All this I learned from Gerard McBurney's presentation at an Inside the Music event, with the New York Philharmonic. And of the symphony's sublime moment--the six widely separated chords that conclude the work--they derive their power from the fact that we hear the inaudible bell-beat of the wings between the chords. Unheard music is sweeter.
Though interesting in some ways, the one-hour presentation, spliced with orchestral illustration, was too meandering and long. The tone was also gratingly effusive. The accompanying slides showed not only Sibelius' home and manuscripts, but also far too many pictures of swans. One film clip showed two swans coming together to form, with their necks, the visual cliche of a heart. The assumption seemed to be that the audience needed distraction from boredom.
The playing, led by David Zinman, who replaced Esa-Pekka Salonen, sounded to my untrained ears under-rehearsed. It was not as sharp as I had heard the Philharmonic on past occasions. The music lacked the inevitability that Sibelius sought. TCH thought that some passages were just not very interesting, and he cited the long bassoon solo as an example. I found it hard to listen to the performance without hearing the recording I own. I kept hearing an aural memory instead of the audible present.