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CD Review

Serge Prokofieff

  • Symphony #5 in B-Flat Major, Op. 100
  • Lieutenant Kijé, Op. 60 (Suite)
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Telarc CD-80683
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Also available on SACD 60683:
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Although Paavo Järvi embraces an admirably wide range of music, when he and his father overlap in terms of recordings, the elder Järvi often takes top prize. Prokofieff is a family specialty, with Dad's complete symphony cycle rightly regarded as one of the best. This disc is also very good, though it does not supersede any of the truly great recordings.

In a nutshell, this version is simply too soft – and not well-recorded enough – to reasonably contend. The Cincinnati Symphony is one of my favorite orchestras, and one of my most written about on Classical Net. They play with their usual skill, but they are neither as incisive nor interesting as one could hope. Also – and unusually for Telarc – the brass and strings are not nearly as well-captured as the label has trained us to expect. Even on my modest stereo, earlier discs from Järvi and Jesús López-Cobos had considerably more warmth and impact. In particular, the brass are fuzzy whereas on other releases, they ring out confidently. Frankly, as pointed out by other critics elsewhere, the music sounds dull. Not in the sense that it's boring, but rather that there is a mushy and colorless effect that does neither the orchestra nor composer any credit.

Not that this is the most thrilling reading, either. The scherzo is nice and bouncy, the slow movement is suitably dark, but the outer movements are robbed of impact by both the sound and the conductor's somewhat cautious approach. Even when the heat does turn up, everything has a feeling of sameness that has to be more the fault of the engineers than anything else. There are some typical nice moments throughout the program, and Järvi the Younger is far too smart a musician for this disc to be a wash. Case in point; the coupled Op. 60 is much more fun overall and gives the disc a greater sense of enjoyment. At under an hour, this has appeal to fans of the orchestra and conductor, but simply isn't one of their better or more generous discs.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman

Trumpet