SIBELIUS: Symophony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39. Symphony No.
2 in D, Op. 43. Symphony No. 3 in C, Op. 52. Symnphony Bio, 4 in A
minor, Op. 63. Symphony
No. 5 in E flat, Op. 82 Symphony Nol. 6 in D iunor, Op. 104. Symphony
No. 7 in C,k Op. 105. Karelia Overture, Op. 10 , Pohjola's
Daughter, Op. 49. Night Ride and Sunrise, Op. 55 (London
Symphony Orch/Anthony Collins,
SIBELIUS: Symphonies. Pohola"s Daughter, Op. 49. Night
Ride and Sunrise, Op. 55. Pelléas and Mélisande Suite,
DECCA is to be commended for these terrific releases of some of their most important recordings of music by Jean Sibelius. Featured in two of these collections are all of the symphonies and several symphonic poems in the historic recordings made by Decca in their "full frequency range recordings" series " These were recorded 1952-1955 in Kingsway Hall, an ideal venue for recording, and the producers (Victor Olaf/Peter Andry) and engineers (Kenneth Wilkinson/Cyril Windbbank) were key figures in the recording industry. The recordings are historically important as one of the first complete sets of this music with one conductor and orchestra. However, these performances, while of interest, cannot match the glories of countless later recordings. Even though the mono sound is well-balanced, there are no audio fireworks here, and I'm surprised Decca issued them on very expensive vinyl. These performances can be enjoyed in the first set mentioned above, all remastered and sounding as good as they could.
The major plus for me in the first set is inclusion of a CD conducted by Eduard van Beinum, who enjoyed a long association with the Concertgebouw Orchestra which he first conducted in 1929. Eventually he became music director, a post he held until his death in 1959 while rehearsing the famed orchestra. Beinum made many superb recordings for Decca, and his Sibelius recordings are stunning. I have never heard performances of the two symphonic poems superior to these, and Ken Wilkinson did a magnificent engineering job. This brilliant new remastering lets us hear all the microphones did, a vivid listening experience indered. The two symphonic poems were recorded in 1952. Finlandia and Valse Triste were recorded in 1957 in Kingsway Hall. John Culshaw was producer, and knew what to do. We also have the Sibelius violin concerto recorded when Beinum was music director of the London Philharmonic; this recording was made in 1953 also in Kiungsway, with Jan Damen as soloist Damen was concertmaster of the Concertgebouw for some years and can be heard on a number of their recordings, particularly the Philips issue of Scheherazade. He is a sterling player, and is given a perfect accompaniment from the LPO under Beinum's direction.
The recordings conducted by Thomas Jensen and Erik Tuxen are of considerably less interest except from am historic standpoint. This Lermminkainen was the first major complete recording of the work, but many other recordings of the work are superior to this, particularly the two by Eugene Ormandy in Philadelphia. The Hans Rosbaud/Berlin Philharmonic recordings, made in 1954 and 1957, are first class in every way, with a particularly fine Karelia. The set also includes Symphony No. 2 with Pierre Monteux and the London Symphony, recorded in 1958. Another CD is devoted to recordings with the LSO directed by Alexander Gibson, and the London Proms Symphony directed by Sir Charles, made in 1958/1969, all engineered by Kenneth Wilkinson, which assured the sonic excellence—and all are fine performances as well.
And to really justify the title Great Performances, there is a disk devoted to famous recordings of many of his songs, 14 taped in 1958 by Kirsten Flagstad, and 7 with Birgit Nilsson recorded in 1965. It just doesn't get better than this! / All of these are quite magnificent indeed. No texts or translations are provided.
This is an essential set for collectors, who should get it ASAP. Thank you Decca!!!
The four disk set of lieder is valuable—at budget price we have most of the composer's songs in superb performances by baritone Tom Krause and soprano Elisabeth Soderstrom. performs 13. Complete texts and translations are included. Although Decca describes this set as "complete," it is odd they didn't include Lunnotar, which Soderstrom recorded with the the Philharmonia Orchestra directed by Ashkenazy, a recording made in 1980. It easily would have fit into this collection.
R.E.B. (September 2015)