This well recorded disc is a compilation of the Sibelius pieces from 1959 plus additional pieces dating from 1957. The Sibelius symphony and Karelia were originally issued on an RCA Victrola disc but recorded by Decca engineers. The remainder of this program were originally issued as part of a selection called 'Danse Macabre.'
The Sibelius disc was hailed by the Gramophone magazine upon its first issue as the best version now available and unlikely to be matched as performances or sound in the foreseeable future. That future went on to include this superb re-mastering using 24 bit and 96 kHz technology. Also since then there have been numerous other recordings of these works, several of which are considered to be very fine. Nevertheless, it has been to this disc that I have returned for the greatest satisfaction.
Gibson paces the symphony through its changing tempi to absolute perfection thus delivering climaxes that really take wing. The ends of the outer movements will not disappoint anyone and are more effective than any other disc I have ever heard. The Karelia Suite is also paced to perfection with tight control of rhythm which also allows for a swagger especially in the first movement.
The Sibelius finds the LSO on top form and close to dominating the orchestral scene at that time with all sections now performing at a very high level. The brass section, superbly led by Denis Clift on trumpet, is totally impressive with both depth of tone and bright cutting edge. This is not the modern blended approach we so often hear.
Alexander Gibson was able to inspire orchestras of lesser calibre to seemingly unlikely heights. The remainder of the disc does precisely that and delivers exciting performances of the Danse macabre, Mephisto Waltz, the Bare Mountain and Humperdinck's Witches Ride.
This disc, previously something of a legend in its own time, is now discontinued and commands very high prices wherever available. That tells its own story. I would suggest that if ever a copy turns up at an affordable price, it would be well worth snapping up.