Neeme Järvi

Prokofiev: Symphony No. 6; Waltz Suite

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It's curious as to why producer Ralph Couzens and conductor Neeme Järvi split the six numbers of Prokofiev's Waltz Suite into two halves that appeared on two different discs. It might have had something to do with an audience's attention span, the limits of recording technology, or the limits of Järvi's conducting ability. But the real reason Couzens and Järvi split the waltzes is actually very simple. They put all of Järvi's boring performances on one record and all his exciting performances on another. After all, why ruin two discs?

Seriously, this set of performances is so much better than the other that it's a strain to think Järvi was the conductor in both performances. Listen to the easily swaying downbeats of the opening "In the Palace" waltz from the ballet Cinderella and the graceful transitions between sections. Listen to the way Järvi shapes the coda of the central "New Year's Eve Ball" from the opera War and Peace, the way his control of tempo rubato creates an atmosphere of chilly foreboding. Listen to the slowly accelerating panic of "Happiness" from the concluding waltz from Cinderella, culminating in the explosion of fearful yet giddy joy at the climax. If all Järvi's performances were this good, there would be every reason to praise him as a conductor with terrific technique and insightful interpretations.

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