Great news! Arkivmusic.com has gotten its "on demand" hands on the Japanese RCA Ormandy Edition, making these recordings available in North America at far saner prices. Some of these performances are outstanding, nowhere more so than here--one of the greatest Sibelius recordings ever made. Eugene Ormandy's Fourth Symphony is magnificent: gaunt, direct, and unflinching, with stunning string playing and the most intelligent approach on disc to the percussion conundrum in the finale (chimes at the "sonore" climax, glockenspiel everywhere else). Some listeners might prefer a swifter tempo in the scherzo, but this interpretation is all of a piece, taking in the work as if in one sweeping gesture, and Sibelians will understand just what that means.
The Seventh also is a perfectly paced, immaculately played performance, with none of the mannerisms in the pastoral interlude that disturb Ormandy's first recording for Sony. As for the tone poems, there is no finer performance of Oceanides available anywhere, and Pohjola's Daughter is just about as good. Ormandy could come across as a somewhat stiff and unsmiling interpreter, but not here, and particularly not in music that requires an absolutely logical, indeed mathematical approach to tempo relationships between sections. Both in terms of performance quality and programming (Sibelius at his very greatest throughout), it just doesn't get any better.
The Japanese edition apparently used original unaltered sources, meaning the tapes were not remastered in any way, and so vary widely in sound quality--from very good, as here, to virtually unlistenable (Mahler Second). So until someone goes back and redoes them from scratch--and we may have a very long wait--you will have to buy selectively. These recordings, from the late 1970s, stand among the best-sounding of the lot. A magnificent release that you won't want to miss!—David Hurwitz