Tuesday, January 13, 2009

January 3, 2009

Financial Times FT.com


Symphonies 1 & 5

RCA Red Seal

Both these conductors - Järvi with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Boyd with the Manchester Camerata - are old enough to know their way round the Beethoven symphonies but young enough to have absorbed the stylistic fashions of our time. Boyd played oboe when Nikolaus Harnoncourt recorded his visionary Beethoven cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but as a conductor he eschews Harnoncourt's risk-taking in favour of a more classical approach: this doesn't sound like music intent on breaking boundaries. Too often the Camerata lacks energy and edge; string tone is thin. The upside is that the phrasing is sweet, notably so in the slow movement of the Seventh Symphony. In such a competitive field, more is required - and Järvi provides it. His readings, with a chamber orchestra no bigger than Boyd's, are weighty but nimble, energetic and refined, stylish and undogmatic. Revealing, too: in Järvi's hands the First and Fifth Symphonies lie closer to each other than tradition suggests. He and his superior orchestra crown this CD with an exemplary transition into the finale of the Fifth, passing with flying colours one of the key tests of the Beethoven canon. On this reckoning they deserve their invitation to give a complete Beethoven cycle at the 2009 Salzburg festival.

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