Paavo Järvi

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14; Love Scene from Roméo et Juliette

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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson

While Paavo Järvi's reading of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique offers considerable energy and color, it lacks accuracy, pacing, and a coherent sense of form. Tempi are extremely flexible, sometimes rushed, and abrupt mood swings and extreme dynamics are emphasized. Perhaps Järvi's conception of the piece is informed too much by the work's program, insofar as his passionate communication of its hallucinatory narrative seems to have overruled fidelity to the score. An argument may be made that Berlioz himself would have taken such liberties, and that the work's mad spirit is better served by flamboyance and a bit of recklessness. Even so, the music's real internal logic -- it is a symphony in more than just its name -- is always an important consideration for any satisfying performance. Järvi has subjugated form to play up the bold orchestration and virtuosity, which are all on the surface. Certainly the sounds he conjures are exciting, and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra delivers the most dazzling and powerful effects. But this performance is strangely hollow for all the effort expended. Recorded with the Direct Stream Digital system, the sound is astonishingly clear, though it contributes to the impression that this is more of a sonic extravaganza than a truly musical experience.

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