In the 1980s and 1990s, Neeme Järvi was conducting second- or third-rate repertoire for Chandos, and he's doing the same in the 21st century, but this time his performances demonstrate his serious commitment to the repertoire, which was not the case with his distinctly disinterested recordings of such third-raters as Reger and Kalinnikov. In this 2009 release, the first volume in a survey of the complete orchestral works of Johan Halvorsen, Norway's second best Romantic composer, with the Bergen Philharmonic. Järvi sounds fully engaged with the music, as happy to be conducting the rambunctious "Entry March of the Boyars" as he is to be leading the sentimental Andante religioso or the masterful Symphony in C minor, and the Bergen Philharmonic sounds more than happy, it sounds flat-out thrilled. While Järvi's interpretations do not succeed in transforming Halvorsen's music into something better than it is, he does not even make the attempt, but is satisfied to do the best job possible with the materials at hand. Captured by Chandos in digital sound that evokes the good old days -- that is, big, brawny, and exceedingly immediate -- this disc deserves to be heard by fans of the conductor and the composer. It may even win new fans for both.
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