Neeme Järvi / London Philharmonic Orchestra

Dvorak: Requiem

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Listeners may remember the early days of digital sound when Neeme Järvi was turning out records left, right, and sideways for a huge number of labels, among them Deutsche Grammophon, BIS, and Chandos, and how Järvi later lost all his contracts after publicly complaining that he wasn't allowed to record first-rank repertoire. But Järvi is back with new recordings, including this two-disc set of his February 2009 performance of Dvorák's mighty Requiem with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. The recording, though, is a dud. Järvi's tempos are dutifully slow, with nothing moving forward; his colors appropriately dark, but with little contrast; and his textures correctly heavy, but without clarity. Järvi seems to have adopted a "find your story and stick with it" attitude toward interpretation, and in his hands, Dvorák's Requiem starts in the depths of despair and stays there straight through to the end. The orchestra's playing is professional but pro forma, the chorus' singing acceptable but not especially impressive, and the soloists adequate, but aside from mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill's expressive singing, not particularly impressive. Compared with the great recordings of the past, particularly Istvan Kertész's unsurpassed 1968 version with the London Symphony, this one is sadly disappointing. Even the Kertész's 40-year-old stereo sound from Decca is much richer, deeper, and more detailed than LPO Live's somewhat muffled digital sound.

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