Sibelius Symphonies 2 & 5
Oh my goodness, was this worth waiting for. If there is such a phenomenon as an instant classic, then it is the first volume of Osmo Vanska's new Sibelius cycle with the Minnesota Orchestra, featuring the most frequently played and most popular symphonies, the Second and Fifth. What is gripping and magical in these performances is the combination of forensic detail with epic sweep that Vanska brings to the music. The performances are not quite so lean as in his earlier BIS series with the Lahti Orchestra, but the Minnesota readings are very non-American in their thought: there is no gloss, no veneer. The music is all about intensity, with moments of starkly intimate tenderness. The Minnesota playing is out of this world, and Vanska, with a fantastic suppleness in his pacing, has secured a clarity of playing from his American strings that is mind-boggling. There is revelation upon revelation here; it is scorchingly honest and straight to the heart.