Thursday, October 22, 2009

CSO, Telarc finish on top

By Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer • • October 22, 2009

Gustav Holst's "The Planets" is the final recording to come out of the historic collaboration of Telarc and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It is a monumental effort and a testament of the electrifying concerts led by Paavo Järvi in Music Hall in November 2008.

Japanese fans will be among the first to hear the album, which will be sold at the orchestra's concerts during its Japan tour, today through Nov. 5.

The album, Järvi's 16th for Telarc, pairs "The Planets" with Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," two of the best-known works of the 20th century by British composers.

"The Planets" is a seven-movement suite evoking the seven celestial bodies that were known in 1914. Holst, who dabbled in astrology, depicted each planet according to its astrological character, and the result is seven miniature tone poems. Järvi is masterful at capturing the essence of these "personalities," from subtle, glimmering shades of color to massive, relentless buildups. The CSO musicians execute it all brilliantly.

The recorded sound is spacious and realistic. There's the bracing, almost ferocious power of "Mars, the Bringer of War," written when Europe was on the brink of World War I, which is spectacular in the sonic splendor of Music Hall. It's followed by the shimmering colors of "Venus, the Bringer of Peace," with glowing strings, harp and celesta.

Each planet is vivid with atmosphere: "Mercury" sparkles; "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity," is bold, with flamboyant fanfares in the brass, a contrast to the noble English tune played so warmly by the strings. "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age," has a desolate quality, and Järvi's view is spacious and ever-powerful, as the movement builds and then dies away to the tinkle of Asian-sounding bells.

"Neptune, the Mystic" is an otherworldly, floating canvas, performed with wonderful lightness. The distant sound of the wordless chorus (Women of the May Festival Chorus) is exquisite.

The album is paired with Britten's showcase for the instruments of the orchestra, and the musicians give it a colorful reading.

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