- Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82
- Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43
Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä has recorded a complete cycle of the symphonies of Jean Sibelius once before, with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in the 1990s. This new version of the composer's two most popular and accessible symphonies is part of a second cycle, recorded with the Minnesota Orchestra at its home in downtown Minneapolis, has the acoustic edge over the earlier version. Vänskä's approach, far from Romantic, is to break down the "Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43," especially, into its smallest constituent parts and then start reassembling. The result is a very attractive congruence between music-making and engineering: listeners will notice details in Sibelius' marvelous orchestration that have been elusive until now, and Vänskä has by now molded the Minnesota Orchestra into an instrument that can respond to his every idea. That's quite an accomplishment; the group is now in the very top tier of U.S. orchestras. For some, the reading may leave the impression that if the British had had to depend on it during World War II, when Sibelius had the function of stirring wartime spirit, they might have gotten a bit depressed. The recording seems to lack oomph, yet stick with Vänskä's plan and it gathers power as it goes along. The bottom line is that this is a fresh and very detailed look at some warhorses of the symphonic repertory.