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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
CD 1 [71:27]
Symphony No.1 in E minor, Op.39 (1898) [36.44]
Symphony No.4 in A minor, Op.63 (1911) [34.32]
CD 2 [72:14]
Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.43 (1901) [43.00]
Symphony No.3 in C major, Op.52 (1904) [29.24]
CD 3 [78:41]
Symphony No.5 in E flat major, Op.82 (1914-15) [29.16]
Symphony No.6 in D minor, Op.104 (1923) [28.09]
Symphony No.7 in C major, Op.105 (1924) [21.14]
Utah Symphony Orchestra/Maurice Abravanel
rec. May 1977, Mormon Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. ADD
MUSICAL CONCEPTS MC 132 [3 CDs: 71:27 + 72:14 + 78:41]

Experience Classicsonline

Abravanel (1903-1993) was born in Thessaloniki, Greece. From 1909 he lived as part of the Ansermet household in Lausanne and there met Milhaud and Stravinsky. He spent time in Berlin and Paris. Record collectors may well recall him for the transformational years he spent in Salt Lake City. There he made many recordings for Vanguard. These took the Utah orchestra’s name and reputation across the world. His Mahler cycle has already been reviewed by Dan Morgan and I have hopes that Musical Concepts will also give us the Utah Brahms and Tchaikovsky symphonies; the latter on Vox. There’s also a Grieg cycle that should be worth scrutiny.

I first reviewed this late analogue Abravanel cycle eleven years ago. The series was engineered by Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz and originally released on Vanguard LP as SRV 381/4 SD and later on CD as SVC-3133.

Hearing it again my position has not changed although the enthusiasm I expressed then for the Colin Davis Boston cycle has slackened more than somewhat. Abravanel and the Utah players turn in a splendidly vivacious version of the First Symphony with lots of vivid detailing. It need not blush alongside other 1960s classics including those by Barbirolli (EMI) and Rozhdestvensky (Melodiya). There’s a respectable but rather broadly launched Second, but it’s nothing specially outstanding and not a patch on Barbirolli’s molten Second with the RPO (Chesky) but better than his under-powered EMI Hallé reading. Abravanel offers a taut and well presented Third Symphony in which there is satisfying attention to dynamic contrast and to soloistic voices.

The final disc gives us the last three symphonies. The Fifth is splendid, with lucid and totally satisfying spotlighting of solo voices complementing Abravanel’s unshakable grip on tension. A bloomingly refulgent and life-enhancing Sixth thrives. I am sorry to say this but the Seventh feels emotionally slack after the high standards set by the other six symphonies. The strings glow but it all feels too slow and under-powered at least for the first ten minutes. My comparison is the super-high voltage Mravinsky-Leningrad-Moscow recording made in 1965 by Melodiya.

The notes are by classical music doyen Nicolas Slonimsky.

A very good analogue set, rather masterfully recorded, but undermined by a Seventh where the reins at first hang loose.

Rob Barnett

















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