Playlist: The Järvi three

James Jolly Sat 2nd December 2017

Six of the finest recordings from the Estonian conducting family

Choosing just two recordings from a catalogue of over 500 redefines the relationship between quarts and pint pots, but I’m going to plump for Neeme Järvi’s Gramophone Award-winning Chandos recording of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony – surely the composer’s greatest, of which this magnificent performance leaves you in no doubt. My other recording from him is from his pioneering cycle for BIS of symphonies by his fellow Estonian Eduard Tubin (1905-82). Tubin left 10 completed symphonies and I’m opting for the Tenth from 1973, a single-movement work with a wonderfully fibrous texture and a very satisfying shape and structure. Its mood is sombre and elegiac yet Tubin packs so much in and with a performance as rich (and magnificently recorded) as this, it’ll soon find a special place in your affections.

Paavo is no sloth when it comes to making records and, again, choosing two is quite an ask. I’m opting for a fairly recent recording of Bruckner’s Sixth Symphony, a modern version that shows what a superb conductor Paavo is – his control of the Frankfurt RSO (and he’s a conductor who selects the repertoire for each of his orchestras with immense care) is very impressive and, what’s more, he negotiates the shifts and turns of this strangely elusive work with enormous dexterity. As Paavo says in the interview on page 14, Estonian music is something he champions wherever and whenever he can, and one composer he has done an enormous service for is Erkki-Sven Tüür. I’m particularly drawn to an ECM recording of the Piano Concerto and Seventh Symphony. As David Fanning said of the symphony: ‘This is another granite-hewn score, which seizes you by the magnificence of its soundmasses, then holds you by the logic of their mutations.’

Kristjan Järvi may lag a bit in the family discography stakes but he’s made some impressive recordings. His Leipzig version of Tchaikovsky’s complete incidental music for the play The Snow Maiden is a total joy and actually gives his father’s Chandos recording a run for its money. Like his brother and father, Kristjan has performed a lot of Arvo Pärt’s music and his Sony Classical collection entitled ‘Cantique’ is very impressive, and a nice introduction to slightly more unusual Pärt fare – linking the powerful, choral Stabat mater and Cantique des degrés with the Third Symphony.

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