ALBUM TITLE: Sibelius
WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 2; Symphony No. 3; Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 7; Karelia Overture; Pohjola’s Daughter; Pelleas and Melisande Suite (excerpts); Nightride and Sunrise
PERFORMER: London SO/Anthony Collins
CATALOGUE NO: 14 PD 8 (Reissue)
Anthony Collins (1893-1963) is remembered these days almost solely for these Sibelius recordings. His was the first integral set of the symphonies to appear in the UK, though Sixten Ehrling and the Stockholm Radio Orchestra preceded them on Metronome in Scandinavia (and on the Mercury label in the USA). Collins has an instinctive feeling for pace, with the sole exception of the second movement of the Third Symphony which is far too fast. In terms of sheer electricity, his 1952 account of the First Symphony remains pretty well unsurpassed even by the likes of Karajan, Sir Colin Davis and Bernstein. It is taut, concentrated yet wonderfully paced and full of feeling. Forty years on, Guy Thomas could call it ‘the most consistently successful series ever recorded’, though present day collectors will rightly prefer Sir Colin Davis’s cycle with the LSO on RCA. Sir Colin commands the Sibelian landscape and penetrates its inner world as do few others. His set also includes masterly accounts of Kullervo, En Saga, the Lemminkäinen Legends, Tapiola and other works.
Collins’ accounts of Nightride and Sunrise and Pohjola’s Daughter are hardly less impressive: the former can hold its own alongside the Jochum and Davis versions. Collins was in some ways the ideal recording conductor, for he could combine an unerring sense of style with a natural gift for spontaneity. These authoritative accounts at bargain price have a prized and special place in the Sibelius discography and still sound remarkably vivid. Robert Layton