You're probably better at remembering things than I am because when I hear the name Paavo Jarvi I still find it hard not to think of Neeme Jarvi or Paavo Berglund. Fortunately, the younger Jarvi shares the same no-nonsense approach to music making as the older men. In this collection of famous short dances by Russian masters, Paavo Jarvi plays the music in a straightforward fashion--straightforward to a fault, I might add--and generally the music sounds the better for it.
The disc contains the usual suspects: Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Glazunov, Liadov, Glinka, and Borodin. The tunes are about as familiar as the names, too: the Polonaise and Waltz from Eugene Onegin; the "Sabre Dance" from Gayaneh; the "Waltz of the Flowers" from The Nutcracker; the "Dance of the Knights" from Romeo and Juliet; the "Polovtsian Dances" from Prince Igor; etc.
More important, Jarvi serves it all up comfortably. He is perhaps not as idiomatic as some conductors in this type of repertoire nor so colorful as others, but, as I've said, his direct, forthright approach lets the music speak for itself, and that can be a pleasant surprise, indeed. It's all fairly light music, after all, and in short bits it's hardly the kind of thing one can get too far into; therefore, Jarvi's honest yet lively renditions of these pieces hit a welcome sweet spot.
Originally released by Virgin in 2004 (and rereleased in 2011 by Erato on the disc pictured above), the recording is robust, to say the least, not always conforming to the audiophile's conception of good audio, perhaps, but reasonably faithful to a real-life source. The bass comes up strong, perhaps a tad overly heavy, the bass drum especially prominent when necessary. The midrange appears somewhat obscured by the bass overhang and in full bloom seems somewhat thick. The highs are maybe not always as clear or vibrant as they could be, either, and on occasion sound slightly hard and sharp. The overall sonic effect is not unpleasant, however, and will surely please listeners seeking a "big" musical experience.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click on the forward arrow: