Stravinsky: Petrouchka, L'Oiseau de feu - Järvi
Classical - Orchestral
Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Firebird Suite, Scherzo a la Russe
Michael Chertock (piano)
Cincinnatti Symphony Orchestra
Paavo Järvi (conductor)
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Review by John Broggio - March 25, 2006
This is a very disappointing disc but fortunately there are far, far better versions of the major works on SACD (Stravinsky: Petrouchka, Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances - Jansons and Stravinsky: L'Oiseau de feu - Dorati for a start.)
Starting with Petrouchka (tracks 1 - 4, one per Tableau), everything is immaculately presented and finely poised. However, throughout the first Tableau, Paavo Jarvi mistakes speed for excitement and the consequent performance has no urgency but rather an almost scared sounding Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. There is a corresponding lack of imagination and characterisation lacking for what can and should be an exhilarating experience. This is playing that sets out to be careful and precise as an end in itself rather than a way to explore the music. Another consequence is the curiously narrow dynamic range afforded the piece (the middle percussion is very muffled compared to the bass and high percussion), especially when compared to the RCO Live disc of the same piece; at no time would the listener be dared to stop breathing to catch the pianissimo's or have one's body resonating with the louder moments. This tedium is carried into the second Tableau and at this point I seriously found myself wondering if Paavo Jarvi had heard of things like phrasing, accents and counterpoint. I would go on (as the performance seems to) but I don't think that anyone will be surprised to hear that things do not improve in the remainder of the piece.
In the middle of disc, mercifully brief, is the Scherzo a la Russe. I say mercifully brief which is harsh as it is probably the best conducted item here. Still, the brevity of composition allows the disc to be under an hour (which is a good thing here). The conducting here is definitely better and the Cincinnati players sound as though they are having fun.
For the final part of the disc, we are presented with the 1919 suite of the Firebird. This should be a demonstration piece for the conductor, orchestra and recording team alike. The opening bodes well, with the subterrean opening played with silky smoothness. With the entrance of the woodwinds, all sense of daring quickly disappears and we are left a "safe" reading of a marvellous score (if you ever wondered how to make the Infernal Dance sound pedestrian, this disc does have something recommendable about it) which is well captured by the engineers in terms of placing instruments but, like Petrouchka, this has far too narrow a dynamic range imposed on it (orchestra, Jarvi, engineers, combination?) As before, a real shame.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net