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Discussion: Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6, Romeo & Juliet - Paavo Järvi

Posts: 13
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Post by terence October 24, 2007 (1 of 13)
i pretty much agree with victor carr's 9/9 review of the RBCD version of this:

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=11226

i've got the SACD and can confirm the sound is excellent. VERY big bass drum sounds indeed. real window shakers.

although as with all the jarvi/cincinnati issues the thinness of violin tone and the lack of real heft and range of intensity in that department frustrates me. to my mind the orchestra sounds rather lightweight in that section. perhaps someone who has heard them live can comment?

Post by Tonerl October 29, 2007 (2 of 13)
terence said:

i pretty much agree with victor carr's 9/9 review of the RBCD version of this:

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=11226

i've got the SACD and can confirm the sound is excellent. VERY big bass drum sounds indeed. real window shakers.

although as with all the jarvi/cincinnati issues the thinness of violin tone and the lack of real heft and range of intensity in that department frustrates me. to my mind the orchestra sounds rather lightweight in that section. perhaps someone who has heard them live can comment?

Yes, I've heard them live (dozens of times under Gielen, Lopez-Cobos, Jarvi, and several guest conductors), and I tend to agree with your assessment of the sound on record. Unfortunately, I think it's the hall (or the hall/recording combination), as I can attest that the sound of the orchestra (especially the sound of the string section) has pretty steadily improved over the last twenty years. Of course, when the place has 3000 people in it it sounds different from the sound on record, but that isn't even the issue, I don't think.

The place was not designed as an orchestral venue. It is a huge multi-purpose space that was originally intended for the May Festival (a big choral/orchestral event every spring). The violins (and celli and basses) sit up on the front of the stage, while the rest of the orchestra is actually behind (!) the proscenium. This results in the orchestra being divided into literally two separate acoustical spaces.

For whatever reason, the acoustic out in the hall is warm and relatively wet. On record, it has been pretty flat, hard, and dry (with a few notable exceptions). It may have something to do with Telarc's desire for their famed imaging and soundstaging (not to mention that bass-drum sound you mention), but they haven't been able to consistently reproduce the sound of the orchestra out in the hall.

One caveat I will add, however, is that Jarvi seems to prefer a slightly icier violin tone in most works (I haven't heard this one yet, so I can't comment specifically on it). His strings have tended towards a northern European leanness and muscularity rather than a more Germanic/Austrian fullness in much of the repertoire he is known for. This may have something to do with your reservations, but is just a matter of preference, in my opinion, as I have noted a much richer tone (and looser ensemble like that of German orchestras) in some repertoire. I prefer the lean version, but, as I said, that's a personal subjective choice.

Post by Orpheus October 29, 2007 (3 of 13)
Tonerl said:

The place was not designed as an orchestral venue. It is a huge multi-purpose space that was originally intended for the May Festival (a big choral/orchestral event every spring). The violins (and celli and basses) sit up on the front of the stage, while the rest of the orchestra is actually behind (!) the proscenium. This results in the orchestra being divided into literally two seperate acoustical spaces.

Where would a big choir fit into all this? I'm curious to know for the Telarc recordings using a big choir.

Post by Tonerl October 30, 2007 (4 of 13)
Orpheus said:

Where would a big choir fit into all this? I'm curious to know for the Telarc recordings using a big choir.

The stage extends even deeper than what the orchestra uses behind the proscenium. They have these moveable towers that they array behind the orchestra (depending on the forces used they will arrange them differently as well as remove some when employing a smaller ensemble for such pieces as call for it). The chorus will usually be splayed out behind the orchestra in the traditional manner (I've heard Mahler 3 and Gurrelieder in that hall, so there is a lot of room back there).

As far as the recordings go, it wouldn't surprise me if Telarc do it differently than what is described above. They have been known to record chorus separately (even in a different hall or studio) and mix them together. For example the Cincinnati Pops have done recordings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in which the orchestra was recorded in Cincinnati and the chorus was recorded in Salt Lake.

Post by terence October 30, 2007 (5 of 13)
Tonerl said:

Yes, I've heard them live (dozens of times under Gielen, Lopez-Cobos, Jarvi, and several guest conductors), and I tend to agree with your assessment of the sound on record. Unfortunately, I think it's the hall (or the hall/recording combination), as I can attest that the sound of the orchestra (especially the sound of the string section) has pretty steadily improved over the last twenty years. Of course, when the place has 3000 people in it it sounds different from the sound on record, but that isn't even the issue, I don't think.

The place was not designed as an orchestral venue. It is a huge multi-purpose space that was originally intended for the May Festival (a big choral/orchestral event every spring). The violins (and celli and basses) sit up on the front of the stage, while the rest of the orchestra is actually behind (!) the proscenium. This results in the orchestra being divided into literally two separate acoustical spaces.

For whatever reason, the acoustic out in the hall is warm and relatively wet. On record, it has been pretty flat, hard, and dry (with a few notable exceptions). It may have something to do with Telarc's desire for their famed imaging and soundstaging (not to mention that bass-drum sound you mention), but they haven't been able to consistently reproduce the sound of the orchestra out in the hall.

One caveat I will add, however, is that Jarvi seems to prefer a slightly icier violin tone in most works (I haven't heard this one yet, so I can't comment specifically on it). His strings have tended towards a northern European leanness and muscularity rather than a more Germanic/Austrian fullness in much of the repertoire he is known for. This may have something to do with your reservations, but is just a matter of preference, in my opinion, as I have noted a much richer tone (and looser ensemble like that of German orchestras) in some repertoire. I prefer the lean version, but, as I said, that's a personal subjective choice.

tonerl thanks for these very interesting comments. it's specially interesting what you say about järvi's preference for leaner, "nordic" string tone, and squares with my listening experience in this case.

that said, i still enjoyed the performances greatly, and am glad i have them.

Post by Arthur October 30, 2007 (6 of 13)
I've bought 4 of Jarvi's Cincinnati discs and have had the same criticism about the strings. But the two Chamber Orchestra discs from Europe have been infinitely better. This makes me think you're right about the venue.

Post by Tonerl October 31, 2007 (7 of 13)
All right. I picked this one up today, and I think this recording has something wrong with it. It's a shame, really, because the sound of the brass on this one may be the most realistic I've ever heard and because they obviously have one hell of an orchestra down there. If I were to shoot from the hip, I'd be hard pressed to name three better bands in the US right now.

The big issue I notice here is that on big climaxes, the sound seems to congest and the top end seems to get muffled. In addition, the massed violin tone has a kind of glassiness to it that I don't associate with that orchestra. They aren't at all the kind of transparent and airy group I normally hear, but instead sound rather thin and opaque. This makes me think that there is some information that's just plain missing in the mid treble.

I think Telarc may need to start to make some judicious use of closer miking on the violin sections, or use a new recording venue. What's funny is that just today I saw a review of something in The Absolute Sound that called Cincinnati's Music Hall Telarc's "most flattering venue", or something to that effect. I thought, "Really?" To me, among the DSD-era Telarc discs, their recordings from Atlanta have been the most consistently satisfying (in terms of sound; the orchestra is another matter). Maybe ten years ago or longer, you might have said that about their recordings in Cincy. Back then, they were routinely issuing Red Book recordings of astounding quality (in PCM terms) from that venue. The CSO's Bruckner 8 and Mahler 9 were both nearly flawless sonically, for example. What the heck has happened since then?

Post by terence November 1, 2007 (8 of 13)
how interesting. i'm now going to listen again with your comments in mind.

Post by Tonerl November 3, 2007 (9 of 13)
Alright. Last word on this one. I swear. I think I may have been a little harsh and it was due to making a hasty judgment in less-than-ideal conditions.

The first time I listened through this it was at a friend's place on his hi-fi. We both felt pretty much the same thing, and that is what I reported above.

However...

Remembering the tendency of these latest Telarc discs to really come to life at high volume levels, I gave this thing another spin on my own stereo setup and have done a near 180. In a strange way, complexities become more clear and the resonance of the massed violins playing above the stave really fill in (within the context of the previously discussed "Jarvi sound") when you listen at realistic levels. This is probably not ideal in all circumstances, but when one wants to hear this music at those levels (and nobody else is around), this thing becomes a real contender.

I have some issues with Jarvi interpretively (the opening of R/J seems almost perversely lugubrious and is far too liberal in it's use of rubato and in the faster sections he seems to focus too much on articulation at the expense of power), but the orchestra play magnificently. There is great work throughout by the celli and especially violas, as well as nearly uniformly excellent contribution from the entire woodwind section. What really stands out to me, though, is the playing of the brass, and the heavy brass in particular. They play with such excellent full richness and their intonation is dead solid perfect throughout. They also completely avoid the apparently irresistable temptation (by most American orchestras) to just tastelessly bury the rest of the players. Good God, I would love to hear my local orchestra's brass sections play like that!

Post by Steve Steckel November 12, 2007 (10 of 13)
The problem with this new entry into the Tchaikovsky Sixth field is the VERY strong competition that it is up against. That includes an earlier Telarc recording with the Cleveland Orchestra and Christoph Von Dohnanyi. This new sacd recording is very good but, so are many others. Some of the best That I have heard and own are; Chicago Symphony with James Levine on RCA, Chicago Symphony with Claudio Abbado on Columbia, Goteburg Symphony with Neemi Jarvi on Bis sacd. My favorite of all the Sixths that I have heard or own is by the Boston Symphony with Seiji Ozawa on the Erato label. This disc does have one defect and that is, for whatever reason, the engineer, John Newton, seems to have engaged in "gain-rideing". The level for all the movements is not the same. The third movement, which is a real fire-breather under Ozawa, in particular, seems to be about 5db lower than than the other three. If you don' t mind compensating with your volume control, in my opinion, this is the sixth to own. I think that the ultimate Tchaikovsky Sixth has yet to be produced. Rumor has it that it will be released on Ondine with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eschenbach in the near future. Hopefully, this will be THE one.

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