Sir Colin Davis' latest disc brings together two of the finest symphonies composed in the 20th century although they have been rather scarce in the recording studio of late. I still retain a fond affection for the pioneering recordings coming from Danish shores in the early to mid 1950's with Launy Grondahl and Thomas Jensen, two conductors of great stature especially in the music of their compatriot. Davis adopts a no-holds-barred approach to the fourth with the irresistible energy of the music truly conveyed especially in the first movement. The London Symphony rises to the occasion in the equally momentous Finale but they still cannot reach the exalted heights of Jensen's live performance with the Danish Radio Symphony on Danacord which remains, at least to my mind, the finest version ever recorded although it suffers from indifferent mono sound.
In the Fifth, Davis is more relaxed and circumspect – he handles the transition in the magical second movement beautifully and the Finale is full of bursts of raw energy. However he again falls short of the classic 1954 Decca recording featuring Jensen and the DRSO in mono sound although other than that the recording is excellent. With SACD sound adding to the allure of the whole project, Davis may have a trump card here but I would still advocate hearing the older versions if you can get hold of them. Still, this is a modern day coupling for the reference library.
Copyright © 2011, Gerald Fenech