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Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
1812 Overture Op. 49 (1880) [16:59]
Romeo and Juliet – Fantasy Overture after Shakespeare [20:48]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Pohjola’s Daughter – Symphonic Fantasy, Op.49 (1906) [14:59]
Valse triste (from Kuolema, Op.44) [5:52] Karelia Suite, Op. 11 [15:35]
Tanglewood Festival Chorus (1812)
Boston Symphony Orchestra/Colin Davis
rec. Symphony Hall, Boston, March 1980 (1812; Valse triste), April 1979 (Romeo and Juliet; Pohjola’s Daughter; Karelia Suite). ADD
PENTATONE CLASSICS PTC5186 164 SACD Hybrid [74:34]


This is another in Pentatone’s re-issues of relatively well known ex-Polygram recordings put out in SACD format. The Tchaikovsky items were originally issued on a full price Philips disc, coupled more sensibly with further Tchaikovsky items conducted by Davis but with the Royal Opera House Orchestra. The Sibelius items were partially available coupled with Davis’s Boston recordings of the Symphonies on two Philips Twofers. A more complete issue of Sibelius’s minor works is now available on a marvelous bargain-priced Australian Eloquence disc; well worth seeking out. review

I find Pentatone’s marketing logic pretty perverse as fans of Tchaikovsky may not want the Sibelius items and the same in reverse for Sibelius fans. In addition these performances of Tchaikovsky, whilst well liked as performances, were not at all liked from a recording perspective when they were first issued on LP. Things looked up somewhat when the CD was issued as the recording then appeared much clearer. Of course the performances were still the same.

The current issue is a backward step from the original CD as the sound, particularly in the 1812, is muddy and the cannons at the end are boomy, sounding artificial compared with the ordnance on the Philips release. And who on earth was the person who seems to believe that Tchaikovsky asked for small arms fire in addition to the specified cannons and bells. This really will not do!

The recording dates given are in error and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus (who contributes to the proceedings exceedingly well), are not even mentioned in the recording information. This is carelessness of the first order. If Pentatone wishes to charge full price for these issues, they should be much more careful in their presentation.

As to the performances, Davis’s Sibelius recordings with the Boston Symphony Orchestra are certainly rated above the later re-makes with the LSO on RCA even given the later recording dates. Anyone who likes these American recordings will be well pleased with this disc. However if they opt for the much cheaper Eloquence issue they will be overjoyed also to have En Saga and Tapiola, both in superb sound and performances. I doubt that the so-called benefit of SACD in this case offers anything over and above the Antipodean disc.

So, if you must have this combination of items this is a reasonable issue. Bear in mind though the complete misconception at the end of the 1812 together with a less attractive sound than the earlier CD, and the availability of the Sibelius items on a competing bargain issue.

John Phillips


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