Stravinsky, Nielsen

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Nielsen,Stravinsky
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: The Rite of Spring; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Cincinnati SO/Paavo Järvi
This seismic double-bill has surely never appeared before on CD, and if it leads those who already love their Rite towards the most underrated symphonic masterpiece of the 20th century – composed just under a decade after Stravinsky’s ballet, to very different but equally earth-shattering effect – that can only be a good thing. Paavo Järvi’s brave and polished Cincinnati players manage two aspects of both pieces very well. The recording helps to boost crucial bass lines: sonorous chanting tubas and trombones lead the great polyrhythmic processional in Stravinsky’s Part 1, while lower strings uproot the never-quite-solid foundations in the first half of Nielsen’s opening movement. Järvi is good on atmosphere, too, letting the woodwind take their time in Stravinsky’s introductory piping and carefully charting the many twilight zones between Nielsen’s upheavals. Unfortunately, the right kind of force is not with the Cincinnatians in Stravinsky’s tidal-wave dances – the last slammed shut by one abrupt chord, not the stipulated two – or when Nielsen’s titanic finale begins. For the latter, compare Osmo Vänskä (BIS), or better still, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s inner fire on Järvi senior’s unforced, elemental recording (DG, surely due back in the catalogues soon). Paavo Järvi adds many textural glosses to the Nielsen, some of them intriguing; but the rhetorical slowing-down for the big climax in the first movement, and in the finale his over-nuanced articulation of Nielsen’s heaven-sent second fugue prove fatal. The Rite is straighter, but there that’s not enough; the individuality of a Gergiev, both on disc and recently live in a revelatory Proms performance with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, is what we now need to hear this piece afresh. David Nice