BIZET: Symphony in C. SIBELIUS: Lemminkäinen Suite. RACHMANINOFF: Vocalise, Op. 34 No. 14.
Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.

SIBELIUS: Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63. Symphony No. 5 in E-flat, Op. 82.
Philadelphia Orch/Eugene Ormandy, cond.

Both of these are of enormous interest for the collector. Ormandy always had a close assocation with music of Sibelius. He knew the composer personally, visited him several times and often presented his music in concert. He also made many recordings of Sibelius' music with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The first were Finlandia, Lemminkäinen's Return and Swan of Tuonela for RCA in 1940, followed the next year by Symphony No. 1. He recorded all of the symphonies except the third and sixth, as well as a number of symphonic poems, and three recordings of the violin concerto, one with David Oistakh in 1959, one with Isaac Stern in 1969 and the third in 1980 with Dylana Jenson. These reissued recordings of symphonies four and five were made in 1954, just pre-stereo, a time when Columbia was making well-balanced mono recordings with the Orchestra. String sonorities in the fourth symphony are remarkably well-captured and balances throughout are exemplary. Leminkäinen Suite is earlier, dating from 1951. The familiar Swan of Tuonela is exquisitely crafted; the other three Lemminkäinen legends played with virtuosity marked by a forward pulse exhilarating to hear. Ormandy and the Philadelphians made a second recording of Legends for EMI in 1978 which had the advantage of stereo but the label's engineers did not capture the rich sonority of this magnificent orchestra.

We also have a streamlined, vibrant performance of Bizet's symphony, a mono recording made in 1955 (the conductor and orchestra would record it a second time in 1974 in stereo for RCA Victor), and a specialty of Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra, Rachmaninoff's Vocalise played in Ormandy's own transcription (he recorded it a second time in 1967 in stereo also for Columbia). The Haydn House transfers do total justice to the originals. There are none of the clicks and ticks that I heard on the original LPs. Highly recommended, and at a modest price. These are only available from Haydn House. Wise collectors will take advantage of this opportunity to acquire terrific transfers of major past recordings. To order, and for a complete list of other titles available, go to this address:

R.E.B. (February 2004)