Sibelius: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 7; Tapiola

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LABELS: Decca Legends
WORKS: Symphony No. 4; Symphony No. 7; Tapiola
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Lorin Maazel
CATALOGUE NO: 466 995-2 ADD Reissue (1966, 1968)
Both recordings of the symphonies and Tapiola enjoy classic status and are vastly superior to Maazel’s later versions with the Pittsburgh Orchestra on Sony. In the Seventies, I recall no less a Sibelian than Robert Simpson hailing this Fourth as the finest available and the Seventh has always seemed to me the most impressive since the pioneering Koussevitzky set. True, the strings are slightly oversweet in the slow threnody that precedes the first appearance of the trombone theme, but this is a performance of great integrity and power. These have hardly been out of the catalogue since their first appearance and the main point of interest must be whether the new refurbishment is as great an improvement over earlier CD transfers and the LP originals as one would expect. Returning to the excellent LP original of the Seventh I can confirm that the Legends transfer has greater presence and more firmly focuses the sound. These have never sounded better. Robert Layton