Paavo Järvi

Prokofiev: Lieutenant Kijé Suite; Symphony No. 5

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This is a sonically stupendous recording of a less remarkable performance of Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony. Telarc's 2007 sound is staggering in its clarity, color, and impact, but ultimately it's only different, not better, than Deutsche Grammophon's 1968 stereo recording with Karajan leading the Berliner Philharmoniker, which even in the new millennium is still stunning in its palpable sense of place and time. While one could honestly say that Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance is more fair than exceptional, in performances of Prokofiev's Fifth, fair is a quality most fervently to be hoped for. The work itself is gargantuan in scope, immense in scale, and celebratory in spirit, three qualities that too often bring out the megalomaniacal in conductors and orchestras, and too many performers seem to strive solely to surpass the others in size and weight. By steering a course that neither stresses nor slights the work's enormities, Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony succeed in creating a truly fair performance, a performance that fulfills but does not exaggerate the work itself. The Lieutenant Kijé Suite that follows is just as well played and well judged as the symphony, but with more exuberance and wit.

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