SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 Op 43, Finlandia Op. 26,
En Saga Op. 9. Pelleas et Melisande Suite Op. 46, Romance in C Op.
42, Andante festivo, Valse Triste, Suite champetre, Suite mignonne
Op. 98, Rakastava Op. 14.
Orchestra/English String Orchestra William Boughton
through MusicWeb for £12postage
This is a useful Sibelius collection in that it couples
works of rousing nationalism with the intimate and rarer string pieces.
Boughton's rough and ready interpretation of the Second Symphony is
useful but at the end he is no match for Ashkenazy (Decca), Karajan
(1960, EMI), Anthony Collins (Beulah, recently deleted) and obviously
the highly desirable 1947 Beecham (available on Dutton). The playing
of the RPO is sleek and vivid but ultimately the performance fails
to catch fire. 'Finlandia' is beautifully played and the rich central
theme is of a true noble stature. 'En Saga' suffers from lack of character
and I would refer readers to Collins (Beulah) and the much-underrated
Horst Stein on a Decca twofer for a more cogently urgent reading of
this magical score.
All is not lost however as the second disc in this
collection breeds a host of dividends. The doleful and sensual 'Pelleas'
music is very captivating; indeed I was many times reminded of Sir
Thomas Beecham's magisterial account recently surfaced on a BBC Legends
collection. 'Melisande' is particularly mysterious and the polish
of the ESO is effective throughout. The same goes for the short Romance
and the stirring Andante Festivo. I retain a marked affection for
a late 70s EMI Greensleeve LP where Charles Groves recorded most of
these works together with the Suites mignonne and champetre although
Boughton runs him very close especially in the latter. 'Rakastava'
is very pensive and profoundly played. There is more to this music
than meets the ear on first hearing. Strong resonant recordings add
to the allure of this budget price set which is colourfully annotated.
For the second disc alone it is well worth the outlay.