Warner’s mid-priced Apex label handles Finlandia’s back-catalogue, and Scandinavian composers front this New Year dispatch from the bargain bins.
JOHAN SVENDSEN’s two symphonies are resolute, impulsive works, each masterfully constructed and tremendously enjoyable, but they’re woefully under-represented on CD.
Svendsen’s Symphony No. 1 was the first Scandinavian example of the genre after Berwald’s symphonies, while the Second in B flat revealed his fiercely independent mature style.
Ari Rasilainen conducts the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in vividly dramatic 1996 accounts (0927-40621-2). Excellent sound and impassioned playing make this a ‘must have’ reissue.
Many collectors will want the best-known of SIBELIUS’s string quartets, Intimate Voices, on their shelves. It receives an intuitive, warmly focused performance from the New Helsinki Quartet (0927-40601-2), and although this 1997 account doesn’t explore the piece with the menacing penetration of the Sibelius Academy Quartet’s benchmark Finlandia version, it’s admirably played and recorded, with GRIEG’s G minor Quartet making a logical and pleasing coupling.
Apex has also reissued several of Andrew Davis’s recordings, including a disc of five SIBELIUS tone poems (0927-40620-2 – Tapiola and The Oceanides are both outstanding) played by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in beefy, wide-ranging 1996 productions from Stockholm’s acoustically inviting Concert Hall.
Davis left the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the sure hands of fellow Elgarian, Leonard Slatkin, but his Teldec recordings of ELGAR’s orchestral works (especially the symphonies) were among the best since Boult’s.
Produced by Christopher Palmer at St Augustine’s Kilburn in 1991, Davis’s affectionate and stately Cockaigne Overture and sensitively characterised Enigma Variations frame Elgar’s two masterpieces for string orchestra on another essential Apex CD (0927-41371-2). Kurt Masur’s exciting live performance of FRANCK’s D minor Symphony (paired with Les Éolides) with the New York Philharmonic is another impressive scoop.
Avery Fisher Hall’s oft-berated acoustics raise few concerns here, in Martin Fouqué’s believably balanced, pin-sharp recording (0927-41372-2).
Eliahu Inbal’s Frankfurt RSO BRUCKNER cycle has been available previously at mid-price on Teldec, but anyone who missed it before should seek out this eloquent 1985 Seventh (Nowak edition), an amazing bargain on Apex.