7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Sibelius: Symphony nos. 5 ,7, & Night Ride and Sunrise (Audio CD)
Well, according to BBC Radio 3's Building A Library programme this CD contains the finest versions of the 5th & 7th Symphonies currently available. I'm far from convinced.
Sir Simon Rattle has recorded the 5th previously with the Philharmonia Orchestra and that truly is a fantastic version (and a previous Radio 3 recommendation), but this, while decent enough, isn't in the same league.
In stark contrast to the detailed and measured Philharmonia version Rattle here goes for drama and broad brush strokes. It works well enough on its own terms, and the finale is particularly well done, but can only really be recommended as a good second choice after the earlier version. Also the orchestral sound is poor compared to the Philharmonia (one of the finest recordings I've ever heard) and is marred by thumpy 'dead' sounding tympani and bass.
The 7th here is a messy and uneven affair and really can't be recommended at all. It has some good moments in the 2nd half of the piece but the opening adagio section is quite poor. Those long rhapsodic string lines a couple of minutes into the piece simply don't 'sing' as they should, and the necessary sense of building momentum is almost entirely absent. In this symphony if you blow the adagio you blow the whole thing. A low signal level doesn't help either and neither does the aforementioned thumpy bass and tympani. In addition the CBSO's string sound is rather harsh and lacking in tone and the playing of the CBSO is occasionally rather ragged.
Ironically the CD closes with "Night Ride and Sunrise" performed by the Philharmonia and from the same sessions as Rattle's original recording of the 5th. The sheer quality of the recording, the orchestral sound, and the performance only serves to highlight the deficiencies of the CBSO tracks. The gorgeous horn sounds towards the end of the piece are worth the price of admission alone.
So, seek out Rattle's earlier 5th and try Vanska, Sakari or, especially, Adrian Leaper with the Slovak Philharmonic for the 7th. Approach this disc with caution.