Tuesday, February 02, 2010

CD Pick of the Week: Paavo Järvi with Beethoven's Second and Sixth

by Jens F. Laurson
Classical WETA 90.9 Blog

For the full article, check out the WETA website:

Paavo Järvi’s Beethoven continues at just about the level that it began with when the Eroica and Eigth Symphony were released. (WETA CD Pick of the Week in December) In this case it is the Sixth, “Pastorale” and Second Symphony. Comparison between Järvi, Vanska (BIS), and Abbado (Rome 2001, DG) suggests that the Pastorale-interpretations seem to converge on very fast, brisk’n’crisp versions, no matter the orchestra (Bremen Chamber Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, a reduced-size Berlin Philharmonic, respectively) or the style and age of conductor...

...Perhaps it surprises that the newer recordings of Speedmaster Järvi and Excitemeister Vänskä are slower than Abbado’s. Vänskä is brisk at 42 minutes (all three conductors take all repeats), but Abbado shaves nearly three minutes even off that time. Vänskä’s Sixth is a solidly-superb part of his cycle, but not the highlight. Abbado’s Sixth is ravishing, but in some ways Järvi manages to one-up him, still—his attacks are so explosive, his dynamic changes so sudden, his orchestra so detailed that he doesn’t need to outrun Abbado to appear quicker. Whether that makes for a better Sixth or not is a matter of preference.

Incidentally Järvi’s firecracker Second Symphony that shares the Sixths disc-space is even more obviously special… an interpretation that jolts me out of my indifference toward that symphony and makes an immediately convincing case about how radical the Second must have looked at the time. Järvi’s Beethoven-cycle has quickly become a favorite of mine; perched at the top together with Vänskä (BIS)...but more than just being a bracingly excellent complete cycle, Järvi is particularly strong on the front-three, which have are now all my favorite version.

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