Saturday, November 7, 2015

Paavo Järvi conducts Bruckner's 6th

RCA (Red Seal) 88751 31262 (2015)
Bruckner: Symphony #6 in A major (Nowak Edition)
Paavo Järvi/Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra

This is a very fine performance, thoughtful and well-detailed. The Frankfurt Radio Symphony is more than equal to the demands of the score, with a full, rich, beautiful ensemble sound. RCA's digital sonics are at once warm and grandly sumptuous, aptly capturing the breadth and sweep of the score. Conductor Paavo Järvi leads the Nowak edition of Bruckner's often-overlooked 6th with unimpeachable musicality and steady assurance. Yet, for all its virtues, this reading offers no new insights into the music.

Comparison to some of the great performances of the past is inevitable:  Jochum (DG) emphasized the sheer innate drama of the music, offering a hyper-dynamic reading, shattering in its motive force,
while  Klemperer (EMI) delved the quieter philosophical depths of the score. Though almost at opposite ends of he spectrum in terms of phrasing and tempo, both conductors' brought a kind of inevitability--an undeniable personal presence--to their music-making. Haitink, leading the Concertgebouw, (Philips) emphasized a luminous lyricism, while Barenboim (DG), mustering the full power of the Chicago Symphony's legendary brass section, galvanizes the listener with a relentless sense of forward movement, gloriously elucidating the composer's long lines--especially in the slow second movement (while, alas, inexplicably seeming to "peter out" in the finale). Personally, I do not care for Karajan's rather ponderous reading of the Haase edition (DG). Likewise, I was disappointed by what I found to be Wand's uncharacteristically underwhelming rendition (RCA/Sony).

Placing Järvi in the context of this rich, longstanding legacy of performance, I came away not unsatisfied--though I certainly do not mean to damn with faint praise here. In attitude and sensibility, Järvi comes closest, I think, to Haitink, deemphasizing the raw drama of the score in favor of a more refined--though equally innate--lyricism. It may well be interesting to hear additional entries in this (I presume on-going) cycle.  

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