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Discussion: Elgar: Enigma Variations, Britten: Young Person's Guide - Paavo Järvi

Posts: 34
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Post by mwagner1962 September 28, 2006 (1 of 34)
I am going to further elaborate my impressions of this particular SACD, as my thoughts have changed somewhat since my initial review.

I will state that this Jarvi/Cincinnati SACD is quite as disappointing as I first thought. Now, I will not change my initial ratings as I still feel that they are appropriate for this particular recording.

I have struggled to determine what exactly is/was bothering me, first about the sound and then about the interpretations. I will categorically state that I am a huge fan of Telarc and the 65 or so Telarc SACDs in my library proves that fact. However, I thought some about what possibly might be wrong....

Now, I listened to this SACD several times a day over three days. At first I did not listen to any other Jarvi/Cinci SACDs at first, but now I have. I will state that now the main issue with this SACD is the inconsistency in sound throughout the disc. For instance, I listened to the Jarvi/Cinci Nielsen 5. I also listened to several other SACDs. After listening to these other SACDs, it is here where I started to feel that I was discovering what I was hearing on the Britten/Elgar....an inconsistent quality to the sound. Whereas the sound on the Nielsen and others was consistently superb, the sound on the Britten fluctuated between the superb (detail, transparency, etc) to hazy and opaque......sometimes within the same movement!!! Sometimes the string sound was down right glassy, as was the trumpet sound (brittle at times)....yet when we get to the string section and trumpet section features, the sound is superb!!!! HUH???

What is so incredibly frustrating for me is that at times the SACD sounds killer, then there are times I wonder what was going on in the recording booth??? VERY sad!!!

My next set of thoughts deal with the performances themselves. While I will stand by my original statements on both the Britten "Four Sea Interludes" and the Fugue from the "Young Person's Guide", the rest of the music is fine to excellent. I still truly love the Elgar "Enigma Variations" and a fair portion of the "Young Person's Guide" is also very nice.....still, not enough for me to declare this a winner.

I now think that I will stick with this conductor/orchestra for a while longer. I will not let one semi-disappointing recording spoil this, as I already have a number of other excellent Jarvi/Cincinnati recordings. I hope that whatever went slightly off-kilter on this recording (my opinion, which I get to express as I paid $20 for this recording) hope will be fixed when Telarc comes to Cincinnati again!!!!

Cheers,

Post by krisjan September 29, 2006 (2 of 34)
I listened to the Britten pieces last night (Elgar still to come). I listen in stereo SACD. I think this disc is sonically very good. My only quibble is that the high strings sound a little veiled and fizzy to me. Everything else is excellent, especially the brass, woodwinds and percussion which sound so life-like its spooky. The (in)famous Telarc bass drum is present in all its glory. One thing that really struck me about the sonics is the low end bloom that this recording evinces. It is so much like what one hears in a concert hall and that many recordings fail to capture. I did not find the sound variable at all.

The performances of the Britten pieces are also very good. I had not listened to the Youngs Person's Guide in ages and it was great to hear it again. Jarvi's performance really drew me in and kep my attention. His handling of the transition in the final fugue was perfect. The Sea Interludes were also wonderfully played. I gues we will just agree to disagree about the Britten performances on this release. I look forward to the Elgar.
Mark

Post by Edvin November 16, 2006 (3 of 34)
Dear Daland,

I have read your review of the Britten/Elgar sacd and your comments about my review should be here on the forum instead.
When you say that this music is universal you are, of course, right. That is not what I am questioning. I can imagine people coming to this music for the first time and appreciating it a lot from this recording, but my role as a reviewer is different.

You say that "interpretation is a matter of taste rather than nationality". It depends, I say. It depends on how deep you want to analyze the music and music making. Every composer worth his salt reveal the origin of his country. Except the very few great German composers during the 20th century I would say. Killing off the talent was not a very good idea.

If I hear some Swedish music I can spot instantly if its played by a Swedish musician or not. It is that little extra where the idiom comes forth. Music is not an isolated world. When I hear, say, Wirén i also hear some of the Swedish society of his times. A foreign musician can play the music brilliantly, but he/she maybe has not the history in the bones. Elgar is surely one of the most English of composers. You can play his music straight without fearing that the qualities are lost to any larger degree. But if you want to portrait the Elgar within his environment you have to dig deeper. Elgar was very much a child of his time and had many different facets in his personality. Today the busy conductors probably never stops to really learn about the man behind the music.

There was a discussion before about Bartok and his Concerto for Orchestra. Opinions were divided and some liked the Kocsis very much, others found it a bit hard driven. But all agreed that it was the most Hungarian-sounding of all. Then if you like that or not is another matter. But there is a stamp of "correctness" about it that most others don´t have.
Thomas

Post by flyingdutchman November 16, 2006 (4 of 34)
Edvin said:

Dear Daland,

I have read your review of the Britten/Elgar sacd and your comments about my review should be here on the forum instead.
When you say that this music is universal you are, of course, right. That is not what I am questioning. I can imagine people coming to this music for the first time and appreciating it a lot from this recording, but my role as a reviewer is different.

You say that "interpretation is a matter of taste rather than nationality". It depends, I say. It depends on how deep you want to analyze the music and music making. Every composer worth his salt reveal the origin of his country. Except the very few great German composers during the 20th century I would say. Killing off the talent was not a very good idea.

If I hear some Swedish music I can spot instantly if its played by a Swedish musician or not. It is that little extra where the idiom comes forth. Music is not an isolated world. When I hear, say, Wirén i also hear some of the Swedish society of his times. A foreign musician can play the music brilliantly, but he/she maybe has not the history in the bones. Elgar is surely one of the most English of composers. You can play his music straight without fearing that the qualities are lost to any larger degree. But if you want to portrait the Elgar within his environment you have to dig deeper. Elgar was very much a child of his time and had many different facets in his personality. Today the busy conductors probably never stops to really learn about the man behind the music.

There was a discussion before about Bartok and his Concerto for Orchestra. Opinions were divided and some liked the Kocsis very much, others found it a bit hard driven. But all agreed that it was the most Hungarian-sounding of all. Then if you like that or not is another matter. But there is a stamp of "correctness" about it that most others don´t have.
Thomas

Disagree totally. To say Americans can't play British or Czech or Russian music idiomatically is pure bunk. Same to be said of Brits, etc., playing American music.

Post by Edvin November 16, 2006 (5 of 34)
Why did you copy my text when it was above?

There are a lot of examples proving you wrong. Copland , or CBS, chose London orchestras when he recorded much of his music. A pity since the ones he did in USA was far better, i.e. the complete Appalachian Spring, The Tender Land suite and the suite from App. Spr. in Boston.
All the Bernstein recordings of American music made with NYPO are far better idiomatically than the ones made in Europe. The latter haven´t got the swagger.
I could go on for ever.

Post by seth November 16, 2006 (6 of 34)
Edvin said:

Why did you copy my text when it was above?

There are a lot of examples proving you wrong. Copland , or CBS, chose London orchestras when he recorded much of his music. A pity since the ones he did in USA was far better, i.e. the complete Appalachian Spring, The Tender Land suite and the suite from App. Spr. in Boston.
All the Bernstein recordings of American music made with NYPO are far better idiomatically than the ones made in Europe. The latter haven´t got the swagger.
I could go on for ever.

There are so many examples that go both ways that make this argument irrelevant.

Certainly British orchestras, like the BBC, benefit from playing Elgar and Britten disproportionately more than any other orchestra in the world; ditto of Czech orchestras and Dvorak and Smetana. So it's more about how nationality requires them to perform the music by domestic composers often.

Ultimately, the idiom of a performance is up to the conductor. Look at how Mackerras has been the Janacek authority for over 30 years, having made many Janacek recordings with Vienna.

Post by Windsurfer November 16, 2006 (7 of 34)
Edvin said:

Copland , or CBS, chose London orchestras when he recorded much of his music. A pity since the ones he did in USA was far better, i.e. the complete Appalachian Spring, The Tender Land suite and the suite from App. Spr. in Boston.

All the Bernstein recordings of American music made with NYPO are far better idiomatically than the ones made in Europe. The latter haven´t got the swagger.
I could go on for ever.

I was going to forgo jumping into this but I can't resist!

If the Boston recordings are superior, it may well have to do with many other things than this notion you have that American orchestras are more idomatically suited for American music and British for British music, Hungarian for Hungarian music etc.

First the Boston Symphony of that period was a really fine orchestra, RCA made superior recordings to what Columbia typically did and Symphony Hall is one of the world's finest venues for making music.

The NYPO has got a "swagger" I will admit that, and I can sort of buy into the idea that maybe that contributes to your preference for those recordings - but remember that Bernstein himself was a much younger, healthier man during the NYPO years and he also had more "swagger"! ... also much more of what we might term the ebullience of youth.

Post by Edvin November 16, 2006 (8 of 34)
To say that Mackerras is an authority on Janacek is merely your opinion. Personally I much prefer Kubelik, Behlolavek and Neumann.

My ideas have absolutely nothing to do with recording quality.

Bernstein was younger, yes, but his late recordings of American music is still much better in the states than in Europe. Explain that. The Israel performances are lame in comparison. His Harris, Schuman, Copland packed a lot of punch even in the later recordings from New York.
Bernstein was a young man until the day he died, or at least until his last concert.

Yes, the Boston was a great orhestra then as was also proven by MTT when he made some records for DG of Piston, Schuman, Ives and Ruggles some years later.

But on the whole I think you are missing my point. I never said that American orchestras cannot play British music and vice versa, only that they lacked the last ounce of idiomatic flair.

Post by seth November 16, 2006 (9 of 34)
Edvin said:

But on the whole I think you are missing my point. I never said that American orchestras cannot play British music and vice versa, only that they lacked the last ounce of idiomatic flair.

So how does the fact that American Orchestras are not 100% made up of Americans, but contain a large contingency of foreigners who came to America in their teens to study music, and were hired by orchestras after graduation, affect your argument? How much of an "idiomatic flair" can there be when most orchestras are made up of an international group of musicians?

Post by Windsurfer November 16, 2006 (10 of 34)
Seth you hit the nail right on the head! The Boston Symphony (for example) has a very high contingent of Asian players in its string sections. I think they play Bartok very effectively without having lived in Hungary.

Look at the student body of any of the big conservatories in the US. I, for one, am really grateful these asian students are here. They are upholding the classical music tradition where most of the populace ranges from hostile to simply immune.

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