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Reviews: Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suites - Paavo Järvi

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Reviews: 6

Review by beardawgs April 19, 2004 (6 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This magnificent score it treated equally magnificent in this performance. Jarvi sees it more as an orchestral showpiece, and Cincinnati players are enjoying themselves enormously. They tackle with great ease even the most demanding virtuosic passages, while never sticking out of the whole in some impressive tutti sections. Every time when Prokofiev enters the full strings, the sound lifts off emotions to fantastic heights. Jarvi has an incredible ear for detail, and the recording is equally transparent, even the quietest solo instruments far in the background are audible as much as they should be.

I was impressed by the strings, violins in particular. They sound sweet, bursting with passion and emotions, but never overblown or sentimental. In the scenes with Romeo and Juliet they are light and transparent, and can mourn in tragedy and devastation at the opening of “Romeo at the Grave of Juliet”, while the brass instruments sound menacing. I would prefer more weight at “Death of Tybalt”, but that’s just a really minor complaint, compensated more than enough with the dynamic outburst at the very end of that number.

This disc is a great joy to listen to. Jarvi is sensible to every mood change, his tempos are well judged and rhythmic pulse steady. The orchestra is not just responsive, but totally committed to light and shade every single note or passage. Fast music is playfully furious, happy episodes burst with joy and sad moments are devastating. The recording captures all those qualities in their full glory, as customary with Telarc. I’m not sure that this kind of approach would necessary work as good in the theatre with the ballet dancers on the stage, but as a concert piece and orchestral showpiece it’s a stunner.

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Review by thepilot August 29, 2004 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is so magnificently played and recorded (like Stravinsky with the same forces), that I really cannot wait to hear Jarvi's Rite of Spring with the same orchestra. A truly great Prokofiev disc and a desert island SACD.

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Review by PureAudio August 26, 2005 (4 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a great performance. Very lively and vivid and also careful and subtile. The orchestra plays in great harmony and none of the instruments dominate too much. Paavo did an outstanding job capturing the drama and happiness from story into the music. This performance is a beauty.

Sonically this SACD-MC mix is very well engineered. The orchestra is clearly situated in front with the surrounds adding a natural amount of ambiance. The instruments can all be picked out easily.
However, I did notice a slight downside. Some how the recording is not as open as I like. Like the orchestra played with the curtains not fully open. But this is a personal matter of taste.

PRO: Excellent performance, natural placing of instruments
CON: Music does not sound very open

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Review by nickc December 8, 2005 (2 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Romeo and Juliet is a total masterpiece - the themes seem to lodge in your brain and you can't get them out. As has been stated before in this forum and others Paavo Jarvi is not one to wring every last drop of emotion from a score, more staying on the objective side. Nothing wrong with that, but this is not as high-octane a performance as, say, my old Lorin Maazel Cleveland Orchestra disc, where Maazel scythes and explodes his way through the score. The thing with masterpieces is that they can tolerate differing methods of interpretation.
I agree with Audiopure re the sound of this disc - it seems almost excessively smooth and lacking the last dollop of sparkle. For comparison I put on my Munch Living Stereo Daphnis and Chloe and the violins seemed to sound more vivid and alive - a sound which I prefer. We are also slightly further back in the hall than I like.
Apart from those quibbles it is a good, spacious, concert-hall ambience.
And finally someone will have to contact the Oxford to foist a new word the English language - I will dub it "Telarcesque" - meaning magnificent, floor-shaking, chest-crushing bass. Just listen to the first track and you can feel the bass drum as an almost palpable, physical presence in your living room - and I don't even have a subwoofer!

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Review by Edvin January 23, 2006 (5 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A friend of mine played this to me. I was not allowed to utter a word during the music, only to make notes. The orchestra and conductor where unknown to me.
So the music starts with the Folk Dance from suite No 1, and it sounds quite nice. Nothing special, but nice. But after some ten minutes my patience starts to wear off..my first note is "rehearsal". This doesn´t sound like a fully prepared performance. The details of this so much played music are in this performance too smooth.
After another ten minutes I am certain that this is another of those not so impressive performances by Paavo Järvi.

Maazel and Previn are still the champions of this music and the Telarc recording doesn´t threat them in any way. Järvi is, and I have listened to this sacd three more times, his usual sloppy conductor. The "Romeo at Juliet´s grave" is more noice than drama. No tension at all, merely loud playing.
The "Death of Juliet" is sluggish and played with no passion at all, no sense of tragedy.
The sound is adequate, not more. There are details that are very nice, but a the performance..it doesn´t add up.

Buy the Maazel or Previn complete ballets instead. On RBCD.

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Review by seth February 17, 2006 (4 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Here's a smart idea: put the complete music to each "Romeo & Juliet" Suite onto a single disc, something which is surprisingly not often done. And that's the reason why I bought this disc -- I only own various collections of excerpts. Unfortunately, the interpretation and playing do not live up to the programming.

Throughout the suites Jarvi's conducting is too polite. While this approach allows him to evoke the lyrical aspects of the music that others miss, Jarvi comes up short on the drama and excitement. For instance, it's hard to imagine anyone preferring Jarvi's "Death of Tybalt" to Muti's (or Ancerl's or a half dozen other conductors') where he has the Philadelphia Orchestra quite simply 'play the pants off' the piece. And in the most famous music from the suites, "Montagues and Capulets," Jarvi is not aggressive enough, and Muti's Philadelphia brass outplay Cincinnati's at every turn.

I find the recorded sound to be dull, like a layer of varnish has been stripped away; it never blooms but is a bit subdued. The sound also isn't very open; it sounds like the recording venue has dry acoustics. Overall, the recording sounds like a reproduction of a performance -- it's not lifelike.

This disc is only worth buying if you cannot find any other single disc complete collection of the Suites.

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