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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No. 2 in D major op. 43 [38:11]
Symphony No. 5 in E flat op. 82 [26:33]
Karelia Suite op. 11 - Alla Marcia [4:00]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Basil Cameron (2); Erich Leinsdorf (5, Karelia)
rec. 30 December 1947 (2); 10 July 1946. mono. ADD
from Decca AK2127-31; AK2193-96; AK2193.
DUTTON CDBP 9788 [68:44]

Experience Classicsonline

Trust Dutton to come up with a stimulating left-field compilation like this.
Basil Cameron (1884-1975) was born Basil Hindenburg under which name he conducted the Torquay Municipal Orchestra before the Great War. When hostilities opened he adopted and then held to his mother's maiden name. It was under this name that he conducted the world premiere of Bax's Fourth Symphony in San Francisco during his brief sojourn there (1930-32). He spent longer with the Seattle Symphony (1932-38) and it was towards the end of his spell there that a season in London saw him in the studio making this recording for Decca. He was a doughty Sibelian as this Second shows. It has a real urgency and verve – not mechanistic in any sense and with something of Barbirolli's early volcanic vigour about it. I thought several times about Barbirolli's classic 1962 Reader's Digest version with the RPO (Chesky and Testament). The Cameron recording is not wonderful but is serviceable and respectable mono. I hope that BBC Legends or Phoenix give us more of Cameron's Sibelius. His reputation is rather grey and unglamorous and this recording serves as a sharp corrective to low expectations.
Strange how the contemporaneous Leinsdorf version of No. 5 sounds from an audio-technical perspective better than the Cameron. Where Cameron is faintly bleached, though still good for its era, the Leinsdorf is virile and forward. This goes with Erich Leinsdorf's approach which is unfussy and concentrates on the forward momentum; so much so in the first movement that passion is dissipated. It all sounds rather facile with insufficient emotional engagement. However I found myself warming to the approach more in the second and final movements and Leinsdorf is by no means ascetic. The finale is Sibelius in the grand manner - but at quick tempo rather than epic gait - with gripping rhythmic emphasis. A chipper Karelia march rounds off the collection.

Rob Barnett




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