Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CD REVIEW: Dvořák/Martinů

CSO's 'New World' radiates warmth
by Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, September 27, 2005

Dvořák, Symphony No. 9 in E Minor ("From the New World"). Martinů, Symphony No. 2.
Paavo Järvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Telarc A.

With this radiant new CD, Järvi continues a strand of earlier CSO recordings, which pair seemingly disparate but, on closer inspection, related works.

He began with Finnish composer Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 and the Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius' Baltic neighbor, Estonian Eduard Tubin.

Another was Stravinsky's elemental The Rite of Spring, paired with Danish composer Carl Nielsen's near-contemporaneous Symphony No. 5 (1922).

Jarvi's latest venture with the CSO and Telarc unites Czech countrymen Antonin Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů.

(His next with the CSO, the Concertos for Orchestra by Bela Bartok and Witold Lutoslawski, will be released by Telarc later this season.)

Dvořák and Martinů have more in common than their Czech heritage.

Both spent time in the U.S., Dvořák from 1892-95 when he was director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, Martinů from 1941-53 as a refugee from his homeland.

Dvořák's New World Symphony and Martinů's Symphony No. 2 were both composed in America.

Jarvi's traversal of the much-recorded New World Symphony is exceptional for both its transparency and feeling.

There is no detail of the score that he has not brought to light and made a part of his sound canvas, which glows with an old-new world warmth.

The first movement is fresh as a morning breeze, the gentle flute theme (recalling "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot") taken at a relaxed tempo for a sweetly nostalgic effect.

The famous Largo, with its plangent English horn solo, exudes homesickness but without pain, the reality of separation underlined by the emphatic final statement of the brass chorale.

The third movement is light-footed and mirthful, with frothy trills in the woodwinds, and Järvi really pulls it off in the finale, where he follows the serious opening with three-against-two rhythms in the contrasting theme that fairly rock.

Martinů's Second Symphony (1942) is drenched with color, from the mystical, faraway harmonies of opening movement to the more here-and-now finale, whose jazzy rhythms evoke Broadway.

Järvi and his players, complete with piano and harp, revel in it, creating showers of sparkles as well as more gauzy textures, keeping its optimistic tone always to the fore.

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