Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Philharmonia/Järvi review – Järvi tames Nielsen’s wild masterpiece

The Guardian
Martin Kettle
14.04.2015
Paavo Järvi
Impassioned performance … Paavo Järvi. Photograph: Julien Hekimian/Getty Images
Even within my lifetime a Guardian critic could write a review complaining that Nielsen’s fourth symphony should not have been titled the “Inextinguishable” but the “Indistinguishable”. We are certainly more interested in and hopefully much wiser about Nielsen’s achievement now. And with two cycles of his symphonies – the other under Sakari Oramo – interweaved in London’s current concert season, Paavo Järvi’s impassioned performance of this craggy yet sweeping masterpiece was the best possible retort to an earlier era that struggled to get it about Nielsen’s individuality and metaphysical drive.
Few symphonies explode with such pent-up energy as Nielsen’s first world war-era assertion of what he saw as the embattled life force. A conductor must work hard to prevent the piece becoming so wild and relentless that its textures and motivic structure are lost. Järvi was equal to that challenge, hugely helped by some committed wind playing, which brought out the more angular dimensions of the score. But he never lost his grip either, and the awesomely executed duel of timpani thunderbolts across the orchestra in the final movement was not allowed to eclipse the compelling trajectory of Nielsen’s argument.
Järvi had begun with Haydn’s 88th symphony in G, a work that is musically and emotionally on another planet. Järvi’s big-band Haydn was a throwback in terms of modern performance practice, but the phrasing and wit of the symphony, a favourite of many early 20th-century conductors, came through just as irresistibly all the same. In between the symphonies, the notable young pianist Martin Helmchen gave a sparkling account of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto, which at times tended to go its own way rather than working in rapport with the orchestra. The rewards of Helmchen’s reading lay more in the exceptional detail and tonal range of his piano-playing, which was extremely impressive, than in the bigger Beethovenian picture, which never quite left the ground as one hoped.
http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/apr/14/philharmonia-jarvi-review-nielsen-royal-festival-hall

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