- Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39
- Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63
- Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43
- Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82
In many ways, Sibelius's first two symphonies recall the hyperdramatic, ripely romantic symphonies of Tchaikovsky. But, despite the high level of emotional heat, there's also something inexplicably cool and quintessentially Scandinavian about this music. Perhaps the essential difference is that Tchaikovsky seems to be concerned with humanity's trials and tribulations, while Sibelius conjures up the majesty and might of nature in all its unpeopled glory. The Fourth bears absolutely no resemblance to Tchaikovsky's work, however. Its textures seem almost bare and the atmosphere is desolate and chilling. Yet, if you can chisel through its icy exterior, the Fourth will reveal itself as among the most powerful works in the entire orchestral repertory. The Fifth may also have a chilly character, but it's much more easily lovable. These performances are from of a complete cycle of Sibelius's symphonies that Colin Davis made with the Boston Symphony in the 1970s. (Symphonies Nos. 3, 6, and 7 are available in a companion two-for-the-price-of-one set). These are refined and unaffected interpretations that reveal these works as awesome natural wonders.
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