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Baltic Portraits / Paavo Jarvi, Cincinnati Symphony

Tuur / Sallinen / Cincinnati Sym Orch / Jaarvi
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Fanfare Cincinnati   Catalog #: 946  
Composer:  Erkki-Sven TüürAulis SallinenEsa-Pekka SalonenArvo Pärt,   ... 
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 0 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BALTIC PORTRAITS Paavo Järvi, cond; Cincinnati SO CSO MEDIA 946 (60:06) Live: Cincinnati 2002–2011

TÜÜR Fireflower. SALLINEN Symphony No. 8. SALONEN Gambit. PÄRT Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten. SUMERA Symphony Read more No. 6

Here is a fascinating selection of music written by composers hailing from the lands surrounding the Baltic Sea, all recorded in concert during Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi’s 10-year tenure as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. This is the second release on the orchestra’s own label after the hugely fruitful relationship with Telarc came to an end. (Many of those recordings still remain in the catalog as reminder of when that label was an artistic institution and not just a business proposition.) As with the initial American Portraits release, this new CD offers works from off the beaten path. This collection is no more likely to please the buyer looking for the safe and well-tested repertoire than was the first, but for the collector wishing fine performances of unfamiliar works, this is a find.

Not all of these are premiere recordings. Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten has had at least 13 recordings, and more than twice that many releases. Dennis Russell Davies’s poised account on ECM—the first on disc—has the virtue of not lingering so long as to overstretch the elegantly simple fabric of the downward cascading phrases. At two minutes longer than Davies’s five, Järvi’s latest version flirts with this, and is so forcefully played at the end—a characteristic of an earlier recording with the Estonian National Symphony on Virgin, as well—that it nearly overwhelms this simple expression of grief. Still, a reasonable outing, but best of all is the oft-overlooked Richard Studt on EMI/Classics for Pleasure.

The two symphonies on this disc, the eighth and latest of Aulis Sallinen and the sixth and last of Lepo Sumera, have also had previous outings, on cpo and BIS, respectively. Fine as is fellow Finn Ari Rasilainen’s raw-boned performance of the Sallinen Eighth, Järvi’s account of this collage-like single-movement symphony subtitled “Autumnal Fragments” is preferable. Richly colorful, and despite the large orchestra generally subtle in effect, the symphony is both better played by the Cincinnati Symphony and more strikingly coherent in Järvi’s hands. This latter is no small feat, as Sallinen’s fascination with the potential of expressive musical fragments places a special burden on the conductor to maintain a symphonic flow. Järvi and the orchestra do so brilliantly: exploring each sketch in isolation, while never losing forward momentum, and moving inexorably to the contained anguish of the 9/11 reflection at the end most movingly.

Sumera’s last symphony, completed the year of his untimely death, is also beautifully realized, the haunting dreamlike clouds of strings and tuned percussion threatened and then overwhelmed by powerful orchestral convulsions; the flute and strings in the Andante second movement suggesting a transfiguration after death that is too hard to ignore given the circumstances. In this case, the competition is Järvi’s earlier recording with the Estonian National Symphony. If the first impression is notably the most stirring, aided by superbly realistic sound, this new recording is in no way disappointing, and is certainly the more dramatically played.

The program includes two shorter works not otherwise available on disc. Fireflower , an explosive, and ultimately percussive, orchestral fanfare written by Erkki-Sven Tüür, was a 10th-anniversary present for Järvi and the orchestra, and was recorded at the conductor’s final concert as music director. Gambit , a concert overture of Stravinskian/Bernsteinian pedigree by Esa-Pekka Solonen, is a work of great energy, virtuosity, and volume.

As with the previous CSO Media issue, the recordings come from broadcasts produced by Cincinnati Public Radio, and mastered and produced for release by Michael Bishop and Thomas C. Moore, both for Five/Four Productions, formerly of the legendary Telarc Records production team. For anyone who is not allergic to modern tonal music of a slightly challenging sort, this is way too interesting to pass up.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Fireflower by Erkki-Sven Tüür
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Symphony no 8, Op. 81 "Autumnal Fragments" by Aulis Sallinen
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2001; Finland 
Gambit by Esa-Pekka Salonen
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1998 
Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; Estonia 
Symphony no 6 by Lepo Sumera
Conductor:  Paavo Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; Estonia 

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