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Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra have created another unique recording for Telarc by combining two great British composers, Sir Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten, in a dynamic performance.
"This recording pays tribute to three of Britain's greatest composers—not only Elgar and Britten, but also Henry Purcell, who appears in The Young Person's Guide as an inspiration from the past," says Maestro Jarvi. "My hope is that by having their voices together on one disc, you will enjoy hearing the dialogue between these giants of British music."
"Paavo was an absolute gem to work with," says producer Elaine Martone, who took the reins when long-time CSO producer Robert Woods was sidelined from the project by an ankle injury just prior to the start of the recording sessions. "Paavo Järvi is a brilliant man with a wonderful sense of the line of the music. He brings out the inner parts, illuminating them so they shine." Despite the last-minute producer change, "the sessions went smoothly," says Martone. "The orchestra played the difficult Britten and Elgar music with virtuosity, and Paavo shaped and guided it all with a sure hand."
"Working with Elaine was a true collaboration," said Järvi. "She brought a fresh approach to the recording process."
Edward Elgar (1857-1934) and Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) each stood at the forefront of his respective generation of British composers. The success of Elgar's Enigma Variations spread awareness of his music to an international audience, while Britten's first full-scale opera, Peter Grimes, solidified his position as the most important English opera composer of the century. Both works are deeply personal pieces drawn from life experiences.
Elgar began the Enigma Variations without a specific commission. He sent the completed score to Hans Richter, who conducted the first performance in London a year later. There was great buzz about the significance of each of the "enigmas," as Elgar hinted at a deeper aspect to each of the pieces. This has long since been resolved, and some of the enigmas represent sketches of the composer's friends and musical acquaintances, and/or portray incidents in which they were involved.
Britten dedicated a large portion of his compositions to music with a youthful theme, from pieces like The Sword in the Stone and Simple Symphony to Young Apollo. He wrote The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra for an educational film called The Instruments of the Orchestra, and designed the work for performance with or without narration (the performances on this recording do not include narration). Like Britten's other works for youth, it blends simplicity with sophistication. The subject of its variations is a theme from an earlier giant of British music, Henry Purcell. Variants on a hornpipe from Act III of Purcell's incidental music to Abdelazer are tossed from one orchestral section to the next.
The Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes could be called a set of variations—not in musical terms, but as a series of related images. The 'variations' were written at the same time as the opera and then later extracted as a suite. The Interludes depict the sea in its various states and at different times of the day, while carrying the drama forward through musical means between changes of scene.
Telarc has released nine previous recordings by Paavo Järvi and the CSO since 2001, including the April 2006 release of Concertos for Orchestra by Bartók and Lutoslawski, which The New York Times described as "a winner." In March 2005, the CSO released an all-Debussy album. The sixth recording, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring and Nielsen's Symphony No. 5, was released in September 2004 to critical acclaim. "With this album, Järvi furthers his reputation as one of our rising conductors of Stravinsky," said Time Out New York. Music of Ravel was released in February 2004 and was awarded a prestigious Diapason d'or in June 2004 and also was named an "Editor's Choice" in the July 2004 issue of Gramophone. Maestro Jarvi's eighth Telarc recording with the CSO—Dvorák's Symphony No. 9 and Martinu's Symphony No. 2—was released in September 2005 and was named an "Editor's Choice" in the October 2005 issue of Gramophone.
Järvi and the CSO's other Telarc recordings include Romeo and Juliet: Complete Suites from the Ballet by Prokofiev, Stravinsky's Petrouchka and The Firebird Suite, symphonies by Sibelius and Tubin as well as Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique.