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CD Review

The Planets

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Telarc CD-80743 65m DDD
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Unlike the label's previous release of Holst's collection of celestial tone poems with the Atlanta Symphony (Telarc CD-80466), this disc is filled to the brim and makes a fine British orchestral program for both children and adults. In both pieces, listeners get a great idea of what big (and I mean "big") symphony orchestras can do. The final Telarc disc of Paavo Järvi's celebrated Cincinnati Symphony tenure, this is a worthwhile addition to your collection even if you already own the Britten from a previous release.

Yoel Levi's Atlanta effort showed off that ensemble to excellent effect, and this disc from Music Hall in Cincinnati does the same. Maybe Mars is that much more menacing here. Järvi's version is slower than Levi's everywhere except Uranus, and in certain movements he takes significantly more time. The playing of the Cincinnati brass is exceptional: hardly a surprise given the vast diversity of repertoire Järvi had his forces tackle. The impact of Telarc's sound is thrilling even on my less-than-audiophile equipment. So too are the gentler moments; good as Levi is, Järvi's rendition is just that much more personalized and unique. In terms of overall virtuosity, both the Cincinnati and Atlanta Symphonies were captured at the height of their respective forms. I don't honestly have a preference either way. Like Levi, Järvi brings out all kinds of interesting orchestral details and has absolutely first-rate players to tackle the first-chair solos. Pressed to decide between the two discs – which at the end of the day are both outstanding – I'd probably choose this one because of the generous coupling and greater personality.

That coupling is a gem. If you don't like Elgar and thus avoided Telarc CD-80660, this is your chance to pick up this fabulously played and conducted version of the Britten. If you do own that disc and still want this team's Planets, you're simply out of luck. Honestly, both discs are so fine – the Elgar Enigma Variations and Britten's Four Sea Interludes are both superlative – that there's really no reason to not own both of them. We can certainly lament that Telarc wasn't able to record something new before the end of this artistic partnership, but we can't deny the quality on display. Unfortunately, there is a packaging complaint. Although the complete 2008 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra roster is provided, the women's chorus is neither mentioned nor credited. These issues aside, this is a great place to start a British music collection, and in terrific sound to boot.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman