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Reviews: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Nielsen: Symphony No. 5 - Paavo Järvi

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Reviews: 7

Review by thepilot September 23, 2004 (8 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
After repeated listening I certainly have to change my review of this splendid performance of the Rite of Spring. I continue to miss Gergiev's demonic quality (Philips/Kirov) but Jarvi's is an equally valid view, because for the first time in the recording history of the Rite, all the intricate internal voices of the work come out with splendid vividness. You can almost "read" the orchestral score, so complete is Jarvis's deep probing into the heart of the piece.
He also manages to underline the romantic qualities of the piece and he gets quite splendid orchestral playing with perfect precision and sound projection of even the tinniest details.
In the Nielsen, Jarvi again catches the brooding and mysterious mood of this splendid symphony. Sound wise, we are treated with a fabulous multichannel recording (as good as the Procofiev disc with the same forces) that places the listener in a good seat in the concert hall.
The vividness, detail and transparency are colossal and in the Rite of Spring we hear everything as if for the first time and I really mean EVERYTHING, without any artificial spotlighting. Bravo Telarc.

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Review by jdaniel@jps.net September 29, 2004 (10 of 13 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
A very impressive Rite. Immediately impressive is Jarvi’s ear for sonority and rhythmic elan; not to mention his orchestra’s incredible virtuosity. The Cincinnati bassoonist opens the piece with a refreshingly contoured solo in the introduction. The woodwind-dominated dialog that follows is unusually expressive. Beware when the “Harbingers of Spring” starts: those famous chugging strings aren’t as loud as you might be used to, they’re heard as one would hear them in the concert-hall; if you’re addicted to unnaturally loud, close-miked strings, ala Muti/Philadelphia/EMI, you’re going to be disappointed. Don’t be. In the “Game of Abduction,” the orchestral execution—horns and woodwinds especially—is such that the section has an incredible sense of urgency. “Spring Rounds” opens with sufficient groan, and when the section is repeated with a splendidly present bass drum and gong, a revelation: one can hear the off-beat dialog, (trombones, bassoons), quite clearly; I’ve never known it was there. The bass drum crescendo that introduces the “Dance of the Earth”…wow. Startling. The finale of part one is thrilling. In surround it’s so nice to hear such grand noise with such spaciousness. A friend remarked that the proceedings were much less nerve-wracking in surround.

The introduction to Part II is where one will hear Stravinsky's orchestral sonorities afresh. The full orchestral outbursts that slither down the scale are particularly impressive. What I found most memorable about the final set of dances was that they actually felt ‘dance-like,’ rather than ‘leviathan-like.' The “Sacrificial Dance” is especially lithe, (if you can call it that); as Jarvi and his orchestra really have a grip of the overall line, rather than simply ‘nailing’ each new-metered measure. The final upward swish of woodwind, signaling the adolescent’s death, is vivid in its expiration.

With the Rite, (and Nielsen’s Symphony #5, of course), audiophiles are going to be found drooling in ecstasy on the floors of their listening rooms, especially those who are fetishistic about suspended cymbal decays and little bells from the percussion section. Wait until you hear the Tempo giusto mov’t of the Nielsen 5th! I thought the earlier Telarc/Jarvi/Stravinsky recording of “Petrouchka’ and the Firebird Suite was excellent. This one is even better.

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Review by akiralx January 6, 2005 (11 of 14 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Very much a disc of two halves - the Rite of Spring is well played but sounds really too comfortable compared to other fine versions by Markevitch, Boulez, Karajan, Muti and Inbal - among others. The sound too lacks impact with a low transfer level. This work really needs more aggression to come into its own than we get here.

However the Nielsen Fifth (probably his best symphony) is much better, more abandoned and visceral, and the sound is more vivid with greater presence - and it seems to be 'cut' at a higher level than the Stravinsky. This is comparable with Blomstedt on Decca and is a solid recommendation.

Both recordings (made a month apart in early 2004) make discreet use of the rear channels although the Stravinsky seems more loaded towards the fronts, so the Nielsen is the finer recording sonically as well as interpretatively - it rates below the very best SACDs I have from a sound reproduction viewpoint, but is still good.

So forget the Rite, there are just too many better performances around, but the Nielsen is worth investigating, a pity it comes yoked to the Stravinsky.

The ratings I give reflect the imbalance here: the Nielsen is much the better of the two, and probably rates at least 4 stars for performance, and similar for sound.

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Review by mukkachukka January 31, 2005 (5 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
As Carl Nielsen is my favorite classical composer, this SACD was a no-brainer for me. Especially since this is the only SACD (apart from the EXPENSIVE Japanese SACD of his opera Maskarade) of his compositions on the market. What's up with that?!?

Anyway, this is my favorite classical SACD I have purchased so far. The only other one that comes close is the Sea Symphony (R.V. Williams) SACD. I've heard a few performances of the Nielsen 5th and this is, by far, the best I have ever heard. Many people recognize this as the symphony where the snare drum seems to want to interrupt the whole performance.

So it really was a great choice to pair the Nielsen 5th with Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring. What can be said about this unbelievable musical creation that hasn't been said before. Again, this is a fantastic interpretation by Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Hide the dogs and cats away from the stereo when the sacrificial dance starts. GREAT sonics from Telarc!

Jarvi really does a great job with these kind of works. Those who love the Telarc Sibelius and R.V. Williams SACDs owe it to themselves to check out this one. You won't be sorry.

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Review by mwagner1962 May 8, 2005 (7 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is my first ever schizoid SACD from Telarc. What do I mean??? This is a bi-polar SACD..not in sound, which is glorious, but the difference between the two pieces....

While I will agree 100% that the sound is very fine, it is the two approaches to the pieces that leave me basically lukewarm.

Let's take the selection that really excites me: the Nielsen 5th. Not since Herbert Blomstedt recorded these with the San Francisco Symphony (redbook, Decca) has a conductor gotten me so excited about Carl Nielsen. Plain and simple, the passion, fire, and introspection that is needed to make the 5th work is there, captured with Telarc's usual sonic glory!!!!

Now, the opposite, the dark side: The Rite of Spring. I have two stunning recordings of this piece...both Decca redbooks..one with Solti and Chicago and the other, Dutoit and Montreal. I am sorry, but Maestro Jarvi's reading of The Right of Spring is too sweet, polite, tame, virginal, lame...Where is the fire, the drama, the excitement???? This is Stravinsky with tribal fury (not a tea party), passion, demonic energy, that is not there with Maestro Jarvi's reading. Also, I have heard this piece played live on several different occasions.....

I will have to give the sound high marks, but based on my love of the Nielsen and dislike of the Stravinsky, I am not sure how to rate the performance. Wait, 5 stars for the Nielsen and 2 stars for the Stravinsky. That gives me a final 3.5 stars..:(

If you want a top notch SACD recording of the Nielsen 5th, then you are in luck. If you want a killer SACD of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (and dislike Nielsen) then you may need to look elsewhere. Or at least wait until someone else records it.

Cheers,

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Review by madisonears September 26, 2007 (9 of 11 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have to agree that the Rite lacks some of the primal intensity that other conductors have brought forth in the past, but the orchestra plays flawlessly. If one can speak of this piece having a more lyrical aspect, then Jarvi finds it, as he usually seems to do. Within the frame of Jarvi's interpretation, this is a perfectly executed performance. It is still very exciting, not at all "lame" or "virginal". The recording helps to bring out the most beautiful sonorities of the orchestra's excellent playing. This disc features truly gorgeous sonics, not at all lacking impact. If you prefer the orchestra in your lap so you must bob and weave to avoid being struck by violinists' bows, then, no, you won't be happy. If you relish the sound of an orchestra in a hall with real acoustic space (even in stereo) and three dimensionality, you will love the sound of this recording. Every detail of the score is audible, each instrument is delineated with perfect tonality and lots of space around it, yet with very much of a wholeness to the orchestral image, and there is plenty of impact when played back at the appropriate level. I think that people really aren't ready for the full dynamic range that is now available on SACD. Many are accustomed to more compressed sound, even on digital recordings, and when they finally have a really dynamic recording in front of them, either they or their system doesn't quite know what to make of it. This recording, played back at realistic levels, will pulsate the walls of your house but never sound congested or noisy in any way.

The Nielsen is also very exciting, although it's a new piece to me and I haven't quite assimilated it completely. Sure sounds good.

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Review by Jonalogic August 25, 2010 (10 of 19 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Following my recent strand on over-marking, these performances are going to get what they deserve, without any gloss.

I think the the other reviewers are being far too kind to these quite dismal performances. Jarvi is a very understated conductor, to put it mildly. This Rite is actually boring - quite possibly the worst I have ever heard on vinyl, CD or SACD over the past 50 years. With about 20 or so recordings of this piece in my collection, that's quite an achievement. Although the playing is safe and competent throughout, this reading is utterly without menace, violence, thrill or excitement. It makes Karajan's limp and justifiably harangued performance of the vinyl age (his first one) sound like a riot of excitement by comparison...

Stravinsky’s comments on that particular effort… "tempi di hoochie-coochie" and "duller than Disney's dying dinosaurs" seem tailor-made for Jarvi’s dull-as-ditchwater version 40 years on. Ouch, now THAT's what I call 'telling it like it is'. Nice one, Igor.

This one wouldn't cause a riot in a dustbin, which is where this disc was filed after one audition.

Rites on SACD are tricky. Janson's with the Concertgebouw shares the overall limpness and safe quality of the Jarvi, although it's better played by the RCO. Stravinsky's own version on CBS/Sony in wonderful, but poorly recorded. Great performance but poor sound also amply describes the fine Cleveland/Boulez version on CBS/Sony.

Actually, I find the RPO/Simonov version on Membran the only extant version on SACD graced by both a good performance as well as good (although blatantly multi-miked) sound. I have high hopes for the forthcoming Litton/Bergen version on BIS. I can guarantee that Litton will not underplay this piece.

The Nielsen 5 on this disc is a better reading, by far, than the Stravinsky. It's actually competent. But compare with Horenstein, Schmidt or Blomstedt shows what's missing here. It sounds too generic, and utterly lacks the required icy Nordic passion. So, zero stars for the Rite performance and 3 for the Nielsen- giving 1.5 stars overall.

The sound? I am not a great fan of Telarc sound, it's well known (excepting some of their fine earlier Soundstream recordings). However, they give the Rite generally accurate sound with truly staggering dynamic range and fine-sounding low percussion. In common with many of their later recordings, however, it's very distant and softened in the process i.e it's not transparent enough for fully illuminated back-stage.

The Nielsen has noticeably better sound quality - somewhat closer in perspective and tonally far more even and transparent. So the sound gets 5 stars for the Nielsen and 4.5 for the Rite. But this can't compensate for the wholly deficient performances. of course.

I would, perhaps, be kinder to Jarvi if he hadn't done this before. I regard him as a serial killer of fine 20th century music. I present as evidence his dreadful Bartok Concerto for Orchestra (albeit shared with a far better Lutoslawski) on Telarc, plus his flaccid Britten Young Persons' Guide. All of these all-time lows in performance. I rest my case, m'lud.

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