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A Survey of Sibelius Symphony Cycles

An Index of ionarts Discographies

Update 25/10/2023: A few updates: Added the fourth (!) cycle of Paavo Berglund: A live recording in video format only, on ICA Classics, also with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, taped a year after they recorded their cycle for Finlandia/Warner, so presumably it is very much cut of the same light, crystalline cloth.
I’ve depicted the two latest re-issues of the Barbirolli cycle - and of course Klaus Mäkelä’s Oslo mildly controversial cycle on Decca from a few years ago. And there is a re-issue of the first of the Saraste cycles that I had hitherto overlooked.

Further, there are two cycles currently in the making, that I’ve added: Yannick Nezet-Seguin’s on Atma and Santtu-Matias Rouvali’s on Alpha. Thanks to a hot tip on Twitter, I learned that I was missing to more recent cycles from Japan, those of Messrs. Sachio Fujioka and Tadaaki Otaka with the orchestras from Kansai and Sapporo, respectively. They have been added. And, while I was at it, so has Owain Arwel Hughes', with the Royal Philharmonic and the Vanska II cycle which has been boxed by BIS. (I’m also thinking of giving each conductor his own line, rather than plotting them right next to each other. Feel free to tell me, if you have any preferences in how these #Surveys are being presented, visually.

Update 02/07/2023: Added the missing disc from the Elder/Hallé cycle which has since been completed - and the Blu-ray issue of all of Karajan's Sibelius which isn't, of course, complete (4-7), but includes all his other Sibelius recordings, which means Swan, Tapiola, Finlandia, and Valse triste both from the 60s and 80s, Pelléas & Mélisande, and the great Violin Concerto recording with Christian Ferras. A great collection with the best 4th ever!

Update 08/20/2019: Links to reviews on ClassicsToday ("@ClassicsToday") added, wherever available. Dozens of broken Amazon global-links fixed.

Update 02/14/2019: Coincidence that I update this post on Valentine's Day, I'm sure. Anyway: New cycles are in the making or have been finished (and therefore incldued below). The Gothenburg Symphony under Santtu-Matias Rouvali, their newish Finnish Chief Conductor, have begun a complete Sibelius cycle on Alpha Classics. Paavo Järvi has figured: Whatever daddy can do, I can do half as well, at least: He's finished his first Sibelius Cycle with the Paris Orchestra (admittedly not known for Sibelius - it is in fact the first French Sibelius cycle); Pape Neeme of course has two under his belt.

Update 02/14/2017: I've learned of the existence, thanks to spotting the spine in an Instagram picture, of another new cycle of Sibelius symphonies and included it here. It is with Kim Dae-jin (Daejin Kim) conducting the Suwon Philharmonic Orchestra, released on Sony/Korea.

Update 01/12/2016: This survey, the first I wrote for ionarts, has been completely revamped and been put into an order, namely alphabetical, by conductor. This can be cumbersome when updating, but it is the easiest to search. Initially, only readily available cycles were meant to be included in these surveys, but they have grown a little more ambitious, since. This brings about the addition of Jukka-Pekka Saraste’s first cycle on RCA (1987-88), which is very much oop. Saraste’s second cycle was recorded live in St. Petersburg. The individual releases on Warner-Teldec-Apex and Finlandia (the latter covers almost all the smaller orchestral works as well as the Violin Concerto and the Humoresques by other conductors and orchestras) are identical to the set that proclaims "live from St. Petersburg" (1993). It also means that I have included the first cycle of Akeo Watanabe, from 1962 (the first in stereo, paceLeonard Bernstein), even though it never made it from its Sony/Epic LPs onto CD. I have not (yet?) added Paavo Berglund’s Sibelius recordings with the LPO, although arguably they are as much an incomplete cycle as Bernstein’s Vienna one, with four symphonies. You can find it here; it would have been his 4th.

Update 01/11/2016: Three new cycles added: Adrian Leaper’s on Naxos (their first), which I had simply overlooked. (Did Leaper record a complete cycle with the Orquesta Filharmonica de Gran Canaria on Arte Nova?.) Hannu Lintu’s DVD-cycle on ArtHaus Musik has been added, which comes with introductions to the symphonies which I have been reliably told are very good and involving. Also the incomplete-yet-stuffed Philadelphia cycle of Ormandy’s which lacks symphonies 3 and 6 but contains 1, 2, and 7 twice and a bunch of other Sibelius. The Anthony Collins cycle has been re-issued in the Decca "Great Performances" box; Lorin Maazel I (Decca/Vienna) has been re-issued on CD and Blu-ray; Bernstein I (Sony/New York) has been remastered for CD.

Update 09/28/2015: Four new cycles added! Pietari Inkinen’s first cycle, recorded with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for Naxos, is finished (and has been for a while). It’s available on individual discs, but not yet boxed. Meanwhile he's already recorded a new cycle with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he's just been named the new Chief Conductor.

Also brand new (but not yet available on Amazon) Sir Simon Rattle’s brand new cycle performed, recorded, and filmed at the Philharmonie in Berlin with his Berliners. The set, as all the BPh’s own such sets, is lavish, includes high resolution audio and video options (though not SACD), and fits on no CD or book-shelf of man’s creation, thus offering a bit of a conundrum.

And, on SACD from BIS, a new set with the Lahti SO, this time under Okko Kamu, also known as the guy who 'finished' Karajan's Sibelius Cycle for Deutsche Grammophon.

Update 09/03/2018: I'm adding the Mark Elder/Hallé cycle on their own label (the first orchestra-founded label there is) which is two symphonies away from being finished.

Update 03/12/2015: HvK's not-quite-complete cycle on EMI (now Warner) is now in one box, remastered, shiny, and available. A completely new addition is the Arvo Volmer cycle from Adelaide on ABC Classics! It's about 10 to 5 years old, by my reckoning, and the first down-under Sibelius cycle.

Update 24/02/2015: Abranavel's has been released on Musical Concepts. Who knew. It's been added accordingly.

Update 12/01/2014: John Storgårds' new cycle, recorded live with the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos, has been added.

Update 19/01/2013: Colin Davis' second (first LSO) cycle is being re-issued and already available in Europe.

Update 12/01/2013: Abranavel's, Karajan and Bernstein's incomplete, and Ashkenazy's Stockholm cycle added. Links and images updated and Amazon-links internationalized. Ionarts's Choice cycles updated. Misdirecting links double-checked after initial posting.

Update 04/01/2013: Paavo Berglund's first cycle with the Bournemouth SO, long out of print, has been re-issued as a super-basement bargain by EMI. It's been included below, replacing the Royal Classics release.

Update 12/12/2012: Colin Davis' third cycle (on LSO Live) is out in a box and has been included below. His first cycle has been boxed by Decca, and has been added in place of the two Philips twofers. To keep the symmetry, Sixten Ehrling's Stockholm cycle (available on German Amazon and on has been added.

Like the Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle Survey, this is a mere "inventory" of what has been recorded and whether it is still available. Favorites are denoted with the "ionarts' choice" graphic.


Matt said...

I snapped up the Berglund/Bournemouth cycle the moment EMI released it digitally for $10. (It's now a couple bucks more.)

Believe it or not, Amazon offers an even better bargain for Sibelians. The Vanska/Lahti set you list, in a specially-packaged and -promoted digital-only edition, is just $7.99. And it comes with some good fillers too--the violin concerto, karelia suite, and more.

I believe this is the same set of recordings that forms the basis of the recent impressive and exhaustive BIS Sibelius Edition. This is very well performed and well-recorded, and pretty idiomatic. It's a little bit of a departure from the romantic (Segerstam/Helsinki) and classical (Davis/BSO), but refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Do you really find the Segerstam II approach (certainly romantic) so different from Davis I? I can't get myself to think of the latter as "classical"...


Matt said...

I know I am in the minority, but that's how it sounds to my ears. That said, to me everyone sounds "classical" next to Segerstam--perhaps even Bernstein/VPO!

I'll have to turn back to it to re-evaluate. But I've just bought a few more cycles (Abravenal/Utah, Barbirolli/Hallé, and Jarvi/Gothenberg I) I'm planning to digest first.

I haven't taken the plunge yet (must show at least some restraint in this area), but I see Brilliant Classics has re-released the Sanderling/BPO cycle at a typically favorable price--$11.99 with a lot of extras by another ensemble. You might adjust your listing accordingly.

Matt said...

And...the deals for Sibelius fans just keep coming this year. The Paavo Berglund/Chamber Orchestra of Europe cycle is still elusive on CD in the US, but it has just been made available on iTunes and Amazon for a bargain price--under $12 at this writing.

Guess I'll have to add that to my "to listen" list.

Facade19 said...

Just bought both Berglund/COE and Vanska/Lahti MP3 deals on amazon. Had the Maazel cycle for 5 years now and barely acknowledged it. To my great shame I was too dismissive of Sibelius and was fully absorbed with Mahler and Shostakovich. There is life beyond Mahler. I am so glad I am finally coming to Sibelius. Such beautiful and modern compositions. I plan on getting more cycles and delve deeper away from this slumber. Oh my Sibelius' violin concerto is my favorite violin concerto. Had to throw this in here.

jfl said...

Abravenal has a Sibelius cycle? And I missed it? Darnit. Thanks for pointing it out.

Good to hear that it's easier to get the Berglund III now. And very happy to read that Facade 19 has peeked behind the DSCH-Mahler front to discover the also great Sibelius! Enjoy!

Matt said...

Here is another new Sibelius cycle, from John Storgårds and the BBC Philharmonic, courtesy of Chandos. As much as I've enjoyed Storgårds' mini Madetoja cycle, I can't say I've been as thrilled with the Sibelius.

I understand that Okko Kamu and the Lahti Symphony are recording another cycle for BIS, expected to be released next year for Sibelius's sesquicentennial.

jfl said...

Thanks for the info. Noticed the Storgårds cycle and promptly forgot about it. But haven't heard it, either. Will be added shortly. Cheers,


Anonymous said...

Missing the fine Sibelius cycle from Inkinen (NAXOS) just aviable as 4 single disks !

jfl said...

Inkinen has finished his cycle? I liked very much of what I had heard so far, but I think those may have been works other than the symphonies. Thanks for pointing it out... shall be added promptly! Cheers,


Anonymous said...

there is also another Naxos cycle under Adrian Leaper and the Slovak Orchestra, not very good but aviable

Anonymous said...

also a new cycle under Hannu Lintu (just as DVD)

jfl said...

Thanks for the comments. I'll include those anon.!

Matt said...

Great job on the update--thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

The Halle / Elder cycle is almost complete, just one disk with the symphonies 4 and 6 is lacking, will be released end of the year.

jfl said...

Thanks for the tip; Elder has been added!

Tapio said...


there is another Symphony Cycle + Tapiola and 3 Late Fragments from Klaus Mäkelä with Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra:

Best regards and Thank you for this Website!

jfl said...

Oh, thanks, Tapio!

Very much appreciated. I shall try to update this survey ASAP.

Thanks again & Cheers,