Country : Finland Label : ATMA Classique Genres and styles : Romantic Year : 2024

Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Orchestre métropolitain – Sibelius 2 et 5

· by Frédéric Cardin

Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain (OM) are continuing their Sibelius cycle with what are probably the two “easiest” symphonies for the general public (and also the most popular) by the Finn: the Second and Fifth. 

Both are sources of thrills, both melodically and orchestrally. They develop masterly landscapes in front of us that we can’t resist plunging into. If what we have heard before in this complete work in progress confirmed Yannick’s excellent feeling for this repertoire, I find a few niggles to scribble on this new page, mainly concerning the Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43.

Perhaps the problem lies in Yannick’s choice to set this Symphony in a much more earthy, even mineral, setting than we are used to. His choice is amply justified, but it is surprising, even unsettling, especially if we expect this music to take us on a panoramic flight over the vast Nordic woods of Finland, which we like to embrace monumentally with an immensely wide gaze. Here, however, Yannick brings us down to earth, forcing us to walk meticulously through an almost sparse borealis forest. Every tree seems to be meticulously detailed, our footsteps crunching the layer of icy snow, but we miss the grandiose bird’s-eye view with which we’re familiar. Maybe that’s the problem, but I really don’t think so. An alternative vision of a familiar work always upsets our expectations a little, that’s to be expected. Something which I am certainly not against. It’s just a matter of time to get use to it.

No, the real problem lies elsewhere, and is more factual. The OM’s performance was not up to its usual high standards. The orchestral playing lacks polish and even offers a few surprising tonal approximations, such as a trombone chord that’s just plain wrong. There’s also the double bass pizzicati in the last movement, so important, so fundamental, but part of which is lost, inaudible, like it was partly missed. It’s a shame.

The Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 82, for its part, is more assured but, once again, seems a little too ‘cleaned up’, too much rubbed in Purel sanitizer to fully succeed in arousing the shuddering wonder of the fabulous final theme. 

Perhaps I just wasn’t as receptive anymore….

It’s up to you to decide whether I’m totally off track.

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