Neeme Järvi

Prokofiev: The Buffoon Suite; Waltz Suite; The Love for Three Oranges Suite

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When Chandos re-released Neeme Järvi's mid-'80s recordings of Prokofiev's miscellaneous orchestral works, it sometimes played things straight and sometimes mixed things up with the programming. On this disc joining the composer's suite from The Buffoon, suite from The Love for Three Oranges, and Waltz Suite made up of waltzes from several different works, things have been mixed up. The original 1988 release included The Buffoon and The Love for Three Oranges suites, but instead of the Waltz Suite, his suite from Le pas d'acier was included. For time-conscious collectors, the later edition is the one to get since the Waltz Suite lasts almost half an hour and the Le pas d'acier suite lasts only 16 minutes. For performance-conscious collectors, however, both discs are of negligible importance. At this point in his career, Järvi's stock was on the rise, principally because he possessed a more than competent technique and a more than uncanny ability to quickly learn a score. Being a fast study, however, did not guarantee the conductor could do more than get through the scores, and that turns out to be the case here. Järvi is certainly up to the task in the undemanding Waltz Suite and more or less up to the task in the well-known suite from The Love for Three Oranges. But he seems to have little idea how to phrase and color the suite from The Buffoon, much less how to express its brutal ironies or articulate its aggressive rhythms. Though the Scottish National Orchestra gives him dedicated if not especially polished performances, Järvi sounds in The Buffoon Suite like he may have absorbed the score overnight, but he never really understood it. Chandos' early digital sound is big, loud, and detailed, but also hard, harsh, and glaring.

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