Originally Posted by DarkAngel
Great.........since you mentioned this you are of course obligated to report back to us your findings.
I have made it through the first five symphonies. I only have the Davis/LSO recordings of 1 and 4 to compare them to. I have 4-7 of Karajan/DGG but I haven't really had the time to get through those yet.
Impressions on Maazel:
The sound!! Wow. Decca really recorded these pieces well. I will be using these recordings as reference for audio equipment from here on out. You can hear everything so clearly. The colors are stunning and really makes my audio setup come alive, almost more than any classical recording I own, at least up there near the top.
I agree with one of the above comments that these recordings are rather germanic in their interpretation. They really work for me. The ideas are presented clearly without excess liberties taken. I agree with Tyson that they aren't as stark and cold as one might want their Sibelius. However, I really love how Maazel really brings the life out of these pieces. I haven't found myself this engaged with a recording in a long time. I really haven't spent much time with these works in the past except playing 1 and 2, but I find myself captivated. I think it is the sound and the interpretation that draws you in. It reminds me of the first time I heard Mahler way back when.
When comparing this recording to the Davis/LSO recording, I much prefer Maazel. The Davis recording is interpreted well, but the sound and playing is too pretty, smooth and the orchestra doesn't really seem to have the same vitality, precision and spark that the Vienna Philharmonic does under Maazel. From a player's perspective there is something that annoys me about one aspect of the orchestra, but it is really trivial and I don't want to mention it because if others aren't aware of it, why call attention to it. I just accept it and I forget about it as I get swept away by these pieces.
I would also just like to comment on Sibelius in general. I think since he isn't on the radar as much as others (i.e. Mahler, Bruckner and Strauss), but is still a major composer is intriguing. The content of his symphonies have a fairly decent wow factor, but unlike Mahler and others, I think you get to enjoy the act of discovery a bit more as to the content of his expression. It is the slight irregularities in composition that are worth a life time of contemplation. After all these years I am hearing so much in these pieces that I really am finding myself blown away by what I am hearing. Perhaps it is a refreshing break from the music I know inside and out. I feel the profound content, nuances of color, balance, and thematic construction are absolutely remarkeable.
DA, spend some more time with the later symphonies. I actually find them very thought provoking and charming, almost lighter in character than the earlier works. They are a bit different than the earlier works, but I find them very intriguing. Of course I am always a fan of composers' late works.
This set is remarkeable. Truly a reference quality set. Chalk up another for DA.