Paavo Järvi conducts Brahms – Symphony 2 & Tragic and Academic Festival Overtures – Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen [RCA Red Seal]

3 of 5 stars

Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73
Tragic Overture, Op.81
Academic Festival Overture, Op.80

Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Järvi

Recorded March & April 2015 (Symphony) and March 2016 at Kurhaus Wiesbaden, Germany

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: December 2017
CD No: RCA RED SEAL 88985459462
Duration: 67 minutes



The opening of the Symphony is mellifluous, quite dreamy, rather pastoral, the emphasis is on lyricism, and, although there is effective dialoguing (and echoing) between antiphonal violins, and some vivid timpani detailing, there is one moment during the exposition (from 3’40”) where a sudden increase in tempo rather derails a sense of organic growth, even more so during the repeat, normally welcome but perhaps best omitted on this occasion. There are further tempo tweaks later in the movement, ones that vitalise and bring grandeur to the music, yet such intervention feels outside of the music’s design and progress. Compensations include some superb playing and the clarity of inner parts.

The slow movement is similarly unsettled at times, although much is intense and eloquent, but around the 3’43” mark a stray pizzicato and a suggestion of a dodgy edit needed to be ironed out. However the elegance and ebullience of the third movement are brought off in style, and the Finale is poised (some effective pianissimos) yet thrilling, a nudge on the accelerator for the closing bars.

Interesting then (that’s not a euphemism) but there are doubts: in a concert some of Paavo Järvi’s decisions might be thought of as whimsical and left in the venue; however, as something permanent to be lived with, then he may well have stolen his own thunder.

The Overtures that follow are impressively brought off, the Tragic full of emotion and drive, but not rushed, indeed the ebb and flow is well-timed – what a piece it is – and an Academic Festival that is full of life, colour (not least from bassoons) and (student) songs, ending as a ceremonial pageant, although anyone wanting a ringing-out triangle might be disappointed, the pings are all there however.

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