Maurice Abravanel was a variable conductor, capable of fiery energy but usually drifting toward conservatism. The reason I seek out his old Vanguard recordings from Utah is for the wonderful sonics, far ahead of their time. This set of three Sibelius symphonies, #5-7, is certainly in good, if not spectacular sound. But by 1977 Abravanel was too old to supply much energy. Every movement feels enervated and slack; the best are merely routine. A miss.
But the second CD in this bargain two-fer contains really commendable readings of Sibelius tone poems from Adrian Boult and the London Phil. The sound is mostly clear and warm, especially considering that the date was 1956. Boult is at his best--alert, never heavy, always moving the line forward. I found myself engaged all the way through, and even though an admirer of Karajan's Sibelius, I must admit that by being more small-sacled and somewhat rough, Boult's readings might be closer to what the commposer probably had in mind.
Many listeners will like Abravanel's low-key Sibelius better than I do, which would make this set a great bargain, especially at Amazon Marketplace prices.