Captured in first-class sound (June 2021 & February 2022, Maison symphonique de Montréal), and with equally fine and responsive playing (distinctive colours, not least from the principal bassoonist), Yannick Nézet-Séguin proves to be a distinguished conductor of Sibelius, and these two Symphonies are big tests of interpretative mettle. The first movement of No.3 is ideally paced, plenty of purposeful momentum without having to put the brakes on for the music’s recesses, with a real sense of arrival come the coda) and he favours the slower end of the scale (like Kajanus and Colin Davis) for the central Andantino con moto, beautifully shaped and pointed, some sections hypnotic in their wonder, with the Finale a tour de force of contrapuntal working out, and on-course stealth, leading to blazing triumph, excellent horns.
Nézet-Séguin doesn’t dwell on the darkness and isolation of No.4, rather he treats it as the Symphony it is, with whatever lies behind the notes emerging organically and naturally expressive yet with no lack of soul, intensity and depth of emotion; in particular the third movement, Il tempo largo, issues deep sadness (as well as Brucknerian largesse – never thought of that before) and the Finale (with glockenspiel, seemingly Sibelius’s preference, although tubular bells are coldly preferable) is uncompromising in its dissonant despairing climax, and the closing bars are meaningfully mournful.
OM & YN-S (possibly we forget he is music director in Montreal as well as Philadelphia and at the Metropolitan Opera) have already recorded Sibelius One (which I have not heard) so presumably a complete cycle is planned? Hope so. ATMA Classique ACD 24562 is released on May 5.