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Reviews: Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Järvi

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Castor January 26, 2014
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Review by krisjan March 31, 2014 (6 of 7 found this review helpful)
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Review by steviev April 19, 2014 (7 of 9 found this review helpful)
This is a messy, perfunctory run-through of Atterberg's great Second Symphony. As usual Jarvi is in a hurry to just get it over with already, which makes no sense in this languorous, near-Impressionist work. The overall tempo in the first movement is too fast anyway, violins sawing away desperately trying to spit out all their notes, but then to add insult to injury Jarvi plows right through the heroic brass chorales without slowing down -- they're marked maestoso, and there's no majesty at these tempos. The second movement is even worse. It has a slow-fast-slow-fast-slow structure, as confirmed in the booklet, yet Jarvi doesn't slow down one bit for the second adagio section! He maintains the tempo adopted for the dancy fast section, blowing right through what should be a mysterious and haunting passage of slow music, completely ruining Atterberg's very effective alternating slow-fast structure. I'll admit his finale is fine, but that's irrelevant because Atterberg intended this to be a two-movement symphony and only added a third movement two years later under pressure from well-meaning colleagues, and because of this it sounds like the afterthefact lash-up that it is -- I program it out and listen just to the first two original movements whenever I spin Ari Rasilainen's arresting performance on cpo, as Atterberg intended.

Speaking of, Rasilainen beats Jarvi every which way -- there's not one aspect of Jarvi's performance that is superior to Rasilainen's. Rasilainen molds and sculpts the long lines with ardor, even stretching the bars Barbirolli-style for Atterberg's gorgeous wistful-heroic string melody in the second movement. Rasilainen lets every important line speak clearly, even when the orchestration is at its most thick and complex. Also cpo's sound is superior: a deep and coherent soundstage with strong bass and ample clarity for Atterberg's intricate writing. Chandos does give us X-ray clarity and so I did hear some details I had never noticed before in cpo's recording; for example, the piano at the opening of and the upward sliding trombone glissandi near the end of the second movement, and the woodwind curlicues in the first movement. Otherwise, the soundstage is two-dimensional; in fact at first I thought I was listening to the stereo programme, so flat is the soundstage. Climaxes are an unpleasant wall of sound, lacking in definition. I find I must keep the volume lower than typical to avoid listening fatigue. First World Problems, I know. And the bass is weak, a deficiency that is obvious when you hear the cpo. This is the worst multichannel recording I've heard from Chandos -- by modern standards it's barely competent.

The simpler Eighth Symphony is not so damaged by Jarvi's lickety-split approach. Still, the sonics are inferior to cpo's, though I could see myself listening to this brisk Eighth from time to time. So if your main interest is Atterberg's Eighth, then you might want this disc. But for Atterberg's near-masterpiece Second, Rasilainen is still The Man. The field remains wide open for BIS to lay down a great multichannel performance of this great symphony.

(Krisjan in the forum suggested that Jarvi's performance of the Second's second movement is hella short because Jarvi made a cut. Nope, every note is there. Jarvi hustles through the opening adagio section in 2.5 minutes, whereas Rasilainen takes 4.5; Jarvi takes roughly the same tempo as Rasilainen in the fast sections; blows through the second adagio at double-time, stealing another minute from Rasilainen; then hustles through the closing adagio in 3 minutes versus Rasilainen's 4 minutes, thus accounting for the 4.5-minute difference.)

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