Sibelius 7th Symphony…………or is it?

When I first became interested in classical music the composer that really drew me in was Jean Sibelius and it was hearing his 2nd symphony played by the Halle Orchestra in the early 1970s that captivated me.

I went on and sought out several of his other symphonies primarily the 1st and 5th which are amongst his best known works.

Then I came across the 7th symphony in a recording by Paavo Berglund and the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra. I can still remember the stunning photograph of the sea on the cover (one of the other pieces on the LP was The Oceanides).

What I found very unusual about the 7th symphony is that it only last 22 minutes and is always played in one single movement unlike most symphonies which usually have between 3 and 5 movements (the recording I have by the CBSO under Simon Rattle actually lists 4 movements but is still played as one).

I am still not convinced that it is a symphony, I would describe it more of a “Tone Poem”, but what is undeniable is the sweep and majesty of the music and I defy anyone to listen to the performance I have posted by The Royal Danish Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle and then tell me they did not experience a cold shiver whilst listening to the last two minutes of the performance.

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