Sunday, September 24, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, Cincinnati Symphony

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand reviews the Cincinnati Symphony's newest CD under Paavo's tenure today.
Järvi, CSO release refined 10th album
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, September 24, 2006

The combination of extraordinary playing and the superb acoustics of Music Hall make the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's latest all-British album a showstopper.

For his 10th album with the Cincinnati Symphony, music director Paavo Järvi has put his vivid personal stamp on a disc of best-loved music of the British repertoire.

The album, in stores Tuesday, includes Sir Edward Elgar's "Enigma" Variations, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and the "Four Sea Interludes" from "Peter Grimes."

It is perhaps the most refined playing of this ensemble to date and another example of a musical chemistry that works.

Not just for children, Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" showcases individual instruments of the orchestra in an inventive set of variations on a theme by Henry Purcell.

Orchestral soloists play with flair, notably the flutes, clarinet, bassoon and trumpet, and Järvi captures its youthful quality with spirited tempos and humorous touches.

The concluding fugue - traveling through every section of the orchestra - comes off as a flourish.

Although the theme to Elgar's "Enigma" Variations remains an enigma. Each of the 13 variations is a caricature of a person Elgar knew. The conductor's view is warm and rich with detail, expressive yet never overly romanticized, and the character of each piece is portrayed vividly.

There's a refreshing spontaneity to this performance. The seventh variation, Presto, is a display of impressive feats for timpani and brass, and the famous Nimrod movement unfolds exquisitely from an intimate pianissimo to an expansive climax.

Järvi leads the work in one expansive arc, and the final statement of the theme is truly majestic in Music Hall's acoustical space. The recording's dynamic range is so broad, though, you may have to turn up the sound in the softest passages.

Also on the disc, Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from the opera "Peter Grimes," captures all the atmosphere and mystery of this morose opera that takes place in an English fishing village.

"Sunday Morning" is a vibrant portrait, with its busy themes illuminated by crystal-clear textures, and punctuated by church bells.

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