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Philip Haldeman
American Record Guide, February 2000

"Finlandia has a solid, weighty opening, a tender central theme, a fine patriotic spirit, and excellent playing. ... The low tremolo strings in Lemminkainen in Tuonela create just he right atmosphere, and the build to the first climax is very fine. The brass scream out with anguished cries, and the strings emote. The middle measures are sensitive, while the climax has tremendous energy. ... The final movement is straightforward and conventional, but it nicely rounds off an exciting disc anyone should want to add to the collection."

Geoffrey Norris
The Telegraph, September 1999

Andrew Achenbach,
Gramophone, September 1999

Most Impressive. In its keen intelligence, fiery snap and purposeful thrust, Petri Sakari's account of the four Legends proves more than a match for the finest. The Iceland Symphony Orchestra may not be world-beaters, but they respond to their thoughtful young Finnish maestro's illuminating direction with clean-limbed zest and commitment to the cause (their winds are an especially personable bunch). Perhaps the highlight of the new set is 'Lemminkäinen in Tuonela', which, like Segerstam and Salonen before him, Sakari places second (reverting to the composer's original scheme), and where he distils a relentless concentration and pin-sharp focus (in my experience, only Segerstam is more gripping in this brooding essay). Of course, no one should miss out on the heady opulence of Ormandy's magnificent Philadelphia strings in those glorious singing lines of 'Lemminkäinen and the maidens of the island' but the Icelanders play their hearts out and anyway, Sakari gives a dramatic reading of bold contrasts and strong symphonic cohesion. No grumbles, either, about 'Swan of Tuonela' whose unaffected progress and eloquence I like very much, or 'Lemminkäinen's Homeward Journey' firmly controlled, dashingly detailed and genuinely exciting (as opposed to merely excitable). After due consideration, I'd be inclined to place Sakari's rewarding Legends very near the top, if not alongside (though, ultimately, not ahead of) Segerstam, Saraste and Ormandy. (Like RL, I have always found Salonen's super-slick Los Angeles version too uncomfortably self-aware by half).

In the popular couplings, Sakari's unhackneyed approach once again pays dividends, though I wasn's absolutely convinced by his unusually brisk (and to my ears, ever-so-slightly hectic) tempo for the main portion of Karelia Suite's opening 'Intermezzo' None the less, this really is quite a bargain. Eminently pleasing sound, too: free of gimmickry and tonally very true.

The Dallas Morning News

"The Icelandic instrumentalists dig into the score with great intensity. Their rousing performance is most attractive... Bargain hunters can discover a lot of bracing music with Naxos."

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