Sibelius: Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 39; En Saga, Op 9

Reviewed on Mon 04 Mar, 2019

Brimful of heart, intrepid temperament and stimulating incident, Rouvali's is a memorably arresting reading to make you sit up and listen.

The start of a Sibelius series from the Gothenburg Symphony under its new 33-year-old chief conductor, Santtu-Matias Rouvali – and a most auspicious one, too! Rouvali's outstandingly imaginative, pungently characterised and discerningly lucid traversal of En Saga repeats the success of Neeme Järvi's stellar DG account with this same band. As on that earlier recording, GSO principal clarinettist Urban Claesson extracts every ounce of bardic mystery and wide-eyed wonder from the work's ineffably beautiful final reminiscence. Ditto his masterful delivery of the long-breathed solo that launches the First Symphony, here given a conspicuously questing, keenly purposeful performance that positively teems with freshly scrubbed detail and all the infectious excitement associated with setting out on a new adventure. Brimful of heart, intrepid temperament and stimulating incident, Rouvali's is a memorably arresting reading to make you sit up and listen in the manner of, say, Leif Segerstam's remarkable Helsinki PO version for Ondine – high praise in my book! Really excellent sound, and marvellous notes by Andrew Mellor, add further lustre to a classy release. Future instalments are eagerly awaited.
–Andrew Achenbach