Beethoven: Symphonies Nos 3 (Eroica) and 8

COMPOSERS: Beethoven
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Paavo Järvi
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 3 (Eroica) and 8
PERFORMER: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 88697 00655 2
Paavo Järvi stresses the revolutionary aspect of these symphonies in these impressively dynamic performances: their outer movements are delivered with tremendous energy, and at speeds you may not have experienced before, yet with crystal clear articulation throughout. An interesting feature in the Eroica’s finale is Järvi’s view of the variation immediately preceding the appearance of the famous ‘Prometheus’ theme. Beethoven writes ‘solo’ over the running viola and cello parts, and Järvi gives the passage to a string quartet – a effective touch, following, as it does, another variation scored for tutti strings alone.

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Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra on BIS offer the same coupling. Vänskä takes a more expansive view of the Eroica’s opening Allegro without sacrificing any of its sweep and energy; and his funeral march second movement is more muffled and grief-laden than Järvi’s. But the scherzo is rather staid when set alongside Järvi’s, and Vänskä allows the finale’s impetus to slacken after the initial flurry of activity. Honours are similarly divided in No. 8, with Vänskä having the advantage of greater weight in the outer movements, and Järvi more grace and elegance in the middle pair. In the end, the balance is just tipped towards Vänskä, but ideally you should have both recordings.

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Misha Donat