Colin Davis

Sibelius: Symphonies Nos 1-7; Kullervo

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This four-disc set is Colin Davis' third recording of Sibelius' seven symphonies, and his second recording of the composer's early Kullervo symphony. He previously recorded the cycle in the '70s with the Boston Symphony for Philips, then in the '90s, plus Kullervo with the London Symphony for BMG. Less than a decade later, he recorded the whole cycle and Kullervo with the London Symphony for LSO Live. With this solid legacy, only the conductor's and composer's most hardcore fans are likely to be interested in this newest cycle. Davis' Boston cycle was first-rate in every way, with probing but thrilling conducting and sumptuous orchestral playing. His first LSO cycle was nearly as good, with more penetrating interpretations, if less viscerally exciting performances, and less sumptuous but more propulsive orchestral playing. This time, Davis has nothing especially new to say about the works. The central movements of the Third and Fifth symphonies are a bit more mysterious, and the closing movements of the Second and Sixth are a tad more monumental, but they are not in essence or execution all that different from his previous LSO cycle, and the remainder of the performances here could easily be mistaken for the earlier performances. While the London Symphony plays with its customary brilliance and LSO Live's digital sound is crisp and vivid, this cycle will likely be of interest only to listeners who have to hear everything Davis records.

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