Berlioz, Mozart and Beethoven end this first disc which concentrate on the joy, heroism and compassion and delight in nature rather than the darker dimensions of the human condition. However the movement from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony on the second disc reminds us that this work was first performed under the composer’s baton in 1813 at a charity concert in aid of those wounded at the battle of Hannau. Debussy, Sibelius, Mahler and Stravinsky stand alone as representatives of the early part of the twentieth century of true classics. Perhaps future recordings, using the same state of the art technology, could include works - not least from Britain and America - that have been written in the later twentieth and twenty first centuries. True classics have a future as well as a past!
The Debussy Prelude (Afternoon of a Faun) gives scope for the principal players to demonstrate their formidable technique. While the sinister excitement of Sibelius’s Finlandia leads us from the snowy waste land to the bright fields of Finnish uplands. The swelling pride of Finlandia’s great theme moves into a movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony, - a work so well known and yet rendered here with fresh energy and excitement - brass and percussion bringing the work to its triumphant conclusion, while the gentle solo interjections convey a pastoral idyll and rural values.
By contrast the dream world of the Berceuse from Stravinsky’s Fire Bird produces some shimmering playing from the strings and harp, delightful solo passages from horn and violin, with the whole diaphanous texture brought crashing down by the exuberance of timpani and trumpets. Mahler 5 is performed with all the gentle understanding that allows the mystery and the humanity of this slow movement to shine forth. And a movement from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony rounds off an impressive technological and musical enterprise with flair and panache making the most of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic palette.