Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 5 (1915)
Symphony No. 7 (1924)
Boston SO/Colin Davis
rec Symphony Hall, Boston, Jan 1975
PHILIPS 464 740-2 [53.49]
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Colin Davis's Sibelius with the Boston Symphony has been a respected catalogue mainstay since it was first issued. I still have the boxed set of Philips LPs. The Seven can now be had with the violin concerto (Accardo) on a pair of Philips twofers. If this Davis version appeals (there is a much later BMG/LSO cycle as well) you would be better advised to chase after the much more economical twofers. They should be in easy supply.

Davis's approach brings tremendous weight to these scores and the Boston are in 'great orchestra' form. What escapes this listener and eludes Davis is a sense of tension. The mooring ropes lie slack and the massy three-dimensional sound does not compensate. The Fifth is creditable but the Seventh plods laboriously. Fully aware that this leaves me in a minority of one I will record my admiration for the grunt and growl of the trombones (try 5.58 track 4 in No. 7) but otherwise I would point people towards the Sakari cycle on Naxos (still living cheek by jowl in the Naxos lists with the Leaper set!) and the Berlin Classics Sanderling. Davis digs deeper from the midpoint of the Seventh onwards but by then it is too late. In the Seventh the nonpareil has to be Mravinsky's Leningrad players recorded in concert in the Moscow Great Hall in the mid-1960s (BMG-Melodiya). In No. 5 I rate Anthony Collins on Beulah (Decca original tapes but in mono).

This disc is short in total duration. It was not a good judgement to constrain the Philips 50 series to straight copies of original LPs. Much better if another Sibelius work could have been squeezed in. The sleeve designs of the original LPs etc decorate the cover of the CD. If you want this performance then track down those Philips twofers - much better value for money.

Notes and sound are respectively apt and strong.

Rob Barnett

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