Monday, February 20, 2017

‘Young people don’t think about the realities of being a musician’ says conductor Paavo Järvi

The Estonian conductor comes from a family of conductors (his father Neeme and brother Kristjan are both well-known conductors). So there can’t be many people better qualified to give advice on making it in music.

What’s your earliest music memory?

I was born into a very musical family so it’s very hard to exactly say what my first musical memory was. I remember going to opera rehearsals a lot when I was a kid. My father was rehearsing and my sister and I would always be at the opera house. Everybody knew who those two kids running around were, because we were very familiar with all the ins and outs and the little passages of the opera house.

How did you end up following in your father’s footsteps and becoming a conductor?

We never thought about it really, we were just surrounded by it and then in school I studied conducting and I somehow I found that I did not have to make a decision what to do next. It was kind of understood that we would become musicians and I suppose there is a tradition of boys wanting to be like their fathers – either they rebel or they want to be exactly like their father and I thought I wanted to be like my father.

What piece of advice would you give to someone trying to become a conductor?

The first thing any young musician should ask themselves is: do they want to be in this profession and are they aware of what they’re getting into?

The reason most musicians end up being musicians is because they love music, because they’re attached to their instrument. But “do you want to spend your life doing this?” is not very often asked. People don’t think about the realities of playing in an orchestra or, as a pianist, practising hours on end in a practice room. And it’s not necessarily something everyone is happy to do.

So I think the piece of advice is to make sure we want to do it, because it is a great, great art, but sometimes it can be quite complicated professionally.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d been given when you were training?

My teacher Leonard Bernstein once said “you have to do your homework and be very prepared, but when you stand on the podium throw it all out of your head and feel”. And I think that’s a great piece of advice, very liberating.
Which recording or project are you proudest of working on?

I have made about a hundred recordings now. So it is very hard to pinpoint one of them, but I can certainly be proud of my 2003 recording of Sibelius’ Cantatas because it became the first recording my Estonian musicians to win a Grammy. It was a significant record and it was done purely by Estonian forces: Estonian orchestra, Estonian producer, Estonian conductor, Estonian chorus and I was very happy.
Which recording would you like to go back and do again?

I think every record would fall into that category. In fact, I’m never really happy with any of the recordings I make. We make recordings, but then we develop and go further and that recording is a sort of a stepping stone. They always seem a little bit behind your own development so I try not to listen to them too much, because we keep progressing and these things are sort of frozen in time.
What place do you think music has in a world that feels very divided and full of conflict?

Music has one powerful force: that is the ability to unite. Classical music or any music will never solve actual conflict, never really actually make a problem go away, but at the same time it helps to deal with issues and helps to create more unity, more harmony and more togetherness. The arts can be more important in unifying people than ever before especially in this very political moment.
Finally, which composer, either still living or from the past, would you most like to have a drink with and why?

All composers are like gods for me – Beethoven, Mahler or Brahms and the thing is you don’t want to ruin your admiration for people who are elevated to this god-like status, because some of those great geniuses were quite awful human beings. So I would rather actually keep my distance and admire them from afar. But if one would need to choose then probably Mahler because he was an interesting combination a conductor and composer. But first of all it is not really a reality. And second, be careful what you wish for.

Paavo Järvi is currently recording a cycle of Struass tone poems with the NHK Symphony Orchestra – the first recording is out now. And he's performing with the orchestra in London on 6 March at the Southbank Centre.

He also runs the Parnu Festival in Estonia. It takes place every year in August and you can find out more on the website.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Paavo Järvi: ‘There’s a fanaticism about music in Japan that is lost in Europe’

The times.
Neil Fisher

As Japan’s best orchestra comes to London, the Estonian conductor explains why he loves working in Tokyo. 

The 54-year-old conductor Paavo Järvi belongs to Estonia’s “first family” of musicians.

Thirty-odd floors up in a hotel bar in Tokyo, Paavo Järvi is outlining the hierarchy of classical music appreciation in Japan: what’s at the top, what goes in the middle, and which repertoire stays at the ground floor. “It’s very clear. If a German conductor comes, with Mahler, Bruckner, or Richard Strauss, that’s music. Then the Russians come and do Tchaikovsky. Then there’s French music, also fine, but it’s already becoming niche. And then everything else is . . . kind of interesting.”

This Japanese-German love-in reached an apogee, Järvi reckons, with the concerts given in Japan by the late Günter Wand of works by Anton Bruckner. “It was like a mass pilgrimage. And I saw it, it was fantastic — but what was going on — were they looking at the messiah?”

Järvi doesn’t think he is the messiah. In fact, the 54-year-old Estonian, part of the Baltic country’s “first family” of musicians, can be a rather naughty boy. On a rare free night in 2015 the conductor live-tweeted during the Eurovision Song Contest, a performance he reprised last year. And since taking up the role of chief conductor of Japan’s most highly rated orchestra, the NHK Symphony, Järvi’s Instagram has filled up with cheeky pictures of him in the altogether in various Japanese onsen, traditional hot-spring baths where swimming costumes are forbidden.

Järvi has taken to Japan. Now in his second season as chief conductor, he has extended his contract for three years and brings the orchestra to the Southbank Centre next month as part of the group’s 90th birthday celebrations. And if he concedes that tastes in the Far East are not as broad as they should be, he’s unashamed about how much he values the regard that the Japanese give to classical music. “There’s a fanaticism that is still alive here that has sort of disappeared in Europe.”

In many respects — the halls, the audiences, the thriving record shops — Japan is paradise for classical music lovers. Yet Japanese orchestras (and Tokyo has eight major symphonic groups, all lavishly funded) have rarely won international followings. Unfair bias, Järvi suggests. “To a lot of people in the West it still seems a little unbelievable that one of the best orchestras in the world is actually in Tokyo, because somehow we have this understanding that the centre of the world is central Europe or America. I don’t think it’s so clear any more.”

A fantastic, musical city needs to have at least one great hall. And you don’t.

Don’t the best Japanese players leave to play in the West? “This trend is reversing — a lot of the [Japanese] students go to study in Germany, in England, the US or Russia, and then they come back here and get a job.” This cosmopolitanism, Järvi argues, also means that, while Japanese orchestras are pretty much exclusively filled with Japanese players, they draw on other styles and backgrounds. “Many speak German in rehearsals, some French. There’s been a generation ‘changeover’ and a lot of the younger players have a European connection.”

Mahler — a magnet for Japanese and British concertgoers — will form the backbone of the London concert, which features the Sixth Symphony prefaced by Takemitsu’s Requiem for Strings. In Tokyo I hear Järvi and the NHK despatch the even larger-scale Third Symphony, a test of an orchestra’s stamina and virtuosity which, by and large, they pass in style. If there’s a quibble, it’s that the seamlessness sometimes glosses over the rougher edges of the music.  

Järvi concedes that the players are at times “uncomfortable” about “exaggerating certain characteristics, or making ugly sounds — which sometimes one needs to make”. One thing he’s still trying to puzzle out is how, physically, to command attention. “I always insist on eye contact — not looking in the direction of someone, but looking at them in the eye. In this culture that’s considered aggressive and impolite.”

An old-school technician on the podium and not prone to crowd-pleasing gestures, Järvi is also not a conductor who fashions clever soundbites. He is typically plain-spoken on the need for a new concert hall in London, where he now lives and where his older daughter from his first marriage was born. “I’m not going to say it for dramatic reasons, but in such a fantastic, musical city, one needs to have at least one great hall. And you don’t.”

Järvi grew up with music. His conductor father, Neeme Järvi, championed the Christian compositions of Arvo Pärt while the Soviets were cracking down on anything with a whiff of religion. Eventually, Neeme grew tired of the repression and took his family to the US when Paavo was 18. All three Järvi children — Paavo is the eldest — have followed him into musical careers. His younger brother, Kristjan, is also a conductor and his sister, Maarika, a flautist. “We always did things together, played piano, went to my father’s rehearsals, listened to a lot of recordings.” Did he never want to have a teenage rebellion? “He never pushed me, so I had nothing to rebel against. He said if you want to do it, do it, if you don’t want to, don’t. But we always wanted to, because he was having so much fun.”

Estonians are seeing a parallel with what happened after the Second World War

Now a regular fixture in Estonia too (Järvi hosts the yearly Pärnu festival with his Estonian Festival Orchestra), the conductor is grappling, as his father did, with an overbearing and aggressive Russia. “We are very worried,” he says. “A lot of people, especially the older generation, are seeing a direct parallel with what happened after the [Second World] war.” An invasion? “It’s unpredictable. We are literally next door, we have a common border.

“It’s a very stupid situation to be in again, after all these years. We thought we had reached that point that international law and sovereignty of borders could be respected, and now we see that in Georgia and Crimea that is not the case.”

So what’s a humble conductor to do? “Symbolically, we can be very important. In a country that has only 1.5 million people, art and culture acquires an entirely different political dimension. We are the export! The most well-known Estonian happens to be a composer, Arvo Pärt, not an athlete, not a rock star.”

What about his Russian fellow artists, some great and important conductors among them? Should they speak out? “I don’t have an answer for this, because as an ex-Soviet citizen, I saw a lot of people actively participate in political affairs only to benefit what they wanted to do, without believing for one second in the political propaganda side of it. But they needed to survive.” Boycotting those who “collaborate” with unsavoury regimes is not the answer. “If we used the same logic, we’d never play Shostakovich.”
The NHK Symphony Orchestra plays at the Festival Hall, London SE1 (020 7960 4200), on March 6

The best recordings of Dvořák's Symphony No 9, 'From the New World'

A quick guide to the most outstanding recordings of Dvořák's final, and most popular, symphony

Symphony No 9 with Martinů Symphony No 2
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Paavo Järvi

Having the most popular of Dvorák’s symphonies coupled with one of the most approachable by a 20th-century Czech composer is a neat and original idea, particularly apt as both works were written in the United States. Paavo Järvi reveals his keen imagination and sharp concentration in both performances and under his guidance the Cincinnati SO is consistently excellent: ensemble more than matches that of the rival versions, including Järvi’s father Neeme in both works.
The quality of the playing is highlighted by the refinement and clarity of the brilliant Telarc recording, with cleaner separation than in any version listed. In the Martinu the Cincinnati performance easily outshines that of the Bamberg SO, which is not helped by a relatively distant recording, while the comparison with Bryden Thomson’s strong and positive reading shows how well Paavo Järvi brings out the Czech flavours in the writing: the first movement is open and fresh, with rhythms that echo Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances.
In the New World Symphony, too, Paavo Järvi is a degree warmer than his father, a shade readier to allow flexibility in tempo and phrasing but never sounding self-conscious or unspontaneous. Speeds are similar between father and son, with István Kertész’s classic LSO reading a little plainer at speeds a fraction faster and with rhythms less lilting in the Scherzo. Though there are many highly recommendable versions of this much-recorded work, this one is a strong candidate in every way; and, quite apart from the outstanding recording quality, has its unique coupling to commend it.řáks-symphony-no-9-from-the-new-world

Friday, February 03, 2017

Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Haydn’s Clock Symphony & Nielsen’s Sinfonia semplice – Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt
Antony Hodgson

Using a slightly reduced orchestra with ‘period’ trumpets and timpani, Paavo Järvi’s reading of Haydn’s ‘Clock’ Symphony was a fine example of how a modern orchestra can present 18th-century music convincingly. The generally swift tempos were ideal in the context of this interpretation and the dashing first movement (the main section is marked Presto) was particularly vivid; strongly pointed with the occasional brief crescendo adding force to the more-significant chords, attention was held throughout. There were personal touches within the short repeats of the second and final movements and that of the Trio played more softly, but this never impeded the music. The Andante which is the basis of the work’s title was accented to delightful effect. It is legitimate to perform the long Minuet rather faster than the required Allegretto, though the quaint fading of tone at the end of the first phrase each time it appeared was something of a surprise. There was superb string-playing in the Finale; the demanding fugal section, both quiet and rapid here, was immaculate. The timpani, also in the Beethoven, were placed behind the violas, but this did not prevent Antoine Siguré from being suitably powerful at dramatic moments; this was imaginative playing.

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was given a lyrical outing within Järvi’s symphonic approach. There was none of the all-too-common relaxation at the arrival of calmer melodies, but the elegant way in which the soloists yielded to one another as each in turn repeated or decorated the themes showed great rapport. The cello is generally the first to expound the opening ideas and Beethoven develops them in different ways – the first movement in Sinfonia concertante style but in the central Largo Tanja Tetzlaff announced the tune with utmost gentility before Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt expanded it in their different ways. The subtle entry of the Finale alla polacca has another subtle difference, each solo instrument commenting on the theme rather than varying it.

This was the final concert in Paavo Järvi’s series incorporating Carl Nielsen’s Six Symphonies. The first publication of No.6 did not give the title ‘Sinfonia semplice’, but this is how the composer referred to it.

Clearly there is nothing ‘simple’ about it and after beginning with a gentle phrase there comes an interesting idea notable for its slightly broken rhythm. Many diverse elements combine to make up this first movement and Järvi sustained a firm pulse. The Philharmonia achieved exciting dynamic contrasts and there was much lyricism – especially when the opening phase was expanded nobly by the horns. In the anguished penultimate section the immensely powerful brass section was superb. The subsequent ‘Humoresque’ is a true scherzo although the joke is somewhat bitter. The weird, disjunctive combination of woodwinds and percussion with the occasional yawning glissando from trombone was given with great precision – the effect is disturbing. The questioning string-based Adagio that follows is also of little relief.

The Finale sets many moods in juxtaposition, announced by bassoon, played expressively by Robin O’Neill. What follows varies from the aggressive to the charming. Contrast of mood is at its height when we reach a winsome waltz for strings interrupted more and more forcefully by cross-rhythms from the rest of the orchestra until brass hammers home a caricature of the dance using unrelated rhythm and tempo, and the exactness with which these wild phrases were performed was extraordinary. Only at the end is the listener offered comfort; the music subsides and under a final flourish we hear the underpinning weight of the bassoon which is left exposed. This was one of the finest Nielsen performances of Järvi’s admirable series.

Monday, January 30, 2017

NHK Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Richard Strauss Volume 1 – Don Juan & Ein Heldenleben [RCA Red Seal]

Colin Anderson
Jan 2017

Find the right volume setting and the recorded sound is admirably spacious, focussed, detailed and dynamic; the bass line is especially strong. The booklet includes an article by Paavo Järvi regarding this his first recording with the NHK Symphony Orchestra, the beginning of a Richard Strauss project with an orchestra particularly attuned to the German repertoire, he feels, thanks to time-honoured associations with Wolfgang Sawallisch, Horst Stein and Otmar Suitner.

Don Juan is a good place to start, for Järvi relishes the exuberant opening – and ensures a really vivid timpani flourish (often not the case and a failing that can sink the whole thing) – to lead-off a brilliant account, one that avoids false sentiment without denuding the music’s capacity for sweet sensation. It is clear that the NHK players are totally dedicated to realising Järvi’s wishes, and the result is a swaggering and seductive Don Juan, played precisely and also with amorous intent, the latter quality bountifully in evidence from the principal oboist, whose phrasing and timbre tease the listener’s responses, and the horns are superbly exultant. This Don Juan is in the Kempe, Reiner and Szell moulds – direct, fiery and discerning.

Järvi is equally wholesome with Ein Heldenleben. He keeps the music on the move, without haste or harrying; it’s a glorious reading enhanced by antiphonal violins and numerous other aural delights. Some may like a little more indulgence in places, greater emphases, but what is refreshing is the current that Järvi maintains without sacrificing drama, beauty or compassion; this is a symphony with a vivid narrative, and prepared to the nth degree, yet the musicians’ interest is retained and a pictorial commentary is continually present.

Fuminori Maro Shinozaki’s violin solos – representing Hero Strauss’s wife to be – are vibrant and technically immaculate if maybe less capricious than ideal – that said, the orchestra’s response (to its concertmaster) is love at first sight. The ‘Battle’ music, heralded by realistically distant trumpets, lets rip a concentrated cacophony (perfectly weighted bass-drum strokes suggest cannon shots) until the Hero is victorious over his enemies, and so he continues, via rapt reflection (including to Don Juan, those voluptuous horns again) into retirement, a golden sunset, a tangible sense of achievement ... and this concert performance fades to silence, not to applause.

However, Strauss will be back soon from Tokyo. There’s certainly room on the shelf for Paavo Järvi’s meticulous yet free-flowing conducting of his music.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Brahms und der kleine Modernsky

Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Jürg Huber

Der Dirigent Paavo Järvi in Prag. (Bild: Imago)

Paavo Järvi und Vilde Frang zu Gast in der Tonhalle

Paavo Järvi und Vilde Frang zeigen zusammen mit der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, wie unterschiedlich sich die musikalische Tradition in Werken von Brahms und Strawinsky anverwandeln lässt.
Mit Brahms ist in Zürich nicht zu spassen. Ernst schaut er mit mächtig wallendem Bart von der Decke des Grossen Saals der Tonhalle, die 1895 mit seinem «Triumphlied» eröffnet wurde. Noch eine Idee strenger erscheint sein Blick, wenn es um die 4. Sinfonie in e-Moll op. 98 geht: Hat sich doch vor einem Vierteljahrhundert David Zinman mit dieser Sinfonie nachdrücklich für die Chefposition beim Tonhalle-Orchester empfohlen. Auch Paavo Järvi hat kürzlich als Gast des Tonhalle-Orchesters einen ausgezeichneten Eindruck hinterlassen – gespannt war man deshalb, was für Ergebnisse eine jahrelange kontinuierliche Zusammenarbeit mit einem Klangkörper zeitigt. Järvi ist nämlich schon seit 2004 Leiter der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

Sehnig und muskulös

Der Einstieg gelingt nach Mass. In den Haydn-Variationen op. 56a zeigt Brahms ein durchaus freundliches Gesicht, das die Bremer Gäste aufmerksam und schön ausspielend zur Geltung bringen: kompakt, doch durchscheinend dabei ihr elegant gemaserter Klang. Brahms im leichten – und leicht wehmütigen – Schubert-Ton, die 5. Variation wird zum Elfen-Scherzo à la Mendelssohn, und der Siciliano-Rhythmus der 7. lässt den graziösen Tanz nostalgisch aufleben.

Mit einer Passacaglia endet der Reigen – ähnlich wie später eine ostinate Bassfigur das Gerüst abgeben wird für das Finale der Vierten. Hier nun, in Brahms' sinfonischem Vermächtnis, entpuppt sich die Kammerphilharmonie trotz – oder gerade wegen? – der kleinen Streicherbesetzung als ein muskulöses, sehniges Orchester mit kernigem Klang. Zwar geht ihm der seidenweiche Streicher-Sound grosser Sinfonieorchester ab; dafür wird das oft vertrackte Stimmengeflecht hörbar, ohne dass es bei einer bloss strukturellen Durchdringung bliebe. Wenig ist von Altersmilde zu spüren, dafür hört man schroffes Aufbegehren mit allen Mitteln der kontrapunktischen Kunst, das besonders Scherzo und Finale zum atemlosen Erlebnis macht, wenn die Schlagzeuger, denen der gelernte Perkussionist Järvi viel Auslauf gewährt, diesen zu präsentem Klang nutzen.

Dazwischen gibt es indes immer wieder diese wunderbar serenen Stellen, etwa das traumverlorene Flötensolo im Finale. Eine eindringliche Interpretation auf höchstem Niveau, die es einem leichtmacht nachzuvollziehen, dass Arnold Schönberg in Brahms einen progressiven Vorläufer seiner selbst sah. Weniger gut zu sprechen war der Zwölftöner hingegen auf Igor Strawinsky, den er in einem satirischen Kanon als «kleinen Modernsky» karikiert. Damit zielte er explizit auf Strawinskys neoklassizistische Kompositionen ab, in denen dieser sich quasi die Barock-Perücke überstülpe. Beim Violinkonzert «in D» konnte man Schönbergs Einschätzung vor der Pause überprüfen.

Die norwegische Geigerin Vilde Frang entledigte sich ihrer etwas undankbaren Aufgabe als Solistin mit Bravour. Den weit gespannten, dissonanten Akkord der Geige, der jeweils das Startsignal für die einzelnen Sätze gibt, spielt sie resolut, doch bald entspinnt sich ein kaleidoskopisches Treiben zwischen Solostimme und einzelnen Instrumenten des Orchesters. Ob kratzbürstig oder lyrisch, mechanisch oder elegant: Der geigerischen Gesten sind viele, und Frang beherrscht sie alle – doch bleibt das Konzert Musik über Musik, ein So-Tun-als-ob. Selbst in der zweiten Aria, bei der Frang viel verhangene Süsse in ihren Ton legt, ist dieser leise Zweifel an der Ernsthaftigkeit des Spiels nicht ganz ausgeräumt.

Fraglos bei sich war Frang hingegen in der norwegischen Volksweise, mit der sie sich vom Tonhalle-Publikum verabschiedete: gestisch, spritzig, leicht.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Neuland perfekt erkundet
Markus Wilks

Bremen. Drei Komponisten, drei Werke, drei Horizonterweiterungen: Takemitsu, Strawinski, Brahms. In ihrem ersten Abokonzert des Jahres stellte die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen drei Stücke vor, mit denen die Komponisten Neuland betraten. Dank Paavo Järvis gewohnt souveräner Leitung sowie der delikat ihre Stradivari spielenden Vilde Frang als debütierender Solistin war das ein Ohrenschmaus.

Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen betont gerne, dass sie besser und anders ist als viele andere Orchester. Das trifft ganz sicher auf das seit 2014 schwerpunktmäßig laufende Brahms-Projekt zu, mit dem sie weltweit erfolgreich gastiert. Vermutlich kein anderes Orchester hat in den vergangenen Jahren so oft die Sinfonien und Konzerte von Johannes Brahms gespielt. Mehr als 60 Mal stand bislang eine der vier Sinfonien auf einem Programm, wobei dem Publikum in Wien, St. Petersburg und Tokyo jeweils die Ehre einer zyklischen Aufführung zukam. In Bremen wagte das Orchester bislang kein solches Brahms-Festival.

In der Glocke begann am Donnerstag mit der Sinfonie Nr. 1 der auf mehrere Spielzeiten verteilte zweite Bremer Brahms-Zyklus. Wieder verstanden es die Musiker unnachahmlich, die Eigenarten der Sinfonie wie die chromatische Entwicklung, das Wechselspiel zwischen den Instrumenten, die aggressiven Paukenschläge in der Einleitung und das von Flöte und Horn gespielte „Alphornsolo“ besonders zu betonen. Järvi lässt sein Orchester in vielen Tutti-Stellen nicht so dröhnen wie sonst oft zu hören, sondern transparenter und ökonomischer spielen. Er setzte die Akzente, etwa die der Bässe, in durchsichtigeren Passagen. Zwischen dem klangsensiblen Musizieren der Solostimmen (insbesondere Oboe, Klarinette, Violine) bis hin zu den fulminant zugespitzten rhythmischen Energien im Finale lagen wieder faszinierende Welten. Gespür für feinste klangliche Schattierungen und einen ungewöhnlich homogenen, vibratoarmen Ton (manchmal noch genauer und schöner als im Brahms) bewies die Kammerphilharmonie im ersten Stück des Konzerts, in Tōru Takemitsus Requiem für Streichorchester. Konzertmeisterin Sarah Christian drückte mit ihren superweich gespielten Soli dem geschickt zwischen dissonant und melodiös wechselnden Stück ihren Stempel auf. Ein gefeiertes Debüt bei den Kammerphilharmonikern gab die Geigerin Vilde Frang. Sie stellte in Igor Strawinskis Violinkonzert weniger die aggressiven, virtuosen Seiten der Komposition heraus, sondern führte mit delikatem Spiel durch das komplex konstruierte, die Instrumente in immer neuen Konstellationen mit der Geige kombinierende Stück. Vom Flirren der kleinen Flöte bis hinunter zu den Farbtupfern der Tuba war das eine verspielte Interpretation, die perfekt mit dem weichen, nie forciert gebildeten Ton von Vilde Frangs Geige harmonierte.,-Neuland-perfekt-erkundet-_arid,1535043.html#nfy-reload

Musikalische Brücken schlagen
Annkatrin Babbe

BREMEN Mit so vielen Bezeichnungen – von Wunderkind bis Geigenfee – hat man sie schon versehen; hören und lesen mag sie es bestimmt nicht mehr. Was sie selbst will: Brücken bauen – mit ihrem Instrument. Und wer sie hört, kann nachempfinden, was sie damit meint. Ihr Spiel berührt ganz direkt.

Vilde Frang war jetzt Gast im Konzert der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen unter der Leitung von Paavo Järvi. Donnernden Beifall gab es für ihre Interpretation von Strawinskis Violinkonzert. Jeder Ton ist kristallklar, der Klang dabei höchst variabel: Bei absoluter technischer Souveränität bewegt sich Frang zwischen Fragilität und raumgreifender Stärke, zwischen Innigkeit und drängender Impulsivität, ohne dabei zu dick aufzutragen.

Schlicht und schlank

Das erste Konzert im neuen Jahr widmete Paavo Järvi dem im Dezember 2016 verstorbenen Cellisten und Dirigenten Heinrich Schiff, der als erster Gastdirigent Ende des vorigen Jahrhunderts auch mit der Kammerphilharmonie zusammengearbeitet hat.

Tōru Takemitsus Requiem für Streichorchester bildete vor diesem Hintergrund einen stimmungsvollen Einstieg in den Abend. Mehr Geräusch ist der Beginn des Ein-Satz-Requiems, erst nach und nach kristallisiert sich eine Struktur heraus, bilden rhythmische Phrasen Kontraste zur Schlichtheit des insgesamt schlanken Orchesterklangs.

Beifall zum Zweiten gab es für Brahms Sinfonie Nr. 1 in c-Moll op. 68. Nach den erfolgreichen Beethoven- und Schumann-Zyklen arbeitet die Kammerphilharmonie derzeit an einem Brahms-Zyklus. Die Veröffentlichung von Aufnahmen ist für dieses Jahr geplant. Bis ins Letzte ausgefeilt scheint die Interpretation unter Järvi. Bestechend ist das transparente, klar differenzierte Klangbild, das Herausstellen kleinster Feinheiten. Ohne Hektik durchströmt Järvi ein dynamisches Vorwärts, das wenig Raum für Pathetik lässt.
Mit Verankerung

Brücken schlägt die Sinfonie in verschiedene Richtungen: Da ist der Rückbezug auf Beethoven – nicht von ungefähr redet man bei Brahms 1. augenzwinkernd von Beethovens 10. Sinfonie –, auf Bach und andere und gleichzeitig die starke Verankerung im Hier und Jetzt unter Järvis Dirigat. Man kann (und will) sich der Musik nicht entziehen.,2,1045906590.html

Monday, December 19, 2016

Verve, Impetus und Elan mit Steven Isserlis und Paavo Järvi
Rolf Kyburz

Dies war das erste von drei aufeinander folgenden, fast identischen Abonnementskonzerten in der Tonhalle, und trotz einer wenig eingängigen ersten Konzerthälfte war das Risiko für das Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich minimal: mit seiner russischen Herkunft ist Steven Isserlis prädestiniert für eine kompetente und authentische Interpretation des Cellokonzerts von Prokofjew. Mit Paavo Järvi agierte ein kompetenter, verlässlicher und sympathischer Gastdirigent auf dem Podium.

Steven Isserlis
© Kevin Davis

Prokofjews Cellokonzert mag auch bald 80 Jahre nach seiner Uraufführung 1938 oft noch herb, fast abweisend klingen, mir schienen in dieser Aufführung derartige Eindrücke jedoch schon gar nicht aufkommen zu wollen! Schon der erste Satz ist ganz tonal. Wer Prokofjews Klangsprache einmal akzeptiert, findet sich in einer Welt voll von sehr schönen Kantilenen, von oft fast klassischer Heiterkeit, beinahe Abgeklärtheit, zumindest im Adagio-Teil. Der Hörer brauchte für das Werk keine Aufwärmzeit: Steven Isserlis warf sich mit dem eröffnenden Solo gleich mit Verve in seinen Part und das Orchester setzte danach die Gesangslinie fast nahtlos fort. Prokofjew hat dabei so geschickt instrumentiert, dass das häufig im hohen Diskant spielende Solo und die schreitende Begleitung (meist im Fagott) stets hörbar bleiben, selbst da, wo die Violinen die Nebenstimme übernehmen.

Isserlis brachte seine ganze Leidenschaft in den Solopart ein, war sehr emotional auch im Vibrato (das aber in der Dosierung und Frequenz gut zu diesem Werk passte) und äußerst expressiv in den elegischen Segmenten. Sein Instrument glänzte mit einem hell-singenden, sehr ausgeglichenen Ton, problemlos tragend in den leisen Stellen, nie nasal verfärbt. Paavo Järvi dirigierte mit klarer Zeichensprache, hatte das Orchester rhythmisch und dynamisch stets unter Kontrolle. Dennoch ließ er dem Solisten genügend Freiraum und über weite Strecken schienen die Impulse aus dem Solopart zu kommen. Selbst wenn Isserlis orchestrale Segmente mit teils heftigen Kopfbewegungen begleitete, machte er damit dem Dirigenten nicht seine Rolle streitig.

Das Allegro giusto bringt eine stärkere Vermischung des Celloklangs mit dem Orchester, mehr Interaktion; dabei hat dieser Satz neben wunderschön aufblühenden Melodien und klassizistischen Anklängen auch einen Strauss an neckischen Motiven und ist voller Humor: unbegreiflich, dass dieses Konzert bei der Premiere auf Ablehnung stieß! Die Musik ist sehr abwechslungsreich, mit einem fast geflüsterten Mittelteil, con sordino im Solo; das Cello blieb trotzdem immer wahrnehmbar. Daneben enthält der Solo-Part aber extrem virtuose Passagen: passioniert, aus dem Inneren heraus musiziert. Dieser Teil ist äußerst schwierig in der Intonation, wurde aber von Isserlis klaglos gemeistert, soweit technisch möglich.

Der Schlusssatz ist länger als die beiden ersten zusammen, aber dennoch kein Monstrum, sondern eine Folge von vier Variationen, zwei Interludien und einem mehrteiligen Abschluss. Er beginnt mit einem einprägsamen Thema, das zwar ruhig schreitet und doch drängend im Ausdruck bleibt. Die Variationen führen über äußerste Virtuosität (an der Grenze des Artikulierbaren, aber bei Isserlis nicht extrovertiert) und Serenaden-Heiterkeit zu einem Kadenz-artigen Interludium, hier verspielt und unprätentiös interpretiert: der Solist schien fast verträumt den verklingenden Tönen nachzuhorchen. Mit der vierten Variation schwächt sich die Bindung an das Thema, erst recht über die darauffolgende Reminiscenza, hin zur Coda mit dem fulminant-dramatischen Schluss. Faszinierende Musik in einer packenden, intensiven und lebendigen Interpretation! Als Zugabe spielte Steven Isserlis aus den 12 leichten Stücken für Klavier, Op.65 von Prokofjew die Nr.10, den unterhaltsamen Marsch in C-Dur (arrangiert von Gregor Piatigorsky).

Paavo Järvi
© Ixi Chen

Nach der Pause folgte die (halbe) Stunde des Orchesters. Paavo Järvi nahm das Lebhaft des Kopfsatzes der Rheinischen Symphonie wörtlich, dirigierte mit Schwung, eher luzid denn rheinisch-schwerfällig, impulsiv, herzerwärmende Lebenslust und Glück ausstrahlend; die nachdenklichen Momente bleiben episodisch. Zentral, wie oft bei Schumann, war der Glanz der vier Hörner: prachtvoll, aber nie schmetternd. Die Interpretation des Scherzos schien mir erzählerisch-durchsichtig, mit sprechendem Rubato, welches an die Koordinationsfähigkeit und Flexibilität des Orchesters hohe Ansprüche stellte. Der Mittelsatz war detailliert, vermied aber Härten und Übertreibungen (z.B. in den fp-Akzenten), sowie Extreme in Dynamik und Artikulation. Für mich eine gediegene Interpretation im besten Sinne des Wortes, wie schon im Vorgängersatz im ppp entschwindend.

Das nachfolgende Feierlich beginnt schreitend, dominiert vom satten Legato der Hörner und Posaunen, wie eine Trauermusik, mit langgezogenen Melodielinien. Järvi schaffte es hier, in einer langen Steigerung, auch über piano-Passagen hinweg, kontinuierlich Spannung aufzubauen, hin zu einer Serie von Fanfaren, wonach die Musik in Ruhe ausklingt – nur um überzugehen in das flüssige, leichtfüßige Tempo des Finales. Interessant fand ich hier, wie der Dirigent für die zwei p-Akzente kurz bremste, um sogleich wieder zum Originaltempo zurückzukehren. Allgemein nutzte Paavo Järvi ein lebhaftes Rubato, dem das Orchester problemlos folgte: die Musiker ließen sich mitreißen und mittragen.

Ich empfand die Arbeit von Dirigent und Orchester als ausgezeichnet, überzeugend und geschlossen. Gar eine Spitzenleistung?


At the 54th RECORD ACADEMY AWARD in Tokyo today, Paavo Järvi was announced as the recipient of two prestigious prizes: The Complete Nielsen Symphonies recorded with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony was voted “Gand Prix (Silver Prize): Best Symphony Recording” and his second CD release as Chief Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra featuring Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, Till Eulenspiegel & Der Rosenkavalier Suite was voted “Best Orchestral Recording”. Both releases appear on the RCA Red Seal label of Sony Music.

These two recordings were particularly special projects for Paavo Järvi. The Nielsen Cycle was performed and recorded over several years in Frankfurt during his time as Principal Conductor (2006 – 2013). As Paavo commented, “Carl Nielsen’s symphonies are rarely performed and even more rarely recorded so it was an important opportunity to bring a new audience to this great music. That audiences not only throughout Europe but also in Japan have come to appreciate these less known works has been truly uplifting.”

Of his recording project with the NHK Symphony Orchestra Paavo said “For our recording of Strauss to be chosen as the best recording in the orchestral category is particularly momentous as it is a recognition of our collaboration together as conductor and orchestra. When I was thinking about this recording project, it brought to mind the NHK Symphony Orchestra’s great tradition, its famous sound, and the conductors who have had a deep influence on it. It is well-known that this orchestra has a very German character because of the long performance tradition with some of the greatest German and Austrian conductors … Listening to our Strauss recording, I can say without any hesitation, that the result has even exceeded my expectations. I am so impressed with the tightly knit ensemble playing of the orchestra: all the musicians are very detail oriented and the result is very polished and well-worked out. What also made me personally very happy was, along with this high level of achievement and deep affinity for the music, the orchestra’s openness to suggestions and discussion. They were ready for and accepting of ideas that they might not have tried before, and we immediately became a good team.”

The RECORD ACADEMY AWARD is organized by RECORD GEIJUTSU Magazine (literally, “The Art of Record” in Japanese), published by the ONGAKU-NO-TOMO Company (literally “Friends of Music” in Japanese) and is given annually to the best classical music discs in 15 different genres/categories by the vote of the selection committee comprising Japanese classical music critics and journalists. The Award was created in 1963 and is regarded as one of the most authoritative in the world of classical music.

Isserlis Persuasive in Prokofiev Concerto; Järvi delights with the ‘Rhenish’
John Rhodes

Prokofiev – Cello concerto
Schumann – Symphony No.3, ‘Rhenish’

Steven Isserlis (c) Jean Baptiste Millot

Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto is no household favourite by any stretch of the imagination. When composed, in 1938, it was considered “soul-less”. In Isserlis’s expert hands the concerto becomes soulful. The première was reportedly a fiasco, but there was much criticism (by Hans Richter, for one) of the conductor and soloist. It took until 1947 to be rediscovered, by Rostropovich, who then urged Prokofiev to re-write it as a Sinfonia Concertante, actually hoping – Isserlis suspects – for a brand new work. The revision (Op.125), whilst eclipsing its predecessor, has also found no favour.

Isserlis, one of the world’s leading cellists for a generation, has been championing the original work (Op.58) and recorded it last year, to considerable acclaim, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra under Paavo Järvi.

The work does not make for particularly easy listening: the last movement consisting of interludes and a series of variations (seemingly on the first three notes of the chimes of Big Ben) is a mite over-long. It’s rugged but never as bleak as Shostakovich could have made it; the solo part is difficult (no hurdle for Isserlis, of course) and rather unrewarding. The work does have some beautiful passages and the jaunty orchestral accompaniment reminds one of the sound world of Romeo and Juliet, but without the tunes.

Isserlis, with Järvi’s assistance, made a persuasive case for the “original” version. Few are persuaded the concerto is actually a masterpiece, but it’s certainly well worth hearing. Watching Isserlis is an added bonus: with his mop of curly grey hair, he casts his eyes to the heavens when not playing and visibly adores the work. In the first movement, Isserlis conjures up some surprising sounds and builds up great tension. There are some almost witty passages, as one might expect from Prokofiev, and here Isserlis conveys a sense of fun. However, the feeling of a malevolent presence hardly ever leaves the work. After a fast and furious Coda, Isserlis rewarded us with some playful Kabalevsky and cheeky grimaces.

Schumann’s Third Symphony, the ‘Rhenish’, is named after the River Rhine which flows majestically through the cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf. I lived in Düsseldorf for a few years in the late Sixties and themes from Schumann’s symphony were used on local television to introduce and sign off a regional news programme, ‘Hier und heute’, here and today. All the locals knew the melody even if few recognised its provenance. Schumann was inspired to write the symphony after a happy trip, with his wife Clara, to the Rhineland, Schumann later becoming Municipal Music Director in Düsseldorf.

The first movement opens with a surging heroic theme and the whole movement has an ever-present flow, like the Rhine itself. The second movement is a Scherzo, a rustic Ländler evoking the days when the Rhineland was not yet heavily industrialised; the third movement brings calm repose before a fourth movement in which Järvi skilfully built up and overlaid the chorale-like themes. Järvi has recorded the work, a few years ago, with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Bremen, and he uncovers phrases which in ordinary performances of the work are usually unheard. The final movement brought a smile to everyone’s face and the joyous finish ensured warm applause. The orchestra clearly warmed to Järvi, he would be a contender as Bringuier’s successor; could he combine the Tonhalle with the NHK Symphony of which he became the Chief Conductor last year, with an initial contract of three years?

Ist das der neue Chefdirigent?
Moritz Weber

Paavo Järvi zählt zu den möglichen Kandidaten für den Posten des Chefdirigenten beim Tonhalle-Orchester. Seine Qualitäten bewies er jetzt in einem Konzert mit Musik von Schumann, Kurtág und Prokofjew.

Paavo Järvi tritt ruhig aufs Podium, die Musiker des besetzten Tonhalle-Orchesters strahlen, und noch bevor der Auftrittsapplaus ganz verebbt ist, gibt der 53 Jahre alte Dirigent den Einsatz zur «Rheinischen» von Robert Schumann. Voller Schwung und wie mit Siebenmeilenstiefeln scheint das Hauptthema in einem grossen Bogen über die ersten Takte des Werks hinweg zu fliegen.

Klingt so der Prolog zu einem neuen Kapitel in der Geschichte des Zürcher Orchesters? Bekanntlich muss schon recht bald ein Nachfolger für den 2018 scheidenden Chefdirigenten Lionel Bringuier gefunden werden. Das Kandidatenkarussell sollte sich also ziemlich schnell drehen, wenn die Intendanz bereits zur Saison 2018/19 einen Chefdirigenten – oder eine Chefdirigentin – mit angemessener internationaler Reputation verpflichten will.
Ein Kandidat von Format

Zweifellos ist der Este Paavo Järvi ein Kandidat von Format, seine bisherige Arbeit als Chefdirigent einiger Orchester in Europa, Japan und den USA sowie seine zahlreichen hervorragenden Aufnahmen zeugen davon. Zu ihnen gehören etwa seine preisgekrönten Einspielungen der Sinfonien Carl Nielsens oder von Henri Dutilleux’ Orchestermusik, die Gesamtaufnahmen der Beethoven-Sinfonien sowie nicht zuletzt alle Schumann-Sinfonien. Beide Werkzyklen hat er mit der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen eingespielt, wo er seit 2004 überaus erfolgreich als künstlerischer Leiter amtiert.

Der 53 Jahre alte Dirigent Paavo Järvi wäre ein hervorragend geeigneter Kandidat für die Nachfolge von Lionel Bringuier in Zürich. (Bild: PD)