Sibelius’ Fifth

Thursday 1st October, 7.30pm



  • Mendelssohn  Overture, The Hebrides, 10′
  • Mozart  Piano Concerto No. 9, K.271 , 32′
  • Sibelius Symphony No. 5, 32′
Lars Vogt’s encore – Chopin – Nocturne in C Sharp Minor
Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony begins with a glowing sunrise and ends with a vision of a flight of swans – and one of the simplest but noblest melodies ever written. A real CBSO speciality, there’s no finer way to salute Sibelius in his anniversary year; first, though, Edward Gardner takes us to sea with Felix Mendelssohn, and joins the masterly Lars Vogt in Mozart’s little jewel of a piano concerto.
Available on BBC Radio 3 Live in Concert for 28 days here
Review by Hedy Mühleck, BachTrack (for matinee of same programme)
Click here for full review
…     “With the concerto, the programme had quickly sailed all the way east to the land of a thousand lakes and anniversary composer Jean Sibelius, whom we picture standing on one of them, looking out onto the calm waters, until a noise draws his gaze upwards. He later records in his diary: “…I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, what beauty! […] A low refrain reminiscent of a small child crying. Nature, mysticism and life’s Angst!” Reading about his excitement on seeing a formation of swans pass overhead, one can but wonder how this could have made such an impression on the man, but hearing its reverberation in his Fifth Symphony, one cannot help being drawn into this time-stopping, slightly mystical moment as the birds “disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming solar ribbon.”Eerily rustling strings grew the figurative reeds surrounding the lake and a creepy, oppressive atmosphere, before brilliant, shining brass took over, combining forces for one of Sibelius’ grand crescendos that crested and washed over the listener with elemental force, and that smashed up against one entire body rather than only entering one’s ears. The second movement pizzicato cues, precise to perfection, displayed the orchestra’s enormous dramatic tension that discharged into the final movements opening, racing tremolos. Never did the musicians show any sign of tiring despite the high speed and played with a solemn but taut energy.

In Gardner’s take, always natural and controlled, Sibelius’ “swan hymn” was more pacing than swinging and, perhaps necessarily so, at a slightly swifter clip, but no less memorable for it, evoking mental images of the majestic birds beating their wings above the awed composer. The high woodwinds delivered their gorgeous chant-like theme with moving emoition, which eventually gave way for yet another elemental, incredibly powerful crescendo that was crowned by the closing orchestral stabs, gripping, mesmerising, awe-inspiring chords, thrown out with absolute precision. This. Was. Big.”

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