Magazine article Gramophone

Jarvi Conducts Schumann's Symphonies at a Dockyard

Magazine article Gramophone

Jarvi Conducts Schumann's Symphonies at a Dockyard

Article excerpt

Schumann (GC) (DVD) (BLU)

Complete Symphonies. Documentary: 'Schumann at Pier2'--a concert film by Christian Berger Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen / Paavo Jarvi C Major Entertainment (M) (3) (DVD) 711908; (F) (BLU) 712004 (146' + 98' + 27' * NTSC * 16:9 * 1080p * DTS-HD MA5.1, DTS5.1 & PCM stereo * 0 * s) Bonus features: 'The Making of Schumann at Pier2'; 'Bremen--A Chamber Philharmonic Portrait'

This is the sort of set that makes me grateful that classical recordings are still being made. As arefresher course in Schumann symphonies, you won't find anything better: the overall transparency of each performance, the tautness, interpretative 'edge (sometimes bordering on danger), warmth and determination to exploit to the full the many contrasts that keep each score so endlessly stimulating, all these virtues and more serve to focus the music in a unique way. I should tell you that the performances of Symphonies Nos 1and 3are not the ones on CD (RCA) that I reviewed last March and that were awarded Gramophone Choice status. Those were recorded at the Funkhaus Berlin in December 2009 and April 2010, whereas these 2011 performances were filmed in the acoustically impressive Pier2, a former dockyard building turned music workshop and film set at the port of Bremen. Similar performances though, and sound for that matter, with maybe a hint more inner detail on the CD.

Regular readers will know that as a rule I'm not one for straight orchestral concert DVDs--I object to all the visual distractions--but these productions (directed by Christian Berger) are a cut above average. Aside from the performances themselves, which are subject to sensitive and unobtrusive camerawork, there are gentle masterclasses on each symphony where Jarvi offers chapter and verse, not only on the music but on the circumstances of Schumann's life when the pieces were written. As part of the educating process, individual players are invited to perform key passages solo, often dovetailing with the orchestra to provide a proper context. Their comments are not infrequently as engaging as Jarvi's own and you feel, after watching these absorbing mini-documentaries, that the orchestra's overriding interpretative principle is 'nothing without good reason'.

As to detail, I like the way secondary lines 'tell without barging to the fore, and the clarity of the string lines--especially the violins where, in the finale of the Second Symphony, by being divided left and right of the rostrum they create a vivid antiphonal swirl. In the finale of the First Symphony, after the appearance of the perky Kreisleriana theme on the woodwinds, Jarvi slightly broadens the tempo for the strings' gruff response. …

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