Neeme Jarvi Conducts Chabrier Orchestral Works
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Neeme Jarvi conducts Chabrier
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This disc of popular works by Emmanuel Chabrier marks the beginning of a new series of French repertoire, performed by Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under its newly appointed Artistic Director, Neeme J+¤rvi. Included on this disc are the overtures to Gwendoline and L'Etoile, Suite Pastorale and Joyeuse marche.
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This review is based on the 24/96 PCM download Chandos' Classical Shop site. Like other Chandos recordings I've recently downloaded in hi-rez multi-channel (24/96, 5.1), this one sounds fantastic in the way the orchestra spreads out realistically, in the tonal weight and superb natural timbre of the instruments, and in the subjective freedom of the sound from any hint of any kind of compression. As I sometimes say to my wife when listening to a particularly good recording (such as this one), "This is living!".
I also think that the 15 tracks on this recording comprise the most comprehensive collection of Chabrier's orchestral works we've had on a single disc. The only significant work not included is the Larghetto for horn and orchestra. The most popular items (España, Marche joyeuse / Joyeuse marche, etc.) have been interpreted in classic recordings of the past (Paray/Detroit, Ansermet - with the very same OSR), and even in hi-rez, there was also a little known but very fine DVD-Audio in 24/96 5.1 from Yutaka Sado and the Lamoureux Orchestra in wonderful performances of some of these same works.
Briefly comparing the Järvi and Ansermet recordings (because they both use the OSR, they were both recorded in the same venue - Geneva's Victoria Hall), but I don't think you would recognize the OSR as the same orchestra! Granted, the wind sounds weren't as vinegary in the Ansermet recording as they could sometimes be during that era, but the wind players on this new recording have such refinement and depth to their tone that they could hardly sound more different. As far as the contribution that the hall makes to the overall sound, I think the Chandos engineer (Ralph Couzens) has caught it very well indeed (as the Decca engineers did for Ansermet). There have also been some recent recordings of the OSR in Victoria Hall on the Pentatone label (I have the Bruckner 9th with Marek Janowski), and, as good as that Pentatone recording is, I think this new Chandos Chabrier release is even better. (And, strangely enough, not all the Pentatone Janowski/OSR recordings have been recorded at Victoria Hall - for instance, their Franck and Chausson symphonies with Janowski were recorded Geneva's Dimenec Studio instead.)
For those worried about Järvi's penchant for rocketing off in the tempo department, I'd say there's not too much to worry about - not only is Paray sometimes faster (as might be expected), but even Sado is also faster on certain tracks. The only part on this new recording that had me scratching my head was about 50 seconds in to the first track (Joyeuse marche) where the percussion seems to get a bit too boisterous and briefly loses precise ensemble with the rest of the orchestra - hard to determine what really happens here and in any case it lasts only for a second or three.
Needless to say, I don't agree with the reviews here that complain about an overly big, blowsy sound picture - perhaps because I was listening in multi-channel rather than just regular stereo, and the additional channels allow one to separate the textural strands of the music more easily. I have the Paray/Detroit recording too, and have loved it for decades. Nevertheless, this new recording presents us with an equally valid approach to both the music and the engineering.