Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Symphonies: No. 5; No. 1
Paavo Järvi, cond; German CP
RCA 733835 (Hybrid Multichannel SACD: 54:53)
This CD, Volume 3 in Järvi’s set of all nine Beethoven symphonies, belongs to the subset designated “chamber orchestra, modern instruments (valve-less trumpets
excepted),” and as such competes with such luminaries as Harnoncourt, Mackerras, and Herreweghe. On the strength of this disc and the previous two, I’d suggest that this new one wouldn’t disappoint listeners who know the other cycles. The sound is exceptionally clear, with excellent instrumental definition and balance across the entire soundstage and between highs and lows. Please see James Reel’s feature in 31:4 for Järvi’s comments on this series and for a review of the first CD.
The opening movement of the Fifth (programmed first on the CD) preserves the mystery at the heart of the movement and avoids the simplistic extremes of either brute force or sheer speed adopted by too many conductors. The performance builds in intensity to the strong, stentorian horn phrase summoning the secondary theme in the major mode. The entire movement is characterized by a concern for balancing the power inherent in the music with sensitivity to the transformative strength of Beethoven’s deceptively simple materials.
Järvi’s second movement is a model of how to project the
of Beethoven’s tempo marking: the basic pulse is well within the overall Andante indication while the string subgroups play against it by breaking it into faster units. There is constant animation here, yet the effect is of a slow movement, providing respite from the hectic energy of the first movement and the unsubtle menace of the Scherzo.
There is no loss of power in the Scherzo from the 40-odd musicians of this ensemble, while the clarity provided by the reduced forces and the excellent sound allows careful examination of Beethoven’s ingenious orchestration. The horns are again the purveyors of commanding power while the timpani anchor the sound without dominating it. Järvi opts for elimination of the repeat, adding to the concentrated energy of this brief but ominous prelude to the triumphant last movement. From a perfectly judged transition the majestic finale never needs to blare out its main theme. Järvi’s is as satisfying a performance of this still revolutionary music as I’ve encountered in some time.
In the performance of the First Symphony, the opening is at first tentative, then dreamy, leading to an Allegro con brio that is exhilarating but never seems merely hasty. Precision and clarity are again the watchwords, but the
is never slighted. The Andante is elegant, both songlike and animated as per the marking, and perfectly characterizing Beethoven’s sunniest slow movement. The boisterous Menuetto is played with repeat intact, and its rambunctious qualities are fully exploited.
After a suitably exploratory introduction, the irrepressible finale is off and running; as with the first movement, the clarity of inner voices is never lost in the exuberance of the tempo. I doubt that I’ve ever heard a truly bad recording of this symphony, but I can say that this is one of the most entertaining versions, played with élan and expert musicianship.
I implied in a review of Beethoven symphonies conducted by Philippe Herreweghe (32:1) that Järvi’s were lightweight by comparison. As I become more familiar with Järvi’s cycle, my previous assessment seems presumptuous at the very least. There is nothing lightweight about either of these two excellent new performances.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
German Chamber Philharmonic
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria
Symphony no 1 in C major, Op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven
German Chamber Philharmonic
Written: 1800; Vienna, Austria
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