When Colin Davis recorded the complete Sibelius symphony series with the Boston Symphony back in the early-mid 1970s -- Sibelius: The Complete Symphonies 1 & Sibelius: The Complete Symphonies 2 -- it hit the classical music world with the force of a hurricane. Critics fell all over them selves heaping superlatives onto the set. And I was one of those for whom the set became a desert island choice. Since then Colin Davis has re-recorded the entire set with the London Symphony -- Sibelius: Syphonies Nos.1 - 7, Rakastava Op.14, etc.. I read the glowing reports of that set and acquired it, but found myself comparing it unfavorably with the earlier BSO set. The Boston Symphony was, in my opinion, a much superior orchestra to the 1990s LSO and, further, Philips gave it much more realistic sound. I still hold to that opinion.
What I hadn't realized at the time of its 1970s appearance was that the whole set had been recorded on LP in Philips's quadraphonic process, one in which four audio tracks were included. They issued the set in stereo and also in quadraphonic versions back then. I never owned quadraphonic equipment and thus never heard the multitrack version. Now Pentatone, a company founded by ex-Philips engineers, has reissued this CD from the original set in its four-track version, having converted it to SACD format. And it is an unqualified success. This disc of Symphonies 5 & 7 is, as all of Pentatone's are, a hybrid: it can be played on either plain stereo CD systems or by an SACD system. I've listened to it using both layers and it is superb either way.
The disc also includes what many consider Sibelius's finest non-symphonic orchestral work, 'En Saga', which Davis and the BSO recorded in 1980. It, too, sounds great and offers a convincing traversal of this great score.
I cannot recommend this reissue highly enough and can only hope that the entire set of the symphonies will be so reissued.