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Igor STRAVINSKY (1882 - 1971)
The Rite of Spring (complete ballet) (1913, rev. 1947) [35.22]
Carl NIELSEN (1865 - 1931)

Symphony No. 5 , Op.50 (1922) [37.46]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi.
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, January 25th – 26th, and February 22nd – 23rd, 2004. DDD
TELARC CD-80615 [73’08"]

 

This appears to be Järvi’s sixth CD for Telarc since he took over from Jesus Lopez-Cobos a few years ago, and he seems to have developed a higher profile, certainly in the U.K., than his predecessor. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra always has been a highly capable ensemble, although never in the "Big Five" league. Nowadays, with the general uplift in playing standards, there is very little difference and Telarc has concentrated their recording activities on two such ensembles, in Cincinnati and Atlanta, with others making up the total. The advantage of this is that the engineers can optimise results within the halls without having to find the best microphone positioning each time a new venue is chosen. Make no mistake, these two performances are absolutely superb as far as technical quality is concerned.

Two outstanding 20th Century masterpieces have been chosen for this release, although I find the coupling a little strange as the orchestral language of the two composers is quite different.

In The Rite of Spring (first on the disc) the performance of the ballet sounds rather tame. This is more to do with the expertise of the orchestra than anything else; there is no struggle with the score. I suppose that this is more a modern phenomenon as youth orchestras can nowadays turn in very creditable performances of this masterpiece. Järvi certainly has mastered the score, and turns in a very well prepared performance.

However, because of the preparation or perhaps, over-preparation of the score, The Rite takes on a too comfortable atmosphere and it does not thrill as I know it can. This is a great shame as the issue deserves to do well, given all of the technical expertise lavished upon it from engineers and musicians alike.

The market is just too competitive for this disc to be first choice although I know many music lovers who would be delighted to own it, were it not for the other eighty or so versions listed in the RED catalogue. It really has to be something special to compete effectively with all of these, and I am afraid that it does not.

I suppose this is the dilemma of the record companies, and to be fair, Telarc’s somewhat novel coupling may result in a few more sales.

The Nielsen No. 5 is one of the most disturbing scores in the repertoire, given that its raison d’être is the struggle between side drummer and whole orchestra which forms the basis of the first movement. Here, the competition is less severe, there being only thirty odd other performances available.

Again, playing and engineering cannot be faulted. Indeed, the balance between side drum and orchestra is nigh on perfect, and much the same can be said for the rest of the disc. The same fault as with The Rite of Spring is also clearly evident, and this is a shame. Paavo Järvi is also competing with his father, Neeme, whose performance with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for DG has more of the gut-wrenching excitement than the current disc raises.

All the same this disc can be recommended for the standards of playing and engineering.

John Phillips

 



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