Santtu-Matias Rouvali propels the first movement of the Third Symphony at a quicker pace than most conductors. It’s arresting if maybe too driven, yet the poised playing keeps the music on track – bracing and vivid if (as throughout the release) fiercely recorded, although the broad ending (from 8:50) comes across as rhetorical rather than having been an objective, and there have also been fewer retreats to mysterious recesses at this high-octane tempo and high-viz projection. By contrast, for the middle movement Rouvali adopts a spacious tempo akin to the pioneering Robert Kajanus and, in our own time, Colin Davis, and finds an attractive yearning quality in the music if not necessarily its enigma. Some pausal mannerisms creep into the Finale, as well as a fidgety response that negates a stoical journey to blazing victory – and what poor horn trills (either side of the 7:55 mark) – although the culmination is certainly resolute.
The Fifth Symphony moves almost too easily, without too much of the essential cragginess, secrecy or upheaval, although Rouvali does see the work whole and can’t be accused of glibness. In its own way this is a refreshingly direct reading, ending with imposing double timpani strokes on the ultimate two chords, yet what wonders Celibidache unfolded conducting this masterpiece at much broader tempos. Masterpiece status, too, for Pohjola’s Daughter, and a stunning performance from Gothenburg. For continuing listening this magnificent creation would have been better placed at the disc’s beginning, or between the Symphonies, although it’s where I started anyway, and it may be that this gloriously atmospheric and (from 6:58) white-hot-thrilling account then gave an expectation for numbers 3 & 5 that they weren’t able to meet in terms of Rouvali’s approach to them, although the Fifth is growing on me, and this Pohjola’s Daughter will be a friend for life. Alpha Classics 645.