Symphony No.4
London Symphony Orchestra Sir Colin Davis

Symphony No.5 
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields Sir Neville Marriner 


There could not have been two such different conductors as Sir Colin Davis and Sir Neville Marriner – Davis, certainly by his own admission, in his early days at least, all fiery temperament and Marriner, calm, genteel and elegant. The enterprising Alto label here does the music world a great service by uniting the two conductors in these previously hard-to-get recordings. 

Davis’s 4th was originally available only in a 13-CD LSO Live boxed set, while Marriner’s 5th with the ASMF, presumably augmented beyond its Mozartian size, was on the long deleted, and much missed, Collins Classics label.

Davis’s Fourth is full of fury and terror and generally quick, but he never allows the music to run away with its violence. He brings out the dance like character of the third movement and there is a terrible malevolence to it, allowing us to see how close it is to Satan’s Dance in Job. The LSO are simply terrific, particularly the brass. The finale has a disturbing swagger to it and the final thud comes as a relief. The composer’s own recording (now available on various labels) is notoriously violent, Davis certainly gives him a run for his money. 

Marriner, known mainly for music of earlier periods, had quite a wide repertoire especially when conducting in Europe. His approach to the 5th is revelatory. All of the lines are crystal clear, not that easy in modal counterpoint. It has a beatific radiance when needed, which in this work is quite often, but surprisingly also a steely determination.  

The Scherzo is terrific, taken at a real Presto and not the Allegro that so often happens, it is also ‘misterioso’ as directed and some brass interjections come as genuine surprises. The glorious Romanza is, well, glorious! The string sound is rich and the solo cor anglais phrases the great tune elegantly and with just the right amount of pathos. The chorale chords on the wind are wonderfully together, which is not always the case. Marriner controls the many climaxes in the symphony perfectly. I wish he had recorded more of the symphonies as he clearly had a great affinity for this music.

The disc at super budget price and has useful liner notes by Jeffrey Davis and James Murray. What’s not to like?

Review by Paul RW Jackson