Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Review: Mahler – 4 Movements/Paavo Järvi
Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood
Listening to three of these four symphonic movements is akin to looking at sketches from an artist’s studio, and when brought together these substantial drafts, together with the all-encompassing Adagio, make an interesting release.
Totenfeier is to all intents and purposes the first movement of his Second Symphony, ‘Resurrection’, with a few slight structural alterations. Paavo Järvi gives an impressive heft to the opening passage for cellos and double basses, setting the tone and unfolding an extremely well-played account, if slightly missing the roughness demanded by Mahler’s more wildly-written passages. Textures are clean, helped by an excellent recording, though this does mean there are occasions where the interpretation feels earthbound, particularly when Järvi holds back the tempo before the woodwind play the second theme. This brings the most noticeable passage of rubato, the movement unfolding at a steady tempo, emphasising the orderly progression. The lone trumpet, switching from major back to minor at the close of the movement, is most affecting.
The disc’s layout would be better with two shortest movements played next, the mood lightened by a colourful, fresh faced account of Blumine (originally part of Symphony No.1) before the warm oboe solo that begins ‘What The Wild Flowers Tell Me’ (from Symphony No.3 and heard here in Benjamin Britten’s arrangement). Both movements bring out Järvi’s ability to set a poetic scene, conducting this music as if it were outdoors, and by so doing telling the story of Mahler’s wonderment at natural beauty. The orchestral textures are spacious, and ‘Blumine’ has a nice lilt to it.
The opening Adagio of Symphony No.10 is also beautifully played, with careful attention to detail that makes even the most complex textures and counterpoint easy to follow. The silvery violas usher in the theme at a tempo that veers perhaps more towards an Andantino than an Adagio, but Järvi has a close grip on the structure of this music and paces the gradual build-up extremely well, sometimes quickening the pulse but moving inexorably towards the great chord of the climax. When this arrives, the layers are carefully shaded, so that while there may not be the overwhelming emotional impact of other versions, the effect is undeniably impressive.
This is Järvi’s first recorded thoughts on Mahler, and bode extremely well should he decide to take-on more of the composer’s symphonies. Not that another complete Mahler cycle is what an already overcrowded marketplace needs – but this release is a very good way of augmenting a collection of the symphonies, to hear more of the workings behind them.