The Fifth Symphony
Recordings Survey Part 1
Last update: 2 May 2000

by the Inkpot Sibelius Nutcasetm
with warmest regards to my good friend Francisco Simán

Click here for Inktroduction | Part 2 | Part 3 (Historic)

PART 1 Iceland SO/Sakari | Bournemouth SO/Berglund (Royal Classics)
London SO/Davis (RCA) | Lahti SO/Vänskä (BIS)
Helsinki PO/Berglund (EMI Forte) | Danish RSO/Segerstam (Chandos)

PART 2 Philharmonia/Ashkenazy (Decca) | Berlin SO/Sanderling (Berlin)
Boston SO/Davis (Philips) |

PART 3 Royal Stockholm PO/Ehrling (Finlandia) | NYPO/Bernstein (Sony)
Philharmonia/Karajan (EMI)

In approximate order of RECORDING

Please note that CD timings indicate only duration of Symphony No.5 on record.



Symphonies Nos.1, 2, 3 & 5. Incidental Music to Belshazzar's Feast. Pohjola's Daughter. Karelia Suite. Tapiola.
London Symphony Orchestra and Unnamed Orchestra conducted by Robert Kajanus

[186:48] mid-price. Symphony No.5 (29'05") recorded June 1932 (released 1992). MONO.


Symphonies Nos.4 & 5. Finlandia.
Philharmonia Orchestra
conducted by Herbert von Karajan

EMI Classics Karajan Edition CDM5 66600-2
[78:23] mid-price. Symphony No.5 (32'32") recorded Jul 1952 (released 1998). MONO.

As far as I know this is Karajan's first recording (of four) of the Fifth. The winds sound rather scrawny due to the monophonic sound, but wonderful sound it is nonetheless. The reading of the symphony already shows Karajan's deep understanding of the music, displayed in the natural grasp of the symphony's details, lines and dynamic expressions. The duration of this performance is on the long side (but it's only 1952 and not many recordings exist) - Karajan takes his time to build up the first movement up to the swelling climax - and well done it is. The conclusion of the first movement is a master model of its kind - here, in this gorgeous 1952 mono recording - just listen to those details and the power driving them. A majestic and exciting Finlandia opens the disc with heartfelt patroitism.


Symphonies Nos.1-7.
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sixten Ehrling

FINLANDIA 3984-22713-2
[217:40] full-price (3CD set). Symphony No.5 (27'19") recorded Jan 1953 (part of first complete cycle on record). Reissued 1999.

Though the style of interpretation is more towards the direct and straightforward type, the results are surprisingly amiable. The first movement is full of confidence and strength, with firmness of expression. It has an unfaltering flow which is continued in the Andante - it sounds like there is a little too much momentum and speed, but it still sounds right. It is like perceiving a river's flow - it may seem too fast, yet it is natural in feel. The finale is energetic, the Swan Hymn extraordinarly beautiful and heartfelt despite the old recording. Although the remastering (or the instruments) experience a little strained harmony, the effect remains grand. Throughout, once again, Ehrling's sense of momentum does not lapse.


Symphonies Nos.2 & 5
Philharmonia Orchestra
conducted by Herbert von Karajan

EMI Classics Karajan Edition CDM5 66599-2
[77:04] mid-price. Symphony No.5 (30'54") recorded Sep 1960.

Karajan recorded the symphony again with the Philharmonia in 1960. This unfortunately, is It opens well, and is just as fine until the flute spoils the picture with a strained note or two. The performance is slightly wanting in concentration for the first third of the movement, though the orchestra plays with marvellous skill throughout the symphony.

The first big climax near the beginning does not quite have the swell and burst of light which distinguishes the Berlin 1965 recording. Nevertheless, the point where the two original movements were joined (around 8'46") is beautifully executed by Karajan. In the monumental conclusion, the Philharmonia rises to the occasion with a glorious blaze of brass. The precision of their playing, along with the pulsating horns in the background, provide an exciting ending. (Extract from full review).


Nature is coming
to life: that life
which I so love,
now and always,
whose essence
shall pervade
everything which
I compose.

Sibelius' Fifth Symphony: An Inktroduction

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Other Resources at The Flying Inkpot

The Symphonies
The First Symphony An Inktroduction
The First Symphony Survey of Recordings

The Fifth Symphony An Inktroduction
The Fifth Symphony Survey of Recordings

The Seventh Symphony An Inktroduction
The Seventh Symphony Survey of Recordings

Lahti/Vänskä Cycle: Nos.1 & 4 | 2 & 3 | 5 & 5 | 6 & 7, Tapiola

The Bournemouth Symphony/Berglund Cycle (1970s)

Iceland/Sakari Cycle: Nos. 1 & 3 | 2 | 4 & 5 | 6 & 7 | Four Legends

More Symphonies reviews at the Inkvault

Kullervo This Way Lies the Future: An Inktroduction with further links

The Violin Concerto Original and Final Versions on BIS

  • Dong-Suk Kang (Naxos)
  • Anne-Sophie Mutter (DG)

    Other Orchestral Works
    Tapiola The Forest's Mighty God: An Inktroduction

    Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra - Tone Poems on DG:
    Karelia Suite, The Oceanides, Luonnotar, King Christian Suite, Finlandia
    En Saga, Excerpts from Kuolema, The Bard, Tapiola

    Finlandia and other Tone Poems A Double Decca compilation

    The Stuff of Legend
    Karelia Complete Music for the Pageant (BIS)
    Karelia & Press Celebrations Complete Music (Ondine)

    King Christian and Pelléas et Mélisande Complete Incidental Music

    The Bard of Sibelius

    Everyman and Belshazzar's Feast Incidental Music (BIS)

    The Origin of Fire and other Choral Works

    The Tempest - Sibelius' Farewell (An Essay and inktroduction)

    The Tempest Suites with Segerstam/Helsinki PO (Ondine)

    Choral Music
    Music for Mixed Choir (BIS)

    Chamber Works
    Early Chamber Music Vol.I and Vol.II (Ondine)

    Complete Youth Production for Violin & Piano Vols.1 & 2 (BIS)

    Piano Music Vol.2. Gimse (Naxos)

    Sibelius Phaidon 20th Century Composers

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