December 2007

Beethoven - Symphony No. 3 in E Flat "Eroica" and Symphony No. 8 in F
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie; Paavo Järvi, conductor
RCA 88697-13006-2
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2007

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

Paavo Järvi has become one of the greatest conductors of the younger generation of maestros. At 45 he has accomplished what might take a lifetime for others. Since 2001 he has been Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony and raised the level of that orchestra to world-class. He is also Music Director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Leader of Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, which is featured in this dashing recording, the first disc in a complete series devoted to Beethoven’s symphonies.

Järvi has recorded with this orchestra before -- Stravinsky and Richard Strauss for the PentaTone label -- and those discs are first-rate. It turns out that conductor and orchestra bring the same keen insight and virtuosity to the music of Beethoven. The "Eroica" is engagingly taut and fleet, yet has sufficient lyricism that melodic passages really sing. The horns in the trio of the scherzo are outstanding. I have never heard this part of the composition played as well as this. The performance of the Eighth Symphony is more dramatic than usual. Järvi pays special attention to Beethoven’s sudden changes in dynamics.

The recorded sound befits the excellent performances. The soundstage is fairly wide and the stage depth noticeable. Balances are perfect. It’s easy to hear the woodwind and brass parts, even when the strings are going full-tilt, and the tympani interjections in the "Eroica" sound just right. The CD and stereo SACD layers are clean and crisp. Using the rear channels for ambience, the multichannel tracks are a little warmer and have more presence.

I’ll be eagerly awaiting the second installment in this series.