Sibelius: Symphony No. 5; Tapiola; Valse triste; Finlandia

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: IMP
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Tapiola; Valse triste; Finlandia
PERFORMER: RPO/Enrique Bátiz
CATALOGUE NO: PCD 1114 DDD
These two performances of Sibelius No. 5 are poles apart. Bátiz, with the Royal Philharmonic on superb form, goes for an ultra-vivid approach aided by a very forward recording. While every strand of the texture can be heard, balance suffers in sections where some instruments need more prominence than others, such as the pizzicato strings in the slow movement. Every climax is milked for all it is worth and, by the end of the first movement, virtually everything has been said.

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Colin Davis with the LSO takes a much more inward approach – crescendi are carefully built, the superbly relaxed start of the central section of the first movement is tender without triviality and, by the end of the movement, we are left wanting more. Davis goes on to a poetic account of the slow movement – at times almost Mahlerian – and a richly satisfying finale.

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If you like your Sibelius big, brassy and a touch superficial, then Bátiz is for you – I found myself less and less interested in what he had to say. His Tapiola on the same CD lacks direction, though his full-throated Finlandia raises the roof. For his part, Davis gives us a considered and life-enhancing performance of the Third Symphony. Jan Smaczny