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Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No.1 in e minor, Op.39 (1899) [39:37]
Symphony No.4 in a minor, Op.63 (1910-11) [38:43]
Pohjola’s Daughter, Op.49 (1906) [14:25]
Symphony No.2 in D, Op.43 (1901/2) [44:35]
Symphony No.3 in C, Op.52 (1904-7) [30:57]
Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 (1924) [22:27]
The Oceanides, Op.73 (1913-14) [11:59]
Symphony No.5 in E-flat, Op.82 (1914-19) [30:58]
Symphony No.6 in d minor, Op.104 (1923) [25:49]
Kullervo, Symphonic poem, Op.7 (1892) [71:52]
Monica Groop (mezzo-soprano, Peter Mattei (baritone)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Colin Davis
rec. live Barbican, London, 2002-2008. DDD/DSD.
Text and translation of Kullervo included.
LSO LIVE LSO0675 [331:22]

Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from hyperion-records.co.uk.

Also available on 5 SACDs + 1 blu-ray - as reviewed in Listening Studio Report.

Available on disc for around £29 and as a download from Hyperion for £15 (mp3 and 16-bit) or £22.50 (24-bit), the chief competition for this LSO box set is with Volume 12 of the BIS Sibelius Edition on which the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Osmo Vänskä perform just the seven numbered symphonies, but with both the original and final versions of No.5 and several sketches of the other symphonies (BIS-CD-1933/5 – review). The BIS sells for rather more – around £40 on CD – but can be obtained as a download from eclassical.com for a very competitive $28.74, marginally more than when I reviewed it last year. (Make sure to follow the link: crazy economics mean that eclassical also offer it for almost twice the price. Don’t even think about downloading the LSO set there for an absurdly uncompetitive $89.47).

All in all the BIS remains my top recommendation for a complete set, marginally preferable to the LSO/Davis and even to Vänskä’s own re-recordings on separate SACDs and as 24-bit downloads with the Minnesota Orchestra. On the other hand not everyone will wish to compare the two versions of No.5, illuminating as that is, or wish to hear the various fragments and alternatives.

Fans of SACD, blu-ray and 24-bit sound who just want the seven regular symphonies will probably prefer the LSO package, which comes with a recording of the symphonic poem Kullervo, virtually a vocal symphony, that may serve to persuade you that it’s a work well worth hearing. If you already have versions of Nos. 1-7 that you like, Davis’s Kullervo is available separately (LSO0574, around £8.50 on SACD). It can be downloaded from eclassical.com in mp3 or 16-bit lossless, with pdf booklet, but their price of $12.94 is no longer as competitive for £GB purchasers as when I reviewed it alongside Osmo Vänskä’s BIS recording in Download News 2015/10.

Spot sampling of the new Davis set serves to remind me of the virtues of the performances: Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6 are among the best available. The Barbican acoustic means that the recordings inevitably are not of the clearest and the volume needs to be turned up a notch but the 24-bit download otherwise sounds fine. I didn’t hear any of the ‘syrupy gloopiness’ complained of by one purchaser on the Amazon website – quite the contrary. Try the glorious final bars of No.2 if you can, for example.

As usual, LSO programme notes make up a very useful booklet.

I very much enjoyed revisiting these performances. Colin Davis’s fans will need no urging from me, though they should also bear in mind that his earlier recordings remain available: there’s a previous release of these performances, with Kullervo but without the other works, on a 4-CD set LSO0191 (around £15) and I also like his Boston Symphony Orchestra recordings on two well-filled and inexpensive Decca twofers (Nos.1-2, 4-5 on 4461572, around £11; Nos. 3, 6 and 7, Violin Concerto, with Salvatore Accardo and LSO, Finlandia, Tapiola and Swan of Tuonela on 4461602, download only, around £9). His earlier RCA recordings of Nos. 1-7, Kullervo and tone poems with the LSO are on 88765431352, 7 CDs for around £14 but on offer for less as I write – an earlier release of this set was Bargain of the Month.

Brian Wilson



 



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