SIBELIUS: SYMPHONIES NOS. 4 and 7. Paavo Berglund conducts the Helsinki Philharmonic. Angel DS-38135 (digital). Though the Helsinki Philharmonic didn't sound this good on its U.S. tour several years ago, these performances of two of Sibelius' finest works are surging, growling, singing, charged with energy and vitality, distinguished by an unerring sense of tempo and shading. They must be among the best performances of these two on the market today.
LISZT: "A FAUST SYMPHONY: TWO EPISODES FROM LENAU'S 'FAUST.' " John Aler, tenor. James Conlon conducts the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Erato NUM 751582 (digital), two discs. Conlon, in his second season as music director at Rotterdam, draws a lean and brilliant performance of the overlong "Faust" Symphony and colorfully played episodes (including "Mephisto" Waltz) after Lenau's "Faust." Good sound puts this up with the best in the field.
LUCIE VELLERE: STRING QUARTET NO. 3. SARAH ADERHOLDT: STRING QUARTET. RUTH SCHONTHAL: STRING QUARTET. AMY BEACH: STRING QUARTET, OPUS 79. Crescent Quartet. Leonarda LPI 111. This is a self-consciously "liberated" disc, with an ensemble of women giving exemplary performances of four short quartets composed by women composers between 1929 and 1978. Most interesting are the classically oriented work by Vellere, the imaginative piece by Aderholdt, with its minimalist, mystical overtones, and the post-Romantic quartet by Beach, based on Eskimo themes.