. There is NO frequency manipulation in my system and all speaker systems have been balanced using a sound-pressure level meter, for proper imaging and balance. Disc starts playing and there is traffic outside my house, with bass frequencies rushing out of the speakers... That might be fine if this were Edgar Varese's AMERIQUES, which sounds like a traffic jam in Manhattan.

The timpanist in this group is anemic. Just in the opening Pelleas Suite, the conductor fails to make anything of the majesty and mystery in this music, never mind the many markings of FF in the timpani that are completely ignored. That severely compromises the sound of the ensemble and misrepresents the composer's printed score.

Yes, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra plays beautifully, but a performance that really makes the Pelleas Suite work is Karajan and Berlin Philharmonic on DGG RBCD. Yes, the digital sound on that issue has its early digital problems, but the performance has all the gravitas the music needs and it sings! I have the Karajan recording on Lp and it still gives a much better MUSICAL recreation of this work and its somber mood.

The Death of Melisande gives the impression of music for a mother-in-law's funeral: suitably sad, but a relief... So, we find that one of the great, somber moments in Sibelius' stage music becomes merely perfunctory. Most important, the anemic timpani sound fails to really support the sound of the ensemble. So it is with the rest of the performances on this disc.

This disc is a huge disappointment...

Of course, it does give a great sound for obtrusive traffic noise...

Maybe the producers should use speakers with real bass response to monitor their recordings...

That may be the real problem!

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Works: 5  

Jean Sibelius - Andante Festivo, Op. 117a
Jean Sibelius - Belshazzars Feast, Op. 51
Jean Sibelius - Pelleas and Melisande, Op. 46
Jean Sibelius - The Tempest Suite No. 2, Op. 109/3
Jean Sibelius - Valse triste, Op. 44/1