Do we really need another Sibelius Symphony Cycle? Probably not, especially when, good as it is, it doesn’t come anywhere near to rivaling existing versions. The BBC Symphony plays very well for Storgårds and I can only echo other writers in saying that the sound is as excellent as the playing.
However, Storgårds’ tempi are often questionable. The First Symphony has a coda so drawn out it seems interminable. The Second has been recorded so many times I find it almost impossible to summon any comments at all. The so-called “Classical” third interests me much more, partly because Karajan avoided it (despite recording the equally unfamiliar Sixth three times and the Seventh twice). Storgårds adopts swift tempi but his final movement lacks the sheer exuberance of the old Kletzki version with the old Philharmonia. No one has ever managed those horn “whoops” in the finale with the same untrammeled abandon as the sainted Dennis Brain.
Storgårds’ Fourth is excellent: he plumbs the depths of this most enigmatic of symphonies masterfully: only Karajan sees more in this morose Stygian drama. The Fifth sees impressive tempi integration in the first movement but the last lacks the great schwung Karajan brings to it. The Sixth also seems rushed while the Seventh is fine but lacks the richly organic sense that Bernstein’s Vienna Philharmonic performance radiates.
Available to buy on the iTunes store: Sibelius: Complete Symphonies & 3 Late Fragments – BBC Philharmonic Orchestra & John Storgards