Saturday, November 18, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, CSO

"Only Britten’s own recording, with the London Symphony, is better." How's that for some high praise?
Elgar: Enigma Variations
Britten: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes
Cincinnati Symphony; Paavo Jrvi, conductor.
Telarc SACD-60660, Hybrid Multichannel SACD.

In the past two decades, the Cincinnati Symphony has become a world-class orchestra. It is fitting, then, that it record Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, originally composed for a 1946 educational film, Instruments of the Orchestra, when it was conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. The work gives every section of the orchestra, and most of the first-chair players, chances to shine, and that is exactly what the Cincinnati players do here. Only Britten’s own recording, with the London Symphony, is better. Conductor Paavo J�rvi handles the Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes with dramatic flair and an ear for bringing out different orchestral colors. Elgar’s Enigma Variations is absolutely idiomatic and first rate until the finale, which is a bit slow and lacking in shape. The sound is what we’ve come to expect from Telarc’s Cincinnati sessions: rich, warm, and full, with great clarity, a wide, deep soundstage, and just the right amount of reverb. The timpani in The Young Person’s Guide are awesome, and the organ in the finale of the Elgar makes its presence known without sounding like a solo instrument.

--Rad Bennett, Ultra Audio, Novemeber 1, 2006

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