Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 1-7

Reviewed on Fri 22 Apr, 2016

If you think you know this repertoire, then Okko Kamu will make you think again! The First, Third, Fourth and last two symphonies in particular receive outstandingly perceptive treatment.

Back in the early 1970s, Okko Kamu recorded a number of works by Sibelius for Deutsche Grammophon, including a memorably idiomatic version of the Third Symphony with the Helsinki Radio SO. This leaner newcomer from Lahti charts a comparably unswerving course, features some finely honed and irreproachably alert orchestral playing, and positively glints with keenly observant detail – attributes that extend to nearly all of this cycle. Hardly a bar goes by that fails to make you sit up and listen; in other words, if you think you know this repertoire, then Kamu will make you think again! The First, Third, Fourth and last two symphonies in particular receive outstandingly perceptive treatment. In the Second Kamu's commendably unflustered, tastefully intelligent approach doesn't always succeed in warming the cockles, though the actual performance is otherwise a nourishing one and mercifully free of the irritating mannerisms that afflicted his earlier Berlin PO version. Least convincing here is the Fifth, where Kamu's patient conception curiously fails to gel. It's the lone dud in this handsomely presented 3-SACD set which benefits from some fabulously realistic and excitingly wide-ranging sonics from the BIS production-team.
–Andrew Achenbach