SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 43. TUBIN: Symphony No. 5 in B Minor
Cincinnati Symphony Orch/Paavo Järvi, cond.
TELARC SACD 605875 (F) (DDD) TT: 73:23

MAHLER:  Symphony No. 6 in A Minor "Tragic"
Philharmonia Orch/Benjamin Zander, cond.
TELARC SACD 60586 (F) (3 CDs for the price of 1) (DDD) TT:  54:32 / 64:10 / 79:43

The younger Järvi's Sibelius Second is a fine accomplishment but doesn't really challenge the finest extant recordings of this popular symphony, particularly those by Barbirolli (Royal Philharmonic), Colin Davis (Boston SO) and George Szell (Concertgebouw).  It does have the advantage of Telarc's latest digital sound which provides extraordinary clarity - but exposes thin sound of Cincinnati's upper strings.  The real interest here is the fifth of Eduard Tubin's ten symphonies, a half-hour work of considerable power considered to be his most dramatic work. Although it is said that Tubin is indebted to his native Estonian folk music, only once in his symphonies does he use an actual folk tune -  in the second movement of this symphony.  Timpani outbursts in the first and third movements remind one of Nielsen's Inextinguishable. In the mid-'80's Neeme Järvi recorded all of the Tubin symphonies for BIS; his recording of the Fifth still impresses; it's coupled with the ballet suite Kratt (BIS  306).  While Tubin's music has considerable power, for me the major symphonic work by an Estonian composer is the Symphony No. 1 by Kaljo Raid brilliantly recorded by Järvi Senior (REVIEW).

Benjamin Zander continues his distinguished Mahler cycle with this powerful performance of Symphony No. 6 recorded in May 2001. Zander's expertise is always evident, with careful balancing of effects, abetted by Telarc's extraordinary engineering.  The Zander set is of particular interest in that it contains two versions of the finale, the original with three hammer-blows, the revision with just two, so you have your choice.  A third packed CD (79:43), not in surround sound, features Zander discussing Mahler's Sixth in a very unpretentious way with many musical illustrations.  The Telarc set of three CDs sells for the cost of one, a remarkable bargain. Who would have ever thought there would be two superb surround sound recordings of a work such as this (the other is Michael Tilson Thomas's San Francisco set - see REVIEW) so early in the multi-channel era?  The Thomas recording also has a price tag of a single CD.  For Mahler enthusiasts both are essential.

Telarc's DSD surround version on both of their issues is very effective indeed, side speakers providing a pleasing concert hall ambience. These SACD disks also contain high-qualty regular stereo channels; they are "Hybrid" SACDs that can also be played on a regular CD player (see article on SURROUND SOUND)..

R.E.B. (December 2002)