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Minnesota Orchestra's First Album in Sibelius Symphonies Cycle to be Released January 13

The Swedish label BIS Records is set to release the first recording of the Minnesota Orchestra's Sibelius symphonies series, featuring the Finnish composer's stirring Second and Fifth Symphonies. Conducting the recording is Music Director Osmo Vänskä, whose Sibelius interpretations have earned international acclaim.  The disc, the newest chapter of the highly-praised collaboration between BIS, Mr. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, is available starting January 13 through the Orchestra's website,  It will also be available in stores and as a download on major online music sites.

Mr. Vänskä and the Orchestra recorded the two symphonies at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall in sessions during June 2011.  TheBIS team, led by producer Rob Suff, recorded the album as a Super Audio CD (SACD), using surround sound recording technology to reproduce the sound of the concert hall as faithfully as possible.  BIS Hybrid SACDs are playable on all standard CD players.

Mr. Vänskä and the Orchestra have received high praise for their prior recording projects together, including a five-disc Beethoven symphony cycle with BIS that The New York Timeswrote "may be the definitive [cycle] of our time"; the recordings earned honors including a Grammy nomination for the Ninth Symphony CD and a Classic FM Gramophone Award nomination for the disc of the Second and Seventh.  The Orchestra is now recording the complete Beethoven piano concertos with soloist Yevgeny Sudbin, a series in which the first disc was released by BIS in December 2010.

The Orchestra will continue the Sibelius symphonies cycle in May and June 2012, when it will record the First and Fourth Symphonies in the final recording sessions at Orchestra Hall before the venue's one-year closure for a major renovation.  The complete cycle of the seven Sibelius symphonies will be recorded by 2015, coinciding with the sesquicentennial of the composer's birth.

The Minnesota Orchestra, founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued its first recording in 1924 and has since recorded more than 450 works.

Sibelius' Second and Fifth Symphonies

            Jean Sibelius' Second Symphony enjoyed immediate success upon its premiere in 1902.  It was connected by some of its first listeners with the struggle for Finland's independence at a time of Russian sanctions on Finnish language and culture.  The work is a masterfully constructed mosaic of seemingly disjointed elements, full of opposing orchestral choirs, telling use of silence and brilliant effects.  One fascinating feature of the finale is a wistful melody written in memory of the composer's sister-in-law.

            Sibelius conducted the premiere of his Fifth Symphony in 1915 on the night of his 50th birthday, an occasion widely celebrated throughout Finland.  By that time Sibelius was then known internationally, his reputation bolstered in part by the success of his Second Symphony.  An inspired piece of musical architecture, the Fifth begins with horn calls answered by woodwinds and closes with impassioned string melodies, as a thicket of dissonance builds over a tolling bass.

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