To cap his complete Sibelius symphony cycle, the late Sir Colin Davis gave us big, sweeping interpretations of some of the composer's most-famous tone poems. And RCA provided audio to match. The warmhearted readings are born of years of experience and maturity, and while they may not provide the utmost in excitement, they do conjure up fairly appropriate images and feelings.
Frankly, however, none of the interpretations individually would be among my absolute first-choice recommendations, though collectively they make a decent-enough package. The Karelia Suite is more regal and more stately than one usually hears it, but I prefer Sir John Barbirolli's more incisive rendering (EMI). The Oceanides is flavorsome, but it's hard when listening to it not to think of Sir Thomas Beecham's celebrated recording (EMI), and Davis again ends up second best.
|Sir Colin Davis|
Producer Michael Bremner and engineer Tony Faulkner recorded the music between 1992 and 1998. The resultant sonics are of the warm, weighty variety, sometimes billowy yet overall subdued. The sound nicely complements Davis's broadly relaxed style in the poems, but comparisons to the aforementioned Barbirolli or Ashkenazy make the new disc sound distinctly soft and bland. Turning up the volume doesn't hurt. I also found myself wishing for greater orchestral depth, although the sound is not unlike the ambiance of many large concert halls.
Interestingly, RCA recorded the six pieces on the program in three different locations, yet they sound remarkably alike. Let me just say that if your stereo system tends even slightly toward the hard or strident, the compensating factors of this new collection will suit your needs pretty well.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click below: