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Title - 'Sibelius: Finlandia' [LP]
Artist - Berliner Philharmoniker

With the record companies all busy with reissues to note the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius, this stunning Sibelius: Finlandia is now presented on a lovely 180 Gram vinyl (mastered from original sources) LP to now possess. It is truly a classic Karajan album, comprising three of the Finnish composer's most famous tone poems, plus the evergreen Valse triste.

For those not in the classical know, Jean Sibelius (actually born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius in 1865), was a Finnish violinist and composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. Widely recognized as his country's national composer, Sibelius is often credited for supporting the rise of the Finnish national identity in the country's struggle for independence.

Sibelius thought in terms of orchestral sonorities, not in those of the smaller-scale keyboard. He used an existing vocabulary, but in so highly idiosyncratic a manner that no attempt to imitate it can succeed. Indeed, as Vaughan Williams put it in a ninetieth birthday BBC tribute that I remember hearing, he had the capacity to make a C major chord sound entirely new. Take, for example, the D minor-cum-modal cadence that ends the Sixth Symphony or the haunting B minor chords that end Tapiola. They sound like no other composer.

As for celebrated Conductor, Herbert von Karajan, born in 1908, he was an Austrian conductor and also the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. He is generally regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, and he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the mid-1950s until his death.

Part of the reason for this was the large number of recordings he made and their prominence during his lifetime. By one estimate he was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.

The Berlin Philharmonic (German: Berliner Philharmoniker), is an orchestra based in Berlin, Germany and is consistently ranked as one of the best orchestras in the world. Formerly Berliner Philharmonisches Orchester; BPO, its primary concert venue is the Philharmonie, located in the Kulturforum area of the city. Since 2002, its principal conductor is Sir Simon Rattle. Funding for the organization is subsidized by the city of Berlin and a partnership with Deutsche Bank.

In truth, and by a long shot, Finlandia is one of the finest performances available (tremendous orchestral tone from the Berliners), and the Tapiola is also impressive. It is a performance of great intensity, and comprises a sound recording that too is rather excellent.

Finlandia comprises some magnificent readings. Karajan - as the composer himself recognized - has the idiom of this music down perfectly and finds perfect balance between mysticism and cool objectivity; especially, for instance, in The Swan of Tuonela, for example. If you want this selection of pieces, you won't find a better played or more sympathetically interpreted recording than this one.

Throughout, I think the tempos are spot on, and the engineering on this set is classic DG. What the sound lacks in bite (what you might hear on the Decca/Solti collaborations) it makes up for in sweetness - like silk. What you end up here with are lyrical, musical readings of the pieces that are each and every one - an absolute gem.