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Peter Ilyich Tchaikowsky
Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathetique"; Romeo and Juliet, Overture-Fantasy

Sergei Prokofiev
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100; Lieutenant Kije Suite, Op. 60

Both discs: Paavo Jarvi conducting The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Review By Wayne Donnelly
Click here to e-mail reviewer

  With these releases the Telarc/Jarvi/Cincinnati team continues its march through the mainstream Russian repertory. Neither can be said to fill a pressing need, especially the Tchaikovsky, which pairs two of the composer's most popular and oft-recorded scores. These works are the sort of basic repertory that virtually every conductor seems to need to document in a recording. A quick survey of my own music shelves turns up  some 14 Pathetique recordings, ranging in approach from the long-breathed romanticism of Furtwangler to the nervous intensity of Toscanini to the dark drama of Mravinsky and that's just the old ones.

Jarvi's approach to both Tchaikovsky pieces seems slanted more toward dramatic/heroic than romantic/lyrical.  Tempos in the symphony are generally conventional, neither rushed nor lingering. In Romeo, Jarvi manages to maintain a good sense of continuity in the face of the work's repetitive A-B-A-B structure, which in lesser versions can become tiresome. Here I found myself well engaged throughout.

Prokofiev's Fifth is one of those symphonies Beethoven's "Pastoral" is another for which no recording has ever quite measured up to the version that dances through my imagination. That said, Jarvi captures the symphony's broad emotional range convincingly enough to keep me coming back for more hearings.

Jarvi's Kije is spirited, and he captures the broadly mock-heroic humor of the piece. He does not equal the subtlety of Fritz Reiner's brilliantly ironic reading with the Chicago Symphony but who does? The Reiner is as good as it gets, and my venerable RCA shaded dog LP is one of my most treasured records. Still, Jarvi's interpretation is competitive with other readings I know, and he gets thumbs up from me.

The Cincinnati players are clearly responsive to their maestro, and their playing is committed and energetic. Brass and woodwinds shape their contributions with good style. The strings also play well enough, but as I have noted on previous Telarc releases with this band, they simply don't have the requisite ensemble weight and Slavic sonority to do full justice to this music. To hear what I'm talking about, try, say, Gergiev/Kirov, Temirkanov/St. Petersburg or Pletnev/Russian National Orchestra playing these composers.

The sound on both discs is up to this label's usual high standard, with explosive dynamics, a broad and deep soundstage, and accurate tonality. Given that sonic excellence, I would recommend these discs especially to younger collectors who may not have accumulated multiple copies of these works as have graybeards like me, and who want something to learn the music from as well as show off their systems.

 

Tchaikovsky:

Performance:

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Prokofiev:

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