Notes and Editorial Reviews
Colin Davis and the LSO continue to redeem themselves in the wake of their dismal RCA Sibelius cycle with what is turning out to be a very fine series of live recordings. The only thing worse than the RCA Fifth (where the timpanist got completely lost in the first-movement coda) was the fact that no one seemed to notice or care. Well, here's a performance worth paying attention to. It's terrific from beginning to end, with woodwinds and brass in top form and Davis managing all of the difficult moments--such as the transition between the first movement's two halves--with perfect ease. He builds a resplendent final climax, with particularly clear timpani and well balanced brass against the strings. Best of all, Davis' essential nobility of
utterance never comes at the expense of forward momentum. Even the slow movement has plenty of energy in reserve, with delightful contributions from the principal flute and oboe.
The Sixth Symphony fares slightly less well. Davis is no less in command of the music, however, and there are some fabulous moments. The central passage leading into the first-movement recapitulation, for example, with broad cello melodies against shimmering string tremolos, never has been better balanced or shaped. But Davis takes the remainder of the work at very quick tempos, and the orchestra has some ragged moments as a result. The most telling of these occurs at the return of the finale's opening section, scored largely for strings alone. I like Davis' willingness to take the composer at his word and play the passage very quickly (Bernstein does similarly), but the violins let down the cause, and in general the dry acoustic (pity the harp!) suits the string-based sonorities of this symphony less well than the wind- and brass-oriented Fifth. Still, I enjoyed the performance's spontaneity and willingness to "let go", and given the excellence of the Fifth there's nothing here that would seriously preclude a recommendation.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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