Monday, March 30, 2020

Erkki-Sven Tüür's 'Mythos', commissioned for the centenary of the Republic of Estonia

planethugill.com
30.03.2020

The centenary of the Republic of Estonia celebrated in a powerful new symphony

Erkki-Sven Tüür's Symphony No. 9 'Mythos' was commissioned by the  Government Office of Estonia to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, and the work was premiered in Tallinn and Brussels in January 2018 by the Estonian Festival Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi.On this new disc from Alpha Classics, Paavo Järvi conducts the Estonian Festival Orchestra in live recordings of Erkki-Sven Tüür's Symphony No. 9 'Mythos', Incantation of Tempest and Sow the Wind..., and the disc also celebrates the composer's 60th birthday.

Erkki-Sven Tüür is one of the major contemporary Estonian composers; he studied at Tallinn Conservatoire with Jaan Rääts, and with Lepo Sumera. For a period he was part of the progressive rock group, Spe. His output includes nine symphonies and an opera, Wallenberg.  We caught music by Tuur and by Raats at the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra's concert at the 2015 Vale of Glamorgan Festival.

Paavo Järvi founded the Estonian Festival Orchestra in 2011 as being resident at the Pärnu Music Festival, bringing together the best of Estonian talent alongside leading musicians from around the world. The orchestra became the first Estonian orchestra to perform at the BBC Proms in 2018.The symphony starts from 'primordial chaos', with Tüür gradually creating a sense of order through an emerging string figure which develops. 

But even in gurgling chaos, Tüür's writing is full of colour and texture, and the timbres throughout the work are striking. In his programme note, Tüür is reluctant to give a programmatic description for the piece, yet there is very much a sense of Tüür using the orchestra to create a world, complex, richly textured and dynamic.

The symphony is in a single over-arching movement, with a strong sense of structures developing out of primitive material. Yet throughout, there is an underlying feeling of power surging, complex string textures take place over burgeoning waves of brass sound, and there is a sense of excitement, the stirrings of something being created. As the work progresses, we become aware of Tüür gradually bringing musical fragments into focus to create something new, the dramatic textures coalesce at the end of the work into a striking new sonic world.

The result is a powerfully striking new work, a world away from any sort of nationalistic tub-thumping, and a major addition to the symphonic repertoire. Remarkably the performance here is the premiere, recorded live in January 2018 in Tallinn; the sound is terrific and the recording captures both the excitement of a premiere and the depth and complexity of the writing. You get no sense of the performance being a work in progress, this springs fully-formed and vibrantly exciting from the loud speakers.

Tüür's The Incantation of Tempest is a short work commissioned by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra as part of its Encore! programme creating new music suitable for encores. It was premiered in 2015 by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jakub Hrusa, and Järvi later started using it as a concert opener. It starts with drama, and throughout Tüür achieves a gradual building of excitement.

Paavo Järvi premiered Sow the Wind... in Paris in 2015 with the Orchestra de Paris. The title comes from a passage in the book of Hosea, 'For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind', and the work is an evocation of the effects of reckless human activity whether it be climate change, mass migration of people or extremist movements.

Here we have complex and dramatic textures,  with Tüür again seeming to create a complete world. The work opens with what the composer describes as a 'tidal wave' which washes by, leaving an evocative violin solo and a sense of evolving drama. Again, the musical writing is full of wonderful sonorities and textures.

All three performances are recorded live, the second two works at the Pärnu Music Festival, and throughout the disc you sense the orchestra's responsiveness and its sympathy to the composer's style. You could buy this disc for the outstanding orchestral performances or for the powerful new works, or both; but you should indeed buy it.

http://www.planethugill.com/2020/03/a-major-addition-to-symphonic.html

Friday, March 27, 2020

Olivier Messiaen / Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich / Paavo Järvi

Alpha Classics
Sophie Bourdais
25.03.2020


OLIVIER MESSIAEN
L’ASCENSION - LE TOMBEAU RESPLENDISSANT -
LES OFFRANDES OUBLIÉES - UN SOURIRE

MUSIQUE SYMPHONIQUE
TONHALLE-ORCHESTER ZÜRICH, PAAVO JÄRVI DIR.





Le chef d’orchestre estonien Paavo Järvi voue depuis toujours un amour sincère à la musique française, et ses six ans à la tête de l’Orchestre de Paris n’ont fait qu’attiser son intérêt pour des compositeurs tels qu’Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). Il lui consacre ce premier enregistrement réalisé avec l’Orchestre de la Tonhalle de Zürich, dont il est, depuis 2019, le directeur musical. Soigneusement agencé, le programme enchaîne, avec des transitions si évidentes qu’elles semblent à peine exister, des oeuvres mystiques composées au début des années 1930, et le clin d’oeil malicieux adressé en 1989 à Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dans la pièce Un sourire.

Chargé d’une angoisse terrible, qui évoluera vers l’apaisement, Le Tombeau resplendissant ressuscite un passé enchanté entre deux bourrasques furibondes. Méditation symphonique en trois mouvements sur La Croix, Le Péché et L’Eucharistie, Les Offrandes oubliées passent du lyrisme au tumulte, pour aboutir à un chant rayonnant. Les quatre épisodes de L’Ascension, enfin, font alterner des phrases majestueuses dignes d’une hymne, une séquence plus chantante, une autre où s’insinue la danse, et un épilogue extatique. Que l’on soit croyant ou non (Messiaen l’était profondément), cette musique sacrée, lumineuse et sensuelle, bousculera les âmes autant qu’elle enchantera les oreilles.



"Mythos" rewarded with the Diapason d'Or

Diapason
Patrick Szersnovícz


ERKKI-SVEN TÜÜR
NÉ EN 1959
Symphonie nº 9 “Mythos”. Sow the Wind. Incantation of Tempest.
Orchestre du Festival d’Estonie, Paavo Järvi.
Alpha. Ø 2016 à 2019. TT: 1 h 06’.
TECHNIQUE: 4,5/5

Enregistrement réalisé par Siim Mäesalu et Tanel Klesment en juillet 2016 au Concert Hall de Pärnu et janvier 2018 au Concert Hall de Tallinn (Estonie). Un espace orchestral particulièrement ample, avec des plans sonores, nombreux et profonds, une belle définition des timbres.

Un temps influencé par György Ligeti et Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür s’est forgé depuis un style solide, personnel, où il n’hésite pas à superposer parfois des langages antagonistes. Sa Symphonie nº 9 “Mythos” (2018), dédiée à l’ami Paavo Järvi, paraît amorcer un net rapprochement avec quelques-uns des grands symphonistes nordiques (Norgard, Pettersson) comme avec les foisonnantes fresques orchestrales d’un Lindberg. En trente-cinq minutes d’un seul tenant, l’oeuvre, subtilement articulée, atteste un beau souffle et une manière sonore très riche et remarquablement diversifiée. Ell cumule développements serrés, impressionnantes houles de tutti, épisodes de tension souvent cuivrés et tumultueux, mystérieuses plages de détente à la texture tout ensemble claire et complexe.

Paavo Järvi et son orchestre estonien, précis et engagé, mettent en valeur les innombrables facettes de cette ample symphonie à la fois narrative et abstraite. Basée sur un jeu restreint d’intervalles-clefs (quarte, quinte), elle soutient victorieusement la gageure d’évoquer des états d’âme violemment opposés, aussitôt apparus qu’évanouis, tout en générant une profonde sensation d’unité.

Si les quatre minutes d’Incantation of Tempest (2017) n’ont qu’un intérêt anecdotique, il en va tout autrement de Sow the Wind (2015), grand pièce orchestrale créée par Paavo Järvi et l’Orchestre de Paris. Elle annonce déjà l’évolution dessinée par "Mythos”, suscitant pareillement une relation fascinante entre les idées tangibles et celles qui restent évanescentes. Cette page de vingt et une minutes révèle des trames changeantes et des sonorités souvent inédites, nées d’une efflorescence de bois (clarinettes, hautbois, cor anglais) semblant à elle seule susciter tout le matériau ultérieur. Le compositeur sait faire surgir un verbe nerveux et volubile, mobile et sensible qui, en dépit de l’incessant processus de développement auquel il est soumis, porte en soi une évidente signification expressive.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Erkki-Sven Tüür on Mythos

Presto Classical
prestomusic.com
David Smith
13.03.2020



Composer, flautist and one-time rock star Erkki-Sven Tüür is one of the leading composers of the Baltic region today, with numerous orchestral, chamber, choral and other works under his belt and a style that is both boldly avant-garde and deeply rooted in the compositional traditions and schools that preceded him.

Three of his recent works – from 2014, 2015 and 2018 – have recently been recorded by Tüür's long-time friend and close musical collaborator Paavo Järvi with the Estonian Festival Orchestra. The music explores highly contemporary themes of chaos and turbulence, through a style that grows and develops continuously throughout the piece. While often dissonant, or at least astringent, it's utterly engrossing and thought-provoking in a way that few contemporary composers have matched.
I spoke to Erkki-Sven about these works, and about his thoughts on the idea of "chaos" that in various guises underpins the whole album.

The commissioning of the Mythos symphony formed part of the Estonian centenary celebrations in 2018. All three Baltic states count their official 'age' from their first independence in 1918, not from its restoration in the 1990s which much of the world sees as the new 'beginning'. Why do you think that sense of deeper continuity is so important?
For me the reasons of the continuity are absolutely self-evident. All the basic laws and rights generally accepted in normal democratic societies were violated by the Soviets in 1940. We did not establish a new state after the collapse of USSR - we restored the Republic of Estonia which was violently taken away from us. This is a huge difference.

You’ve dedicated the Incantation of Tempest to your compatriot Veljo Tormis, who died in 2017 and with whom you seem to share a curiosity about the pre-Christian mythology of the Baltic region. Do you see him as an influence on your own musical style?Not in terms of style or musical language. But the thorough consistency he showed by following the path he had chosen is most impressive and, as a role-model, very much worth following.

For the enlightenment of our non-Estonian-speaking readers… Is Incantation of Tempest’s Estonian title Tormiloits a deliberate pun on Veljo’s name, or just a happy coincidence?For sure - and as we know how many kinds of incantations or magic spells he has also used in his oeuvre, the other part of the word 'loits' ('spell') fits perfectly into this title.

Sow the Wind... is a politically engaged piece, reacting to the chaos unleashed by climate change, the rise of the far right and other trends. Given how reticent you are about imposing a definite narrative on the symphony, how did you come to write a piece with such a completely opposite approach – one that states its position unambiguously?I don’t feel that this approach is so opposite. All these titles of my orchestral (or instrumental in general) works should not be taken too literally. They should be seen rather as hints to stimulate the creative imagination of the listener: my aim is not to depict something particular with the sounds. As I have said about this work - In other words, the wind has been sown despite the potential repercussions, and consequently the whirlwind is often reaped by the following generations. I created my composition with these thoughts in mind; however, this is by no means a musical narrative of the above events, i.e. a 'programmatic symphonic poem'. The development of musical ideas simply follows a slightly similar pattern; small, relatively neutral details start evolving and producing unpredictable twists of events. Their character also transforms as it intensifies, the initial 'gusts of wind' growing into veritable 'whirlwinds'.

The contrast between the primordial natural chaos of Mythos and the contemporary human chaos of Sow the Wind... is thought-provoking; chaos seems to inspire you both positively and negatively. How do you incorporate into your music the principle of small 'pebbles' leading to massive 'avalanches'?Chaos can generate very different qualities. There is one aspect of the certain 'nothingness' or pre-birth situation which perhaps interests me more than the others: the chance for totally different and unpredictable subsequent developments. The feeling of status nascendi ['latent potential'] is often something I’m trying to reveal during the opening part of my scores. Then, little by little 'key intervals' emerge, followed by a motif based on these intervals, then the motif is prolonged and prepares to shape a wider 'arch' or 'wave' and so on. I am very keen on this kind of organic development. It is like the seed which is placed in the soil: first we see only a fragile greenish twig and, although we have no idea about the final shape it will take in the future, we are certainly able to detect the power of life in it! After years have passed by we can wonder at how amazing the crown of this tree is, every branch forming a perfect part of it. Nothing could have been shaped otherwise! And all this was potentially there, in this little twig. This process describes my idea how the music should mould itself; at least I am trying to shape it in a similar manner.

The conclusion to Sow the Wind... is not a hopeful one; the music seems to disintegrate and collapse, and it’s not difficult to draw parallels with contemporary concerns about climatic and other challenges. Is that conclusion your own prediction for the future?No. Even the most educated scientists cannot predict the future, so why should I think that I am somehow better informed? But I have my instincts, my fears, my hopes, my beliefs. As an artist I have to be truthful to the subjects that really matter to me. This work is just a reflection of one’s hesitations and endless inner monologues.


https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/articles/3175--interview-erkki-sven-tuur-on-mythos

Monday, March 02, 2020

Eindrucksvoll breite Klangfarbenpalette

ksta.de
Stefan Rütter
2.03.2020

Das NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo spielt Toru Takemitsus „How Slow the Wind“ – und man meint, den seidenmatten Firnis eines an Debussy und Ravel geschulten französischen Klangkörpers zu vernehmen. Dann liegt Bruckners „Siebte“ auf den Pulten – und aus der Mitte leuchtet die warme Bronzelegierung von Hörnern und Celli, wie man sie aus der besten deutschen Orchestertradition kennt. Chamäleonartige Anpassungsfähigkeit? Man sollte wohl eher von Flexibilität reden, von stilistischem Einfühlungsvermögen und einer eindrucksvoll breiten Klangfarbenpalette, die das Meisterkonzert des japanischen Eliteensembles in der Philharmonie auszeichneten.

Dabei gelang nicht alles gleichermaßen gut. Nach Takemitsus delikater, in Komposition wie Ausführung hinreißend fein abgemischter Harmonie- und Klangfarbenstudie bereitete Schumanns Cellokonzert doch eine leichte Enttäuschung. Die Orchestersprache des späten Schumann mit ihren insistierenden Wiederholungen und rhythmischen Schleifen schien die Japaner so gar nicht mobilisieren zu können. Das legte offenbar auch einen leichten Mehltau auf die Gestaltungskräfte der Solistin Sol Gabetta, die fast zaghaft einstieg, den romantischen Balladenton nicht recht finden wollte. Dabei war das alles untadelig gespielt, Gabettas fein gezeichnete Figuration ebenso wie der durchsichtige Orchesterpart, in dem besonders die mirakulös präzisen Holzbläsereinsätze faszinierten.


Entspannt und durchlässig


Deutlich interessanter war die Lesart von Anton Bruckners siebter Sinfonie – wer Klischees nicht fürchtet, konnte hier eine glückliche Verbindung katholischer Weihestimmung und konfuzianischer Gelassenheit konstatieren. Das lag nicht zuletzt am Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi, den man an der Spitze anderer Orchester schon sehr viel autoritärer, schneidiger erlebt hat. Järvi setzte auf das hohe Maß an orchestraler Selbstorganisation, ermöglichte ein druckloses, selbst in der emotionalen Vertiefung des langsamen Satzes entspannt und durchlässig bleibendes Spiel. Weniger stark wirkte die Interpretation dort, wo Bruckner selbst seine glaubensfeste Klangarchitektur unter Beschuss nimmt – etwa in der Katastrophe der Kopfsatz-Durchführung, die dann doch arg mild und gemessen hereinbrach.

Järvi, der gelernte Schlagzeuger, ist immer da am stärksten, wo er mit Temporelationen und metrischen Proportionen arbeiten kann. Das Scherzo mit seinem gleichmäßig pulsierenden Dreiertakt lief geradezu mechanisch ab, dafür gestaltete der Maestro das Finale mit bezwingend klarem Timing. Ähnlich lebte Järvis Lieblings-Zugabe, Sibelius’ „Valse triste“, vor allem aus ihren differenziert ausformulierten Tempo-Übergängen.

Eine bevorzugte Zugabe hat auch Sol Gabetta: Als sich in Peteris Vasks „Dolcissimo“ die schöne Stimme der Cellistin über die elegische Cellolinie breitete, da wurde es im Saal so mäuschenstill wie nirgends sonst an diesem langen Abend.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Paavo Järvi et Khatia Buniatishvili dans un programme contrasté à la Philharmonie de Paris

resmusica.com
Patrick Jézéquel
29.02.2020

Pour ce concert, trois pages symphoniques composent un menu complet et roboratif, parfait pour une veillée hivernale. Avec, aux fourneaux, deux grandes vedettes : Khatia Buniatishvili et Paavo Järvi. Sans oublier le très exact l’Orchestre symphonique de la NHK.



La première œuvre au programme invite à une croisière entre l’Europe et le Japon. Son titre, How Slow the Wind (1991), est en effet tiré par Toru Takemitsu d’un poème d’Emily Dickinson ayant pour cadre l’océan. Cela n’est guère étonnant de la part d’un compositeur très inspiré par Debussy et qui, la même année, dans Quotation of dreams, cite plusieurs fois La Mer, comme une sorte de mantra. Ici aussi, le motif apaisé de sept sons qui ouvre la pièce revient régulièrement, de manière entêtante, passant d’un pupitre à l’autre et chaque fois modifié mais toujours identifiable, telle une vague. Musique raffinée, apaisée et tout à fait maîtrisée par la phalange nippone, qui sait être présente ou devenir transparente dans une palette restreinte, où percent parfois, en arrière-fond, quelques harmonies orientales. L’assurance naturelle de Paavo Järvi, sa décontraction apparente, ne mettent que mieux en évidence la cohérence de son projet. Le plaisir de l’auditeur est extrême.

Changement d’époque, d’esthétique et d’atmosphère avec le Concerto pour piano et orchestre n° 3 (1803) de Ludwig van Beethoven. Est-il vraiment japonais cet orchestre dont les trompettes sont à palettes et allemands les archets de contrebasse ? Quoi qu’il en soit, ce qui saute aux oreilles, c’est sa rondeur ainsi que sa ductilité sous la baguette du chef. Avant même de poser les mains sur le clavier, Khatia Buniatishvili vibre aux accents virils de cet ensemble de premier ordre. Et puis elle réexpose le premier thème avec une fougue digne de Martha Argerich. Mais la comparaison s’arrête là, car la connaissance parfaite de la partition ne cache pas une certaine superficialité ni quelques imperfections çà et là, en particulier des fins de phrases à peine audibles. Ici encore, la pensée de Järvi innerve l’œuvre, ce qui se sent notamment dans le parfait équilibre entre le piano et la masse sonore de l’orchestre. La soliste est à son meilleur dans le dernier mouvement, le plus énergique des trois.

Après l’entracte vient la Symphonie n° 7 en mi majeur (1883) d’Anton Bruckner. Cette fois encore, il suffit de fermer les yeux pour entendre un orchestre allemand, si habile à passer d’un climat à l’autre, tel un randonneur alpin tour à tour trempé par la pluie, séché au soleil ou disparaissant dans la brume. La preuve ? La présence quasi physique du fantôme Wagner, qui hante cette musique en forme d’hommage funèbre. Œuvre magnifique, qui peut paraître un peu longue, principalement à cause du quatrième mouvement, plus abstrait et plus bavard, comme s’il cherchait une issue à son propos. L’orchestre répond parfaitement au maestro, rayonnant d’intelligence.

Un ­beau moment, sans faute de goût aucune, et servi dans un espace hors pair : la Grande Salle Pierre-Boulez.
Crédits photographiques : © Kaupo Kikkas

Friday, February 28, 2020

NHK Symphony mit Buniatishvili betörend im Konzerthaus

derstandard.de
28.02.2020

Unter der Leitung von Paavo Järvi gab man Beethoven und Bruckner



Khatia Buniatishvili, die sternenflammende Königin im Reich von Ebenholz und Elfenbein, betörte am Klavier.Foto: Esther Haase / Sony Classica

In Sachen Klassik weist die Handelsbilanz zwischen Alter Welt und Asien einen extremen Exportüberschuss Europas aus. Dem will das NHK Symphony Orchestra entgegenwirken: Im Konzerthaus gab man unter der Leitung von Paavo Järvi Beethoven und Bruckner.

Und selbst das fernöstliche Präludium war hörbar abendländisch inspiriert: Tôru Takemitsus How Slow the Wind schien auf bezaubernde Weise in den Klangwelten von Debussy, Mahler und Korngold verortet. Schläfrig, schlaff und seifig interpretierten die Japaner dann die Orchestereinleitung von Beethovens drittem Klavierkonzert. Khatia Buniatishvili, die sternenflammende Königin im Reich von Ebenholz und Elfenbein, adaptierte sich an ihrem Arbeitsgerät augenblicklich, watteweicher Wohlklang betörte das Ohr, aparte Armbewegungen das Auge. Wildheit blieb wohldosiert, erst in der Kadenz erlaubte sich die in Paris lebende Georgierin, komplett "auszuzucken". Diese Frau kann am Klavier alles, da gab es keinen Ton, der nicht sinnlich, klug und originell gestaltet gewesen wäre.

Überlange drei Stunden

Als Zugabe spielte Buniatishvili Schuberts Ges-Dur-Impromptu, rätselhafterweise aber nur dessen letzten Teil. Vielleicht ahnte die 32-Jährige schon, dass das Konzert mit knapp drei Stunden überlang werden würde? Bei Bruckners siebter Symphonie spielte die Ausnahmekünstlerin leider nicht mehr mit. Järvi zelebrierte das Großwerk gekonnt, die beeindruckende Leistung der Japaner wurde jedoch von zahlreichen Patzern der Bläser geschmälert. Als Zugabe narkotisierte Sibelius’ Valse triste. 

„Slow“: Khatia Buniatishvili.

Kronen Zeitung
28.02.2020

KONZERTHAUS: Das NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, 1926 gegründet, Japans ältestes Profi-Orchester, präsentiert sich auf seiner EuropaTournee mit Khatia Buniatishvili unter Paavo Järvi. Klänge der Heimat standen am Beginn: Tōru Takemitsus „How slow the Wind“von 1991. Bekömmliche Moderne. Klingt, als würde Debussys Faun unter Kirschblüten meditieren. Sehr „slow“ist dieser brav gespielte Orchesterwind. Allerdings immer noch spannender, als wenn Khatia Buniatishvili, nach pauschal exekutiertem 1. Satz, in Beethovens 3. Klavierkonzert das Largo in Zeitlupe aus dem Flügel klaubt. Dem auseinanderfallenden zweiten Satz half auch der im Gegenzug völlig überdrehte, als banale Fingerschnellübung exekutierte dritte Satz nicht mehr.
Zur Herausforderung wurde danach Bruckners „Siebente“. Wenn aber unter der umsichtigen Leitung von Paavo Järvi neben einer etwas schlaffen, aber soliden Streicher-Phalanx, Holzbläser und das Blech so rasant abfallen, wird Bruckner zur Orchesterfalle.

NHK-Orchester: Lauschen über den Tellerrand hinaus

wienerzeitung.at
Jens F. Laurson
28.02.2020


Reüssierte mit Bruckner: Pultstar Paavo Järvi.© Kaupo Kikkas

Spitze Zungen behaupten, Japan habe eine längere Brucknertradition als Wien. Fest steht, dass Japanische Orchester - über den legendären Takashi Asahina und seine Osaka Philharmoniker hinaus - zu Bruckner einen ganz besonderen Bezug haben. Alleine schon deswegen war die Konstellation des NHK-Orchesters mit Bruckners Siebenter Symphonie im Konzerthaus von besonderem Interesse - und auf doppelte Weise ein Heimspiel im Ausland.

Zugegeben, das traditionsreichste japanische Orchester hatte nicht seinen allerbesten (und die Bläser nicht ihren kieks- und wackelfreien) Tag. Aber wie sich die massiven Speckstein-Formationen hier kantenlos auftürmten, in ungeniert vollem Klang und mit schmetterfreudigem Blech, das war gerade in den Außensätzen eine beeindruckende Bruckner-Demonstration. Dass sich Dirigent Paavo Järvi dabei auf sein Orchester und dessen Tradition einlässt, ist schon daran erkennbar, um wie vieles schlanker dieser Bruckner zum Beispiel mit dem hr-Sinfonieorchester unter der Leitung des Pultstars klingt.

Vor der Pause gab es Beethovenschen Glitzerreigen mit Khatia Buniatishvili: Ein mit Theatralik beladenes Drittes Klavierkonzert, immer auf Kontraste aus und vor lauter Hochdynamik ermüdend. Es war wiederum bewusst kontrastiert mit Schuberts Ges-Dur-Impromptu D 899/3 als Zugabe: Eine herrlich kontrolliert gespielte Studie in mezzo-piano-Ebenmäßigkeit. Die feine, zu Konzertbeginn servierte Musik von Toru Takemitsu, hier das Spätwerk "How slow the Wind", spricht eine moderne und doch leicht zu erfassende Klangsprache, in zarten Farben, delikat, mit ausdrucksvollen Nachklängen und Pausen. Es machte Lust auf mehr.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Parvo Järvi, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall

classical-iconoclast.blogspot.com
Marc Bridle
27.02.2020


Does an orchestra have to be centuries old for its sound to be unique and definable? In many cases the answer is yes, but there are rare instances of twentieth century orchestras which have become recognisable for their sound – the Philharmonia for their woodwind, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks for that extraordinary blend of mellowness – and the NHKSO for the monumental richness of their strings. There is a particular quality to Japanese string playing, and no orchestra represents it better than this one.
Of the two symphonies the NHKSO are playing on their current European tour it is probably the Bruckner Seventh, which they played at their first concert in Estonia, which would have better impressed on us the sheer range of their strings. But it was evident in Schumann’s Cello Concerto, and ample enough in Rachmaninoff’s sweepingly romantic E minor symphony. Indeed, there was absolutely nothing understated about that performance: It may not have been overly lush, but it was heavy on dramatic impact and it seared in a way which is unusual in performances of this work. Robert Simpson’s 1967 assessment of this symphony as a work which “lapses into facile sentiment… collapses under its own weight… and drifts towards inflation” couldn’t have seemed more inappropriate, harsh or outdated as viewed through the prism of Parvo Järvi and his players.
Järvi is not a conductor who tends to hang fire in much of what he conducts; indeed, his tendency for dynamic tempos can benefit certain composers (Bartók and Shostakovich) but it can sometimes work against others (Richard Strauss and Mahler). In Rachmaninoff he is at the extreme end of the spectrum, especially when compared to two other live recordings the NHKSO made with other conductors, Yevgeny Svetlanov and André Previn. Svetlanov’s performance from September 2000 is the slowest, with an Adagio which stretches beyond 17 minutes; Previn’s, from September 2007, is typically mainstream for this conductor. There is a consensus that this Previn is his finest interpretation of the work; there is also a consensus the clarinet solo in the Adagio is particularly weak, an indication of some of this orchestra’s weaknesses. Järvi’s soloist, the hugely expressive Kei Ito, gave a performance as fine as any I have heard, an indication this orchestra can be a chameleon when it wants to.
You never quite know with a performance of this symphony where a conductor is quite going with it during its opening 20 bars – will it be Rachmaninoff, or will it be more like Tchaikovsky’s Fifth? The opening motto on cellos and basses suggested the former, while the echo of the theme on first violins followed in quick succession on the second violins – an echo that was achieved here by antiphonal strings – confirmed this impression. It was only Järvi’s treatment of this movement’s climaxes which somewhat muddied the waters – the first suggestion of the Dies Irae on clarinets and violas, the rampant timpani, the stripping away of romanticism in the violins, woodwind and horns slipping into brutality. This wasn’t a notably balanced view of the first movement by the end of it.
The Allegro molto – perhaps not taken at that tempo – was riotous. If the virtuosity and precision of this orchestra is a given, in the past it has sometimes leant towards being mechanical and perfunctory. That is not the case today; this is a body of players who tends to exhibit an involvement with the music, and it was notable during this performance how often they swayed gently and moved with their conductor’s beat. But this was playing which often sounded robust and muscular – those massively powerful trumpets and trombones, the chasmic basses, the yawning clarinet, and yet how sudden the orchestra could plummet into the one bar of complete silence which is unique to this movement. If the Allegro molto sometimes veers towards moments of dialogue between its instruments this was not entirely convincingly done here. But there were sections – the fugue, the coda – which pressed the lyrical side of the music.
The Adagio – very slightly more measured than it had been in the broadcast of their performance at Suntory Hall on the 5th of February – was potent and vigorous rather than inclined towards romanticism. Järvi’s willingness to strip down the intensity of slow movements in some symphonies – a notable feature of his Mahler Sixth – can sometimes make them seem indelicate; indeed, one often wonders if Järvi isn’t looking backwards to a stricter view of romanticism but forwards to a leaner kind you find in works, for example, by Bartók. The clarinet solo here was undeniably beautiful, but it was a moment of lone expression, a voice sealed inside a chorus of strings which were stripped of all sentimentality. Clarinet and oboe solos, and the duet with the cor anglais, mirrored that long first solo, but how Järvi drove the climax, the pause at its close almost toppling into the beginning of the development. If there had been a particular vision here it was in striking a contrast between this movement’s ecstasy and its crests. Some conductors certainly make this music sound excessively rich; Järvi is not one of those, and this performance of the Adagio had a freshness of expression.
The beginning of the Finale felt more like Tchaikovsky than perhaps any of the previous ones had done; and the rest of it never really deviated from that. The thrust of this movement – an Allegro vivace – often felt it was bulldozing towards inevitability. The timpani which sounded as if it were on a parade, ascending triplets shooting like gunfire, hammering trumpets and drumming horns, cellos descending into the grave, pizzicato octaves on violins and violas that were explosive – all were symptomatic of an orchestra that would eventually be sucked into a vortex. And it was never less than stunningly virtuosic.
I think Järvi ripped much of the richness and glow from this Rachmaninoff and what we were left with was a diametric view of a symphony which was leaner on its romanticism and more inclined towards drama. This wasn’t a view of the work which addressed the symphony’s conventional opulence; nor was it one which saw it dripping in pigments and tints. It was undeniably high on drama, and a view of it which was convincing only if one could open one’s ears to the strikingly different impact we got.

Sol Gabetta, Parvo Järvi. photo : Belinda Lawley
Schumann’s Cello Concerto is in some ways an enigmatic work. It eschews both a conventional structure – although its three movements are distinct, they are played without a break between them – and it lacks the virtuosity of many cello concertos written during the same period of its composition. In another sense, it might not necessarily be a piece one would wish to play with an orchestra quite as powerful as the NHKSO.
What the work has in common with some of Schumann’s symphonies is a lyricism which is suggestive of lieder. The development section of the first movement is a substantial dialogue between the orchestra and soloist; the slow movement can sometimes appear in its poetic inspiration like a series of disconnected phrases; and there is even the hint of a duet with the soloist and principal cellist. Sol Gabetta showed considerable skill in navigating much of the concerto’s challenges. There was a femininity to her playing, a vocalisation to her fingering which understood the work’s inner voices. In her duet with the NHKSO’s cellist, Ryoichi Fujimori, the difference in tonal colour worked well. But there is also a strength and force to Gabetta’s playing which comfortably rose above the orchestra’s brawnier strings; and her meditative, sometimes contemplative interpretation of the work was projected rather than understated. If not an epic performance that relied on power (but then this work hardly needs it), it was one which easily contextualised the concerto’s emotional curves.
The concert had opened with Takemitsu’s How Slow the Wind. Based on an Emily Dickinson poem from 1883, it is his only piece for chamber orchestra, and certainly different in style and meaning to another setting of this poem by the Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov who had written the piece for soprano and string quartet.
It is probably wrong to interpret Takemitsu’s orchestration of the work as being more large scale than one expects it to sound in performance. Its strings (8-6-4-4-2), and the delicacy and restraint of the writing that Takemitsu gives to them, is never going to stretch the tone of the players – not even for a string section as rich as that of the NHKSO. If this often felt more like a Japanese version of Haydn it was because it largely was. The work is grounded on repetition – rather a lot of it – and it is a balancing act for the strings of any orchestra to make the length of the piece not outstay its welcome. The NHK strings had an elasticity of colour, a delicacy of sound, and an ability to shape-shift what came before and what came after. Some of the orchestration might feel a little odd, even perhaps cluttered – the cowbells, the variegation in percussion – a vibraphone and glockenspiel – a harp, a piano and celesta but this is an orchestra which is notable for its clarity and the way it can make textures distinctly separate. That is exactly what we got here under Järvi’s knife-like and precision conscious baton.
The only encore of the concert – unlike the luckier Estonians who had been given two, the other being Sibelius’s Valse Triste – was Heino Eller’s Kodumaine viis. A reminder of Järvi’s roots, that country’s Independence Day and the NHK Symphony Orchestra’s glorious string section it perhaps settled once and for all what makes this orchestra such a special instrument. 

Messiaen: L’Ascension; Le Tombeau Resplendissant; Les Offrandes Oubliees; Un Sourire - Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich; Paavo Järvi

thewholenote.com
Daniel Foley
27.01.2020



Messiaen – L’Ascension; Le Tombeau Resplendissant; Les Offrandes Oubliees; Un Sourire
Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich; Paavo Järvi
Alpha-Classics.com ALPHA 548 (naxosdirect.com)

To celebrate Paavo Järvi’s appointment as their new music director, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich has released this admirable collection of early orchestral works by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), a composer demonstrably dear to Järvi’s heart. The disc begins with Le Tombeau resplendissant (1931), a lesser-known work that reflects a crucial time in Messiaen’s life; it bears an unsettling autobiographical program note that begins, “My youth is dead: it was I who killed it.” Perhaps feeling it was too personally revealing, he withdrew the work from his catalogue for decades. It was eventually published in 1997. This is followed by the transcendent “symphonic meditation” Les Offrandes oubliées (1930), one of his most successful works in this genre.

Notably absent in the works of the 1930s, Messiaen’s preoccupation with birdsong is front and centre, alternating with retrospective hymnal passages reminiscent of his earlier style, in the late Un sourire (1989), which premiered December 5, 1991, as Messiaen’s exquisite contribution to the bicentenary of Mozart’s death. The recording concludes with the original orchestral version of the lengthy, supremely Catholic devotional tone poem L’Ascension – Quatre méditations symphoniques (1932/33); the later 1934 version, with a different third movement, is a well-known crown jewel of the organ repertoire.

Järvi maintains an excellent command of the orchestra throughout. The dense harmonies projected by the Zürich strings are sublime and expertly balanced, the percussion section is impressively resonant and solo passages are outstanding. A very fine job indeed by the recording team, sourced from live performances from January and April 2019.