Intense and Very Interesting (2008-11-08)
Jarvi and his Bremen forces give us intense readings of these two warhorses that I find extremely interesting in my first couple of hearings. The chamber orchestra digs into the scores with relish. Tempos are fleet and the orchestra sonority highlights woodwind and brass detail. The modern strings use reduced vibrato, resulting in tone color that is akin to period instruments. I don't know if small bore brass instruments are used, but they certainly produce some nice snarls and burrs.
The Fifth gets a fast paced performance that reminds me of Benjamin Zander's Telarc reading. It is all very exciting and very exuberant - more the "Revolution" than the "Fate" Symphony. The first movement is fast paced and dramatic. The Andante con moto moves along at a good clip. It works in context but a little more relaxation would have been welcome. The Scherzo is handled interestly. The transition to the Finale is more spritely than spooky, a refreshing interpretive choice. The blazing Finale is played somewhat slower than the norm (again recalling Zander), an indication that Jarvi trusts Beethoven's metronome markings.
The performance of the First is ear opening. This is not a Haydnesque reading, but one that looks forward to the future. It is a cheeky (almost raucous) performance, not courtly, and full of unbuttoned humor. The cross rhythms are well handled and there is a wealth of woodwind and brass detail here as well. The Andante con moto cantabile may be closer to an Allegretto and a little short on "singing" quality, but a fascinatingly different take.
The SACD multi-channel sound is excellent. I am already looking forward to the release of the final two installments of the cycle. I have also collected Vanska's rival SACD cycle of the symphonies on BIS. Those performances are more traditional, large orchestra readings. Jarvi is more in your face. Both remind us of just how wonderful these repertory staples can be when played with commitment and freshness.