It may be that Mariss Jansons is incapable of releasing a new recording of music that he hasn't done before, but this disc at least has the distinction of being the orchestra's first recording of the "Leningrad" Symphony, and that may be enough for some listeners. Haitink's Decca recording, you may recall, was made with the LPO before the series switched its base of operations to Amsterdam. Certainly this has to be the most purely beautiful version of the piece on disc. The playing is richly upholstered, with stunning contributions from the solo flute and bassoon in the first and third movements. Even the most overwhelming climaxes ride on a rich carpet of string sonority.
Compared to Jansons' last rendition, made almost two decades ago with the (then) Leningrad Philharmonic for EMI, tempos have slowed by a couple of minutes in each movement, and the razor-sharp articulation and "Russian" extremes of dynamics are largely gone. Indeed, you may feel that the brass just aren't powerful enough for the big climaxes in the first movement and finale, and that the interpretation has become too polite. But with the music's flow still effectively captured in atmospheric sonics (in both stereo and surround formats), it's hard not to be seduced.
I do wish that Jansons had controlled his impulse to speed up in the closing pages, and there are a few moments (such as a couple of bars before figure 55 in the first movement) where a generous crescendo to a very full fortissimo suggests that the performance lies a bit too much within the orchestra's comfort zone. These are small but telling points. For this reason, I still prefer Jansons' first recording of this symphony, but if you want to hear the Concertgebouw play the music with its customary warmth and polish, then you'll get your wish with this new version. RCO's graphic design work, by the way, still sets the industry standard for cheap and ugly.