Sibelius: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Symphony No. 6
This LSO Live Sibelius/Davis series is turning out very well indeed: much more ‘live’ than the previous LSO cycle on RCA, and with insights that match – and sometimes even outshine – those of Davis’s first set of the symphonies with the Boston Symphony (Philips). In the Fifth the sense of growth, of many facets all belonging to an organic whole, is outstanding – in fact the only performance I can think of that equals it in this respect is Simon Rattle’s first EMI version with the Philharmonia (made when Rattle was still in his mid-twenties). With that supple sense of living musical form Davis brings an expressive intensity which enhances and never distorts the musical argument – all right, perhaps the broadening at the end of the slow movement is a little on the generous side, but I still wouldn’t call it excessive. It’s a shame a patch couldn’t have been found for the missing first bassoon part near the start of the Symphony (track 1, 0:40), but if that’s the cost of keeping things live, so be it. No such blemishes in the Sixth Symphony, however, which is just as well, as this is an exemplary performance: beautifully paced, attentive to the score and expressive in a way that always feels just right. Without lingering or over-indulging Davis brings a touch of magic to so many more elusive passages of this Symphony – from the strange ‘forest murmurs’ of the second movement to the melancholy exaltation of the ending. Strongly recommended. Stephen Johnson