Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius Celebrated: Anthony Collins's Symphony Cycle Leads off a Scintillating 11-Disc Set of Early Sibelius Recordings Mined from the Decca Archives

Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius Celebrated: Anthony Collins's Symphony Cycle Leads off a Scintillating 11-Disc Set of Early Sibelius Recordings Mined from the Decca Archives

Article excerpt

As Robert Layton says in an excellent note that accompanies this valuable set of Sibelius 'historical', Anthony Collins's 1950s Sibelius symphony cycle --only the second ever made by a single conductor and orchestra--is 'remarkably faithful'. Remarkably well recorded too, excepting for some distant whirring tape noise in the First Symphony (you hear it elsewhere once or twice) and the odd questionable edit. The first three symphonies are truly marvellous, the playing mostly keen-edged, with well-chosen tempos and lacerating crescendos --those thundering timps really break through the texture, most notably in the First and Third Symphonies.

Collins knew how to pace a movement's evolving development: he does well with the Fourth and I like the way he keeps those doleful last moments on the move. The Fifth is again bracing yet sensitively balanced, the Sixth perhaps a little lacking in what I'd call 'white light', the Seventh in a sense of organic growth. There I think you'd need to return to his immediate predecessor on disc, cycle-wise, Sixten Ehrling (Warner). But viewed as a whole, it's an exceedingly fine cycle, worthy to rank alongside Sir Adrian Boult's (almost) complete set of the tone-poems (Vanguard) and these fresh new transfers certainly do it justice. Not that Beulah's were less than good--and remember they have an excellent 'popular Sibelius' disc that includes Collins's HMV Sibelius recordings with the Royal Philharmonic, the highlight there being a superb En saga.

Mind you, Eduard van Beinum's recording of the same work with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (included here) is pretty impressive, especially from the Dutch brass. His Tapiola captures Sibelius's last masterpiece in all its varied weathers but there the palm surely has to go to the Berlin Philharmonic under Hans Rosbaud, a performance virtually without parallel, part of a disc (CD 8) that includes the Karelia Suite, one of three recordings of the work featured in the set and with an unusually broad Alla marcia finale. The other two versions are from Thomas Jensen and the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra (good but hardly exceptional) and Alexander Gibson with the LSO, which in terms of quality falls somewhere between the two. Gibson's (stereo) Sibelius Fifth is an honest-to-goodness reading without mannerism but the LSO symphony recording that's truly a 'must have' acquisition is Pierre Monteux's imposing version of the Second (again in stereo), already reissued at least twice but an essential component in any Sibelius collection worthy of the name. …

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