Sibelius in top form from Boult, but not so good from Abrava
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 01/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Maurice Abravanel was a variable conductor, capable of fiery energy but usually drifting toward conservatism. The reason I seek out his old Vanguard recordings from Utah is for the wonderful sonics, far ahead of their time. This set of three Sibelius symphonies, #5-7, is certainly in good, if not spectacular sound. But by 1977 Abravanel was too old to supply much energy. Every movement feels enervated and slack; the best are merely routine. A miss.
But the second CD in this bargain two-fer contains really commendable readings of Sibelius tone poems from Adrian Boult and the London Phil. The sound is mostly clear and warm, especially considering that the date was 1956. Boult is at his best--alert, never heavy, always moving the line forward. I found myself engaged all the way through, and even though an admirer of Karajan's Sibelius, I must admit that by being more small-sacled and somewhat rough, Boult's readings might be closer to what the commposer probably had in mind.
Many listeners will like Abravanel's low-key Sibelius better than I do, which would make this set a great bargain, especially at Amazon Marketplace prices."
L. Ackerman | Ashburn, VA (USA) | 10/20/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"On paper the program is great, no question. But coupling Abravanel with Boult misfired.
I find Abravanel's Sibelius compeling. It brings out exciting differences, and that, at least for me, a Sibelius fan who tries to hear every Sibelius recording out there, means something. The sonics are very good (as they always were with this team). The only quibble is the lack of sophistication by the string section. But we knew that already.
What I find inadequate is the Boult. His take on Sibelius does not make me forget these are MONAURAL 1956 recordings. That means something for me in Sibelius music. Only conductors such as Barbirolli, Beecham or Stokowski make me forget the sonics. Here, I do not feel the music "opening up" and saying something beyond the limitations of the sound. Could it be that this comes from a transcript of a good Mono LP? I swear I heard some clicks that remind me of my "record" days. Knowing already what shabby work this company (Artemis) has done with other issues, I would not be surprised.
I hope Mr. Solomon is enjoying his time up in heaven and does not look down to see what music marketing incompetents are doing with his productions."