The Regis label have
an astute eye for excellence. Their
hunting grounds range over the defunct
catalogues of Olympia, Unicorn, Collins
and Tring. They are also the UK distributors
of a label stuffed full of many old
favourites - and a few horrors: Vox.
Tring issued large
quantities of RPO recordings in the
1990s until the label disappeared and
was remaindered in ‘The Works’. The
lion's share of the present disc traces
its origins back to those days. And
because it's so recent the digital recording
is of very high quality.
The RPO-Tring project
had the orchestra as its core presence
with a host of different conductors
doing the honours for each disc. I would
love to know whose idea it was to approach
the Danish conductor Ole Schmidt to
make this Sibelius disc. Whoever it
was needed some courage. Although Schmidt
had recorded one of the all-time defining
Nielsen cycles (Unicorn also reissued
on Regis) that had been two decades
previously. In any event the choice
was good and a recording team was assembled
that did Sibelius and Schmidt proud.
I now need to hear Schmidt's Regis CD
of the Borodin Second Symphony.
5 is monumental and indomitable. This
is not code for slow. As for the sound
it really is splendid. It is as if a
pane of matte frosted glass has been
removed and we are in the orchestra's
immediate presence. The brass has real
'bite' The stereo spread is ample and
details both subtle and stark emerge
with renewed freshness. The finale's
hurried tense whisper at 3.44 is superbly
put across and so is the pizzicato at
4:13. And those six asynchronous hammer-blows
are staggering. As for Schmidt’s En
Saga this is one of the greats.
It counts alongside my long-time reference
version - Horst Stein's tense and volcanic
Suisse Romande recording on Decca-Universal
from circa 1972. The Swan of
Tuonela is also superbly done with
the cor anglais song floating on the
sheer and shimmer of hushed violins.
By contrast Valse Triste is taken
very fast indeed.
makes up the weight to almost seventy
minutes. His brass have plenty of bark
and burr and once again the recording
has its vibrant splendours; not least
the rolling massed horns.
This is one of those
discs that slips way into the background
all too easily. Sibelians need this
disc. Schmidt’s Fifth could easily stand
as the only version in someone’s collection.