Paavo Berglund conducts Sibelius's Symphony No. 7 — With the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
The legendary 1998 cycle of Sibelius's symphonies
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After six compelling and dramatically diverse contributions to the genre, Sibelius closed his symphonic cycle with perhaps his most original work of all. Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony defies structure, tonality, and tempo conventions—featuring one movement instead of four, alternating the luminous C major with the somber C minor, and soaring through 11 different tempo indications. The composer once stated: “The framework of a symphony must be so strong that it forces you to follow it, regardless of the environment and circumstances,” words that couldn’t be more suited to this exquisite composition. Originally labeled by the composer as a “Symphonic Fantasy”, the Seventh Symphony is a musical whirlwind of intricate ideas and overflowing emotion, culminating in a cathartic finale that concludes the piece with overwhelming beauty.
A moment to listen for in… Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony: An idyllic image painted by lyrical violins and oboes (13:45) gently floats over to the cellos (14:18) to introduce a new folk-inspired melody (14:22), exultant and lively, which gives way to a different “jeux d’eaux” (14:32) that sparkles and fades before recollecting melodic fragments of our playful, country-like “idyll” (16:36).
About this cycle: It would be difficult to speak about the life and work of Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund without mentioning the name of his illustrious compatriot, composer Jean Sibelius—but the reverse is also true, as Berglund spent a lifetime exploring the profound depths of Sibelius’s music and bringing it to an ever wider public. After three recordings of the complete Sibelius symphonies on CD, Berglund returned to these titanic works in 1998, aged nearly 70, with a level of insight—shaped over the course of decades—that perhaps no other conductor has ever achieved.
His unique perspective, with a keen ear for subtle details and a remarkable clarity of sound, found a perfect outlet in the impeccable Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The ensemble, equipped here with a smaller string section than you’ll hear in most Sibelius cycles, brings out previously unheard nuances in these seven masterpiece of late Romanticism. These iconic readings, brimming with emotion and intensity, are now available on video and streaming 24/7 on medici.tv.