Neeme Järvi

Sibelius: Pohjola's Daughter; Tapiola; Impromptu for Strings

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If what you're looking for is a Sibelius disc that turns the Finnish titan into a Swedish bourgeois, look no further than this 1985 recording by Neeme Järvi conducting the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Järvi is not an unskilled conductor -- he can more or less negotiate the drama and drive of Pohjola's Daughter and the tempos and textures of Tapiola -- but he is anything but an insightful, much less an inspired, conductor. Instead of an epic hymn to adventure set in the harsh landscape of Finland, Järvi's Pohjola's Daughter is a slide show of a vacation in the lake district. Instead of an emotional song of love and loss set under the cold skies of Finland, Järvi's Rakastava is a flirtation with the girl in the steno pool. Instead of the musical incarnation of the spirit of Finland's northern forests, Järvi's Tapiola is a rainy Sunday spent with a Trollope novel. And instead of an innocuous little divertimento, Järvi's Andante lirico is an instantly forgettable little bagatelle. The Gothenburg Symphony plays like a less-than-world-class Swedish provincial orchestra, which is what it is, and BIS' recording sounds like a not-yet-ready-for-the-international-market orchestral recording, which is what it was. For a great Pohjola's Daughter, try Jukka-Pekka Saraste's. For a great Tapiola, try Osmo Vänskä's. For a great Rakastava, try John Barbirolli's. And for a great Andante lirico, well, unfortunately, there really aren't any great recordings, so until something better comes along, we'll have to make do with Järvi.

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