Gibson's Sibelius recordings have been a staple part of the early Chandos catalogue and his even earlier 1959 recording of the Fifth and Karelia show a conductor on true top form. This is great playing from the London Symphony with an exemplary Decca recording revealing the wide ranging view of Gibson's conducting that has a particular emphasis on the string section. The noble Allegro molto is superbly paced here with almost as much panache as Karajan's contemporaneous Philharmonia recording for EMI.
The Karelia Suite is another excellent recording to add to the multifarious ones available. I also hugely enjoyed the additional items available, excerpts from an old 1957 LP with the NSOL. Saint-Saëns' 'Danse Macabre' is full of zest and life whilst the aptly titled 'Witches Ride' from Humperdinck's 'Hansel and Gretel ' reveals some astonishing vintage Decca sound. Liszt's 'Mephisto Waltz' and Mussorgsky's wonderful 'Night on the Bare Mountain' could almost be by Stokowski with their hair-raising intensity.
The recordings are a gem of their age and an indispensable essay on the almost neglected Alexander Gibson sums up a most satisfying issue.
Copyright © 2002, Gerald Fenech