When the roll-call of audacious classical CD companies is taken
Telarc will be there in the line-up. They merit their place not least
for their Szymanowski and Hartmann recordings. This disc is in the same
vein. True to market imperatives we have Sibelius's Second Symphony but
also in there is Eduard Tubin's Fifth Symphony. Both works have been recorded
by Neeme Järvi, Paavo's father. While the catalogues heave and strain
with alternative versions of the Sibelius, the Tubin is accessible in
only two alternative versions, one by Volmer (Alba) and the other on Bis
(the original 1980s Tubin cycle conducted by Neeme Järvi).
Sibelius Second: The sad thing is that from the first
bar of the first movement the message is one that is seriously undernourished
in the tension department. This is several handfuls of seconds longer
even than the distended DG version (currently on Panorama) conducted
by Karajan pupil, Okko Kamu. While there are some sable and amber half-lights
and gracious peacefulness in the second movement, especially at the
start, the whole lacks fizz. The recording is subtly shaded and the
softs are amongst the tenderest and most beautifully balanced I have
ever heard. Sadly though this flaccidly dreamy approach does not work
for me. I still recommend Barbirolli (Chesky, not the EMI version),
Sakari (Naxos), Collins (Beulah if you can find a copy) or Vänskä
Tubin wrote his Fifth a couple of years after leaving
Estonia and settling in Sweden. It carries the stamp of Shostakovich
in the remorselessness that stalks and judders through the first movement
and even in the wispy violin solo that floats up at 5.15 in the first
movement. This is probably the best recorded version by comparison with
Bis and Alba. The subtle shading evinced by the Sibelius is still there
(try the whispered high cycling of the divisi violins in the
finale at 3.15) but here the performance has so much more bite and vinegar.
This is a very good interpretation and it sounds to me as if Järvi
was gripped by the work.
Not a Sibelius Second I could recommend. It might appeal
to those who like their Sibelius languid. The Tubin is a quite different
proposition - admirably taut, defiant and sturdy.