SIBELIUS:  Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 39.  Symphony No. 3 in C, Op. 52.
Iceland Symphony Orch/Petri Sakari, cond.
Naxos 8.554102 (B) (DDD) TT: 67:35 

  Buy at ArkivMusic!

This begins a second round of  Sibelius  symphonies on Naxos, strongly recorded if you boost the gain control. (Weird, Naxos and its basement-price rival, Arte Nova, both treat CDs as if they were vinyl LPs, prone to center-groove overload.). The Iceland Symphony's 75 players, meaning about the size Sibelius knew firsthand, are a crack little crew with excellent intonation and lots of heart. Sakari is a Finn who really can conduct, and has a cultivated ear for balances. But, like virtually all Finns in the last 60 years, he seems never to have heard the pioneering discs (preserved on Finlandia CDs) by Sibelius' anointed champion, Robert Kajanus, before his death in 1933. Sakari pulls both symphonies to pieces, like Henry VIII attacking a roasted chicken with bare hands. There is hardly ever a through-line, just cheap-thrills, already tiresome by the 20th bar of Symphony No. 1. Odd, isn't it, that the great Sibelius interpreters since Kajanus (a name never to be confused with Karajan's) have not been Finns? Koussevitzky was a Russian, Beecham a Brit, Ormandy a Hungarian, Ehrling a Swede. Go figure, meanwhile avoiding Sakari until, if ever, he restudies these scores and supplements woodshedding with a listen to Kajanus.

R.D.