Friday, January 05, 2007

CD REVIEW: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Beethoven Symphonies No. 3 and 8

This glowing review of Paavo's latest installment of the Beethoven Symphony Cycle with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen was published on January 4, 2006 in the Die Zeit, arguably the most prestigious newspaper in Germany:
Seize the Opportunity!

Classical: Paavo Järvi Conducts Two Beethoven Symphonies Splendidly

Once again a father vanishes from a biography. A few years ago, the Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi released a CD with Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, and in the liner notes you could still read that, as a 17-year-old, he had moved from Tallinn to the US with his father, conductor Neeme Järvi. Now Paavo Järvi is conducting his first Beethoven, and the result is an act of emancipation which is so brilliant that his vita in the CD booklet now completely obliterates his father's shadow. We are familiar with such breaking of parental ties from the Kleibers and the Sanderlings. Talent research will some day say that the genes run in the family.

"Järvi" means "lake" in English, but this lake never lies tranquil and still. On the contrary, it is a dangerous lake, with a current and shoals. It is a dynamic body of water with bubbling inlets; sometimes it is even high, yet you can always see the bottom. When Paavo Järvi and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen play the Finale of the 'Eroica,' their music-making does not slap clear varnish on the score, hermetically sealing it. Järvi opens up the texture; he turns the symphonic variation structure into a choral study, from which he later even extracts a perfect string quartet, as though the Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, op. 55, were an as-yet unknown neighbor of the three 'Razumovsky' Quartets, op. 59.

These insights become even clearer when Järvi risks an almost vibratoless Beethoven; nevertheless, its vibrancy is not lost. The energy does not whirl out of individual notes but flows from their arching slurs, from biting articulation and insistent legato. At times the sound is so light, on the other hand, it is as though the notes to be played are as hot as a stove top. Beethoven's metronome markings are observed with almost irritating brilliance, but this obedience does not follow a dispassionate general plan. Instead, the playing is as animated as the wind that wafts across the lake. It has been a long time since an orchestra has played Beethoven's Symphony based on a delicate wind sound with this much refinement. The crescendos, which appear out of the blue and border on the utopian, are magnificent. The recording technique also achieves a miracle, with its reproduction of chamber music-like inlays and linear curves.

The ensemble, to which the conductor issues the order to seize the opportunity, lands like a riot squad on the Symphony No. 8 in F major, op. 93, a masterpiece which is often considered trivial. Here one is even more astonished at the speed with which an energetic tutti pulls back to an eloquent piano. Dryness and power never seem to be slavishly bound together; this is a performance with fascinating spatial reverberations, with a finely chiseled symphonic grain. Historically informed competency, transformed into modernity. A reference recording.

For the visionary Beethoven, the twenty-first century is off to an excellent start. For Paavo Järvi as well; he is currently Music Director in Cincinnati and, since recently, with the [Frankfurt] Radio Symphony Orchestra. Not long ago, he was welcomed in Frankfurt by an oversized Paavo statue. Papa Neeme can be proud.

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