During this 150th anniversary year of Jean Sibelius, his music is being performed and discussed more widely than ever, and complete cycles of his symphonies are programmed by orchestras around the world. As might be expected, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, noted for its numerous and often revelatory Sibelius recordings, is no exception. The seven symphonies will all be performed at the 2015 edition of the orchestra’s annual Sibelius Festival, but with its principal conductor Okko Kamu the Lahti band has also prepared a special birthday present for their great compatriot. Recorded between 2012 and 2014, the symphony cycle included in the present box set is the orchestra’s second traversal on disc – the first one, conducted by Osmo Vänskä, forms the backbone of the BIS Sibelius Edition. This new anniversary cycle is released as a boxed set of three SACDs with a surround sound option, and is accompanied by an ample (+ 80 pages) booklet with informative notes by Andrew Barnett, author of a Sibelius biography. This is the first Sibelius cycle recorded by Okko Kamu – something which makes him quite unique among the many Finnish conductors with an international standing. Kamu first came to international notice when he won the Karajan Competition in 1969 and later conducted the Berlin Philharmonic and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the first three of Sibelius's symphonies for inclusion in Karajan's Sibelius cycle on Deutsche Gramophone. Needless to say, he has conducted these works numerous times since then, in Finland and abroad, but has never before put his name to a complete cycle on disc. A previous recording by the Lahti/Kamu team may raise certain expectations, however: released in 2011, the recording of Sibelius’s Tapiola and two Tempest Suites was awarded a Diapason d’Or de l’Année, as well as distinctions such as 5 Stelle (Musica), Opus d’Or (opushd.net) and 10/10 (ClassicsToday.com).
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