Many have argued that Paavo Järvi is a more talented and more accomplished conductor than his father Neeme. That may or may not be the case -- his baton technique may exceed him and his taste as an interpreter all but certainly surpasses his father's, but his control of the orchestra may not quite match his father's. One thing that is evident: the Järvis père or fils share a wonderful knack for choosing repertoire. In this 2006 Telarc recording with the Cincinnati Symphony, Paavo has coupled two excellent pieces by Benjamin Britten -- his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes -- and one splendid piece by Edward Elgar -- his Variations on an Original Theme (aka the "Enigma" Variations). As disc mates, this works marvelously well: Britten's witty but slightly ironic style complementing Elgar's heartfelt but slightly nervous style. As performances, this works nearly as well. When the music is purely descriptive, as in much of the Young Person's Guide, all of the Four Sea Interludes, and portions of the "Enigma" Variations, Järvi's performances are as good as the best, with vibrant colors, clear representations, and compelling narratives. When the music is more purely emotional as in the justly famous "Nimrod" variation, Järvi's interpretation falls short, leaving the music's emotional depths unsounded. Still, Järvi is a persuasive conductor, the Cincinnati plays with energy, skill, and dedication, Telarc's sound is rich, lush, and full, and ultimately, these recordings are almost completely convincing, albeit not perhaps quite in the same league as Boult, Barbirolli, or Previn.
Britten: 4 Sea Interludes; The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Elgar: Enigma Variations Review
by James Leonard