Sibelius: Symphonies 1-7 - Davis

Sibelius: Symphonies 1-7 - Davis

Tower Universal Vintage  PROC-2277/80 (4 discs)

Stereo Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral

Sibelius: 7 Symphonies, The Swan of Tuonela, Valse Triste, En Saga, Tapiola, Finlandia, Pohjola's Daughter, Karelia Suite

Boston Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

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3 of 3 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

Analogue recording

Recorded in January 1975 (Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7 & Tapiola), in April 1976 (Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 & Finlandia), in December 1976 (Symphonies Nos. 3, 4 & 6, Valse triste, The Swan of Tuonela), in April 1979 (Karelia Suite) and in March 1980 (En Saga & Pohjola’s Daughter) at the Symphony Hall, Boston, United States, 16/44,1

Recording producers: Vittorio Negri & Wilhelm Hellweg

Remastered by Classic Sound Ltd
Comments (20)

Comment by Dissonance - May 3, 2020 (1 of 20)

Glad to see this beautiful set coming on SA-CD, although only in stereo. Most of the recordings were re-mastered from the original quadrophonic tapes by Polyhymnia International B.V for PENTATONE’s multi-channel SA-CD reissues (Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7, En Saga, Valse triste, Karelia Suite & Pohjola’s Daughter). What a pity the rest was not released in multi-channel SA-CDs as it is very likely all the symphonies were captured using quadrophonic master tapes back then...

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 4, 2020 (2 of 20)

I'm waiting for my copy. I ordered it from cdjapan ( - Let's see how the new (stereo-) remastering (ClassicSound) compares to the earlier (mch/stereo) pentatone offerings.

Comment by hiredfox - May 4, 2020 (3 of 20)

I have waited 20 years for this set to appear on SACD. Arguably the very best of all Sibelius surveys from the youthful SCD. Very different interpretations from his LSO Live series of the early noughts. Hope they include some of the magnificent artwork that adorned the original vinyl recordings. Fingers crossed they will be DSD re-masters of the original Philips tapes. The vinyl recordings were noted for their inky black backgrounds and almost noiseless transcriptions.

If you wait long enough......

Comment by breydon_music - May 5, 2020 (4 of 20)

I would assume that the items which Pentatone remastered were the only ones from the cycle recorded quadraphonically. I am sure if they got their hands on the ones that were issued, they would have been given access to any others too, and equally that they would have taken advantage of that. Ergo, the rest of the recordings probably exist only as stereo masters?

Comment by hiredfox - May 6, 2020 (5 of 20)

That's a fair assumption. Not one of the five original vinyl sleeves mentions quadrophonic recording.

Comment by DYB - May 8, 2020 (6 of 20)

hiredfox> I already got my set and they do include color reproductions of all the stunning original artwork!

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 9, 2020 (7 of 20)

DYB, I think we're all quite curious to hear some first impressions...

Comment by Steven Harrison - May 14, 2020 (8 of 20)

Does anyone know the source of these remasterings?
Given that these are Philips analogue recordings, the remaster might likely be the 24/96 digital copies of the original analogue recordings.

Comment by Dissonance - May 15, 2020 (9 of 20)

My rough translation and considerate modification on the details at

- DSD layer of an SA-CD has been made (by Classic Sound Ltd) directly from original master tape. The CD layer is nothing more but the already released 16-bit / 44.1 kHz audio can be heard from the CD reissues by Philips / Decca.
- Before the re-mastering processes (for DSD layer) the most careful renovations were made for the original master tapes in order to minimize disturbances due to the storage conditions and natural weakening caused by the age. For this reason the new DSD mastering provides an impeccable audio quality, based on the truly original source, and is as close as possible on the intentions and goals of the recording team.

Comment by hiredfox - May 15, 2020 (10 of 20)

That is brilliant news / information, many thanks for the up-date. Just what I wanted to hear! This will have cost me over £100 when the set arrives. The older we collectors become the crazier we get!

The original vinyls cost me £7 in total in old money (mid-70's).

Comment by Dissonance - May 15, 2020 (11 of 20)

You’re welcome! :)

Who knows if ClassicSound utilizes the extra dimensions provided by two rear channels for its new DSD re-master for those recordings already released quadraphonically by Pentatone. The term "original master tape" is a bit misleading here, I think. As far as I know, if the whole set was recorded quadraphonically but never released as such, only in stereo on LPs, then the 4-channel mix was the main one and the released stereo mix was based on the multi-channel mix, just narrowed the information into two channels.

Comment by Steven Harrison - May 15, 2020 (12 of 20)

Yes, thanks very much for that.

Comment by hiredfox - May 16, 2020 (13 of 20)

It is not an issue for me as high end stereo equipment can reproduce the 2D concert stage setting perfectly.

I read that you prefer mch sound which is fair enough but bear in mind that there are - or should be - no additional sounds emanating from the rear speakers only hall reflections of the sounds coming from the stage. With high end stereo you can hear reflections from the side and rear walls of your listening room generated by your own stereo speakers. One could mischievously suggest that a combination of rear speakers plus one's own listening room reflections from the front speakers might actually confuse the original concert hall sound?

We have debated this ad nauseam on so nothing is to be gained by re-opening the debate, each to their own really.

Comment by Contrapunctus - May 18, 2020 (14 of 20)

First sound impressions & comparion to pentatone SACD/symphonies 5&7 (only stereo)

Today, I received my long-awaited copy. I haven't listened to the complete set, but instead I focused a bit on comparison between this new edition and the pentatone sacd. So I'm mostly talking about symphonies 5 & 7.

There are remarkable and significant differences between both versions!

2 things stand out immediately:
1) Volume level/dynamic range: volume level on the new remaster is lower compared to pentatone. But the dynamic range appears bigger/deeper.
2) Frequencies/sound stage: the new remaster appears 'thinner'/more 'airy' compared to pentatone (a 'warmer', more full-bodied sound). Sound stage on pentatone is not as wide/open as on the new edition (at least my impression).

It would be remiss not to tell you that I'm a bit confused (disappointed?) after my first listening and comparison. I don't really see that the new remaster is superior to pentatone without fuss or quibble. There is some flaw in the new remaster, if you listen very carefully: e.g. end of the finale of the 5th symphony: the reverb that follows the last chord beats sounds a bit weird/distorted. The same passage on pentatone sounds flawless/natural. (Important: there is no additional reverb on either remaster.) On the other side there are some very convincing and beautiful moments on the new remaster...

Now, it's up to you. Listen for yourself and share your impressions!

Comment by hiredfox - May 19, 2020 (15 of 20)

Thanks for your first impressions Contrapunctus.

It is encouraging that you are hearing notable differences between the earlier Pentatone recording and the new version. As time goes by techniques and technologies improve and it would be more disappointing had there been no differences at all. Perhaps we should bear in mind too that stereo tapes may have been used for the new transcriptions and not the four channel tapes used by Pentatone which were quite experimental at the time. Mixing down four channels to two might be expected to have produced a different overall sound picture to straightforward stereo. The acid test is do these new recordings take you closer to the original sound?

What is good is that we get all the symphonies and tone poems in this new set not just the 5th & 7th.

Comment by scotttiger - May 22, 2020 (16 of 20)

I thought that these were the best recordings of the Sibelius symphonies until I heard the Davis/London RCA set recorded in the mid-90's, which I thought were also better than the LSO live stuff. Anyone ready to compare the new Tower sound to the Pentatone?

Comment by hiredfox - May 25, 2020 (17 of 20)

I agree with you that Sir Colin Davis' mid-90's survey on RBCD was far better than his SA-CD set of the early noughties when alas the great maestro was in decline. Nevertheless IMHO his Boston set is on another level altogether in the interpretation of the composers concepts of "experiments in sound", recorded at a time when both he and the BSO were at the peak of their powers. This set has been my 'go-to' recordings of choice for this composer ever since although necessarily through the vinyl medium until now.

The vinyl recordings are very hard to find nowadays befitting their 'collectibles' status. Prices for good to excellent quality discs can be very high indeed. If you are thinking of buying from Discogs, be sceptical of the quality descriptions offered, in other words do not rush in! If buying on e-Bay or from Oxfam / other second-hand stores (UK) be very wary indeed.

Arguably, this SCD set is the best on record, its main rival being Lorin Maazel's survey with the Vienna Philharmonic which again is on vinyl and still in great demand.

Comment by hiredfox - June 12, 2020 (18 of 20)

I have mixed feelings about this re-mastered edition ranging from ecstatic to disappointing. The original analogue recordings were made between 1975 and 1980 so quite a time span in terms of the performance of the orchestra, the skill of the recording team in capturing live performance and not least the quality of the surviving master tapes. I do not really wish to spend the time undertaking a forensic analysis of the 'when' and 'how' and the results here but it would probably be quite rewarding for anybody so inclined to do it.

The original recordings were not as variable in SQ as these transcriptions portray them so some things have been lost in translations, in some more than others. A speculators paradise. The original vinyl's were noted for their inky back backgrounds (lack of surface noise) and the stunning impact of orchestral sounds emerging from them which absolutely suited this repertoire.

The one's that work really well include Symphony 3, 4 and 6 & The Swan & Karelia. The most disappointing are No 2, 7 & Valse Triste. [IMO of course]

I do not want to be over-critical as we now have the youthful SCD's excellent vintage survey of the Finnish composers works on SA-CD and there is far more here to praise than scold. It is not a cheap set once import duties and taxes have been lumped in but worth every penny.

Comment by Dissonance - June 12, 2020 (19 of 20)

Wait a second hiredfox, are these live recordings? I thought all the sessions were made in studio, empty hall.

Comment by hiredfox - June 13, 2020 (20 of 20)

Hi. I meant 'live' in a more general sense than actually recorded in front of an audience. Apologies for any misunderstanding. John