Britten: The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (CD review)

Also, Four Sea Interludes. Elgar: Enigma Variations. Paavo Jarvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Telarc CD-80660.

Call this one the return of the big bass drum. Telarc engineers made quite a name for themselves in the early days of digital recording with the sound of their bass, but for whatever reason the famous Telarc low end seemed to have diminished somewhat in the past decade. Not here. The bass came back with a vengeance.

First, a word about the performances. Maestro Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra offer up acceptable if slightly unresponsive renditions of these well-worn British warhorses. Of the three sets of music presented--Britten's Young Person's Guide (Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell), with its emphasis on highlighting different instruments of the orchestra; his impressionistic Four Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes; and Elgar's Variations on an Original Theme, Enigma--I enjoyed the Elgar most of all.

Perhaps hearing Britten conducting his own Young Person's Guide (Decca/JVC) and Andre Previn and the London Symphony (EMI) and Michael Stern and Kansas City Symphony (Reference Recordings) doing the Sea Interludes (EMI) have spoiled me for anything else, I don't know. Certainly, Jarvi does a more-than-competent job with them. Not that the Enigma music is all that much more characterized, though; compared to the likes of Boult and Barbirolli (EMI), Jarvi is still a little undernourished. But as the Variations build up, one senses Jarvi's enthusiasm increasing for the subject matter, and he melds the various individual components into a pleasing whole.

The Telarc sound begs the listener to play it at volume. Otherwise, it's a little vague and soft. However, if you turn it up a notch or two, it comes to life. The outlines of the sonics are firm, solid, the stereo spread is wide, and the bass can be thunderous. There is perhaps too little information presented in the center of the sound stage for absolute realism, but it is a minor concern.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa