Wednesday, December 09, 2009

CD Pick of the Week: Paavo Järvi with Beethoven's Third and Eighth

Paavo Järvi, Picture © Julia Baier

...As it turns out, these new, leaner Eroicas are well worth getting . Happily, no scrappage bonus is required; we can get them and keep our Kleiber (Erich) and Kletzki and Böhm and even Bernstein. The lean one under review here isn’t all that new anymore and if I’ve been tardy in writing about it, it’s only because I wasn’t sure my words could do it justice. Meticulous cross-comparison ensued in trying to get it all right and in the end I had nothing but papers with scribbled bar numbers (music, not imbibing establishments), tempo comparisons, and exclamation points.

I’m scrapping all ­that to simply say it how it is: Paavo Järvi’s disc with the Third Symphony of Beethoven (and a nearly equally zany Eighth) performed by the German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen is stunning. One of those recordings that, after having listened to something like four dozen other Eroicas, you didn’t think would come along. If the phrase “blow your socks off” ever made sense, it does here. This is a brisk, bold, head-on performance. Järvi smacks the symphony into your face with a force that it makes Osmo Vänskä’s take (BIS) sound nearly tame. And my hitherto favorite Gardiner (Archiv), the only one to take all the repeats and still clock in below Järvi (44:29 to 45:03), ends up sounding rather breezy, as if Gardiner didn’t really mean to speed. Using a 28-player string section (8-7-5-5-3), Järvi’s Chamber Orchestra sounds to be in complete control of the work, too, whereas Gardiner’s HIP forces (tuned lower by a half step, give or take a few Herz of wiggle-room) sound more authentically, if not necessarily more appropriately, challenged.


Since the Eroica-economy is not a zero sum game, I ask to be left dabbling happily in the multitudes, enjoying each one, depending on my mood. All of which goes to show that many ways lead to Rome… but only Järvi takes a motorcycle.

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