Recorded in Symphony Hall in Boston in both 1975 and 1980, this is another in the four-channel recordings made by Philips which had never been issued in that format due to its faults and the dying out of the quadraphonic fad. One would never know this was such an old recording; it meets current surround sound standards easily , even without the center channel or separate LFE feed.
The performances are also quite rich and exciting. I’ve never cared for the Seventh, but have long enjoyed the Fifth for its optimistic (for Sibelius) tone and stirring melodies. The work has much less of the introverted or depressing feeling of much of the rest of the composer’s music. The BSO sounds glorious and Davis sounds as well-suited to Sibelius as he was to all the Berlioz works he recorded so well. In the SACD format he does meet some fairly stiff competition from Neeme Jarvi and the Gothenburg Symphony in the complete Sibelius Symphony set on DGG. There is more of a rich and emotional quality to the strong themes in the third movement in the latter.
The symphonic poem En Saga is a welcome filler on this SACD. It has the strong Nordic temperament of all the Sibelius tone poems, and is a real treat to hear in surround sound since my usual reference for all the Sibelius tone poems has been the Boult mono set on Vanguard.
– John Sunier