Thursday, March 31, 2005

CONCERT REVIEW: Tüür, Schumann, Pärt, Nielsen

This review, by Alex Russell, is just in, originating from the webzine Seen and Heard International:

Tüür, Schumann, Pärt, Nielsen: Truls Mørk (cello), BBC Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (conductor), Barbican Hall, 24th February, 2005

"This concert began with the London premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür's nine-minute masterpiece Aditus (2000, rev. 2002). The title Aditus ('approach, entrance, access') alludes to the work's conflicting forces and contrasting sensations that collide and retreat in rising, sinking, swirling movements striving for survival and escaping burial. The work is dedicated to the composer's friend and teacher Lepo Sumera (who died in 2000) 'as a celebration of a great man.'

"Listening to Aditus for the first time I was struck by its originality of voice: Tüür is arguably one the finest composers alive today and yet does not come across as sounding 'contemporary' in the conventional sense of that term. Tüür's Aditus sounded archaically classical yet thoroughly modern at the same time, but without sounding ever like post-modern pastiche as did Arvo Pärt's Pro et Contra heard in part two. Tüür is a master of composition, a genius of autonomy, sounding unique yet also magnificently assimilative, coming to grips with the anxiety of influence with great aplomb, with traces of Schoenberg's Pelleas & Melisande and Strauss's Death & Transfiguration seeping through. The shimmering score of Aditus is rich, lush, voluptuous and violent, bursting at the seams - as if wanting to escape its angst-ridden self. Tüür is a brilliant orchestral virtuoso the likes of which we have not seen since Wagner and Strauss. The composer was there to share the enthusiastic applause with conductor and orchestra, who performed his complex masterpiece with great verve and virtuosity.

"The concert sadly sagged with Schumann's Cello Concerto in A major, Op. 120 (1850), in an uninspired performance by Truls Mørk. Arvo Pärt's Pro et Contra or For and Against, (1966, rev. 1999) sounded much of its time and therefore dated and predictable. This hybrid cello concerto deals with a post-modern play between Baroque pastiche versus twelve-tone music. Yet there was little sense of chaos or conflict here because there was no real sense of tension being generated between this play of conflicting and contrasting styles. Cellist Truls Mørk seemed uncomfortable, and the performance suffered.

"Järvi gave a paradigm performance of Carl Nielsen's Fifth Symphony, Op.50 (1920-1922), integrating the two movements as an unfolding organic whole. Järvi's tight grasp of tempi, structure and dynamics was judged to absolute perfection and held the audience in mesmerised silence from beginning to end. Like the other contemporary works on the programme, Nielsen's work deals with conflict and dissonance - as he said: 'the division of dark and light, the battle between evil and good.' The so called evil element is represented by the side drummer who is instructed at the climax of the first movement to improvise 'in his own tempo, as though determined at all costs to obscure the music' along with an anarchic battery of percussion playing ad-lib. The BBC SO percussion brought this off with great attack, making the music sound really threatening and disruptive. Yet the side drum is not meant to sound militaristic and this score is not a 'war symphony' - as often wrongly termed - but one of conflict between man and nature. The side drummer played his anarchic entries with great aplomb as did the rest of the percussion section. Richard Hosford's sour clarinet solo after the storm was appropriately alienating and melted slowly into nothingness: I have never heard this passage done so exquisitely. Among highlights of this electrifying performance was John Chimes's incisive timpani interjections which had great impact and intensity cutting through the swirling strings at the beginning of the concluding movement. Järvi stated that he sees the concluding bars as optimistic rather than pessimistic so opted for toning down the brass and making the strings play free-bow in the closing bars. This radical conception worked very well with the free-bowing effect giving the sensation of the strings spiralling and sawing up to a crescendo accompanied by the nailing timpani."

Further listening:

Carl Nielsen, Fifth Symphony (20 Nov.1980); Dmitri Shostakovich, Sixth Symphony (21 Jan. 1968); Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, Kirill Kondrashin (conductor), Live Recordings: Philips Classics: 438 283-2 ADD.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Cincinnati Symphony Nabs Two CityBeat Best of Cincinnati 2005 Awards

Cincinnati CityBeat's new Best of Cincinnati 2005 issue is hot off the presses and the CSO has garnered recognition in two categories:

BEST ARTS EXPORTS (INTERNATIONAL):

On a tour of Europe in November, Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra sold out concert halls in Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, and Madrid. It's great to have a world-class ensemble right in our own back yard.

BEST FREE EATS WITH A SERVING OF CULTURE:

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's Thursday Night Buffet Series is a cheap night out ($17 for a symphony concert, and you gt a meal beforehand), and now that they've opened up Music Hall's Ballroom you don't have to balance that lasagna on your lap in the overcrowded lobby. 1241 Elm Street, Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-1919.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Yundi Li's Nike Commercial


Did anyone besides me happen to be watching the Olympics last summer and just happen to see a Nike commercial featuring a very cute young Asian guy jumping out of bed, obviously late for something, throwing on Nike shoes and sweats, and cycling madly to a concert hall (with Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong intercut with him)--whereupon he was magically transformed into evening dress and playing the piano to a roomful of adoring fans?? Did you realize that the star of this mini-film was Yundi Li, the charismatic young music star who toured Japan with the Cincinnati Symphony two years ago? Well, it took me a few seconds, but I did. And after just paying a visit to a Yundi Li discussion board, I found out that the music he was playing then was Grieg's Piano Concerto A minor, Op. 16.

By the way, Yundi Li will be playing Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 as Paavo's guest in October for a tour of German cities with Staatskapelle Dresden: October 16-18 (Dresden); 20 (Hamburg); 21 (Koln); 23 (Munich); 24 (Nurnberg); 26 (Frankfurt); 27 (Stuttgart); 28 (Essen).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Paavo at Recent CSO Party of Note

What? No tie? ;-)
Toasting are (from left) organist Donald Auberger, CSO maestro Paavo Järvi and special guest organist Peter Richard Conte at March 11, 2005, Party of Note.

Party of Note: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Sunday, March 27, 2005

"Annually, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra offers a variety of noteworthy parties for supporters. Some 50 guests were welcomed to one such Party of Note at River High, the Hyde Park home of CSO board member Melody Sawyer Richardson.

"This evening provided guests with champagne, hors d'oeuvres and a sit-down dinner created by chef Jean-Robert de Cavel. Following dinner, guests enjoyed a recital featuring River High's impeccably restored Aeolian pipe organ. The evening's featured musicians included Don Auberger, St. Boniface Church Organist, who was responsible for the restoration of this magnificent pipe organ; Eric Kim, CSO principal cellist, and Gene Berger, CSO acting assistant principal utility horn.

"Special guest organist was Peter Richard Conte, the grand court organist of the world-famous Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia's Lord & Taylor department store.

"Also present for this spectacular evening was CSO maestro Paavo Järvi."

Friday, March 25, 2005

Check It Out! 2005-2006 World Schedule Is Now Available!

Paavo's conducting schedule for 2005-2006 is now in my hot little hands! Many interesting additions include a mini-U.S. tour with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in August; upcoming appearances in St. Petersburg, Russia; Lisbon, Portugal; dates with the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and the London Symphony; a return to France with concerts with the Orchestre National de France in St. Denis Basilica and to his beloved Verbier Festival in Switzerland!

Click here to see if he'll be appearing in your neighborhood!

Got a Yen to Go to Jarvifest?

Sometimes I feel like I'm always the last one to know -- this time it's about a little road trip that's being planned by CSO Encore! to Detroit this June to see Paavo conduct the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on his dad Neeme's last weekend as Music Director. Last time Paavo conducted there, I believe, was in 1998 and the guest artist was the brilliant English violinist, Nigel Kennedy. This time his guest artists are the husband and wife team of Michael Collins, clarinet, and Isabelle van Kuelen, violin, in the World Premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür's Concerto for Violin, Clarinet and Orchestra. Also on this program: Mozart's Overture to La clemenza di Tito and Schumann's Symphony No. 3, "Rhenish".

"ON THE ROAD…CSOEncore! is going on a road trip! You’re invited! We’re headed for a Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert, June 17-19. Our own Paavo Järvi will be conducting a concert of Mozart, Schumann, and Tüür. We’ll travel to Detroit on the evening of Friday, June 17, enjoy some local activities on Saturday morning and afternoon, then attend Saturday evening’s pre-concert jazz dinner, concert, and afterparty with our colleagues from Overtures, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra young professionals group. We’ll head back to Cincinnati Sunday morning - not too early. Tickets are $200, on sale now, and include transportation (yes, to AND from Detroit), double occupancy lodging at the Marriott Renaissance Center, and dinner/concert/afterparty. Single occupancy is available for an upcharge. Deadline is May 20. Call Deb (513-744-3356) for more details or e-mail to dbell@cincinnatisymphony.org."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

CD REVIEW: CSO's Debussy disc is beautiful

The Cincinnati Post's Mary Ellyn Hutton offers a strong endorsement of Paavo's new recording in CSO's Debussy disc is beautiful (3/22/05):

Paavo Järvi: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Debussy, "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune," Nocturnes, "La Mer," "Berceuse Heroique." Telarc. A.

CSO music director Paavo Järvi gazes sideways over a crashing wave on the cover of his latest CD with the CSO, an all-Debussy compilation including La Mer and two more of the composer's best known works, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Nocturnes.

But look, there's a stowaway here, Debussy's little known Berceuse Heroique, a 1914 work, originally for piano, orchestrated by the composer in 1915. It's an elegant touch, a bit of "spice" as Järvi would say. Thoughtful, too, for it was inspired not by ocean spray, clouds sweeping across the sky or pure aesthetics, but by world events, in this case the fall of Belgium in World War I. As such, it makes a subtle statement at the close of this opulent disc.

Järvi's Faun is about as impressionistic as they get, beginning with principal flutist Randolph Bowman's softly sensual introduction, harpist Gillian Benet Sella's tingling glissandos and the French horns' questioning motifs. It builds to a carefully calibrated climax before receding whence it came.

The three Nocturnes are brilliant. Nuages ("Clouds") paints a haze of gray, punctuated by English horn and glints of sunlight in flute and harp. Fetes ("Festivals") conjures a noonday vision with its brassy, clamorous, ghostlike parade. And Sirenes ("Sirens") sounds more alarming than usual, with the women of the May Festival Chorus as flesh-and-blood embodiments of the mythological temptresses-on-the-rocks.

La Mer is affectionately performed, perhaps not surprising by a band located 14 hours from the ocean. The sea foam really does dance here, the waves rumble and the wind blows and it is sonic beauty that leaps off every page of the vibrant score (the Telarc engineers are magicians).

The concluding Berceuse is moving in the extreme, an elegy whose steady, quarter-note motion at the beginning recalls Stravinsky's Firebird. It's a dark piece broken by trumpet calls as from a distant battlefield and echoes of the Belgian national anthem.

Järvi is working with a highly responsive instrument in the CSO and you can hear it on this superlative disc. If you want beautiful music beautifully played -- and who doesn't -- get this one, available in record stores today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Neeme News!

Paavo's papa, Neeme is still going strong, as this announcement Tuesday shows.

He has just signed a four-year contract to be chief conductor of The Hague Residentie Orchestra. Under an agreement announced this week at a news conference in the Netherlands, Jarvi will conduct eight subscription weeks per season as well as tours and recordings for The Hague Residentie Orchestra. He plans to open the 2005-06 season on Sept. 20.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

CD REVIEW: "Orchestra's 'Debussy' dazzles"

The Cincinnati Enquirer Janelle Gelfand took Paavo's new Debussy CD for a spin and really found it pleasing!

Orchestra's 'Debussy' dazzles
By Janelle Gelfand
March 22, 2005

Debussy
Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Telarc; CD: $14.99;
Super Audio CD: $19.99

It opens with one of the most gorgeous flute solos in music: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.

Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's all-Debussy album, in stores today, is all about fleeting images, light and dark, warmth and atmosphere. Järvi sets just the right tone in these impressionistic gems recorded last year in Music Hall, that include "Nocturnes," "La mer" and a rarely recorded "Berceuse heroique."

This album is a dazzler.

The conductor's seventh recording for Telarc is building an important legacy and establishing the Cincinnati Symphony as one of the best in the country right now
.

The three movements of Nocturnes benefit from the conductor's gift for pacing and his ear for voluptuous sound. Nuages (Clouds) paints a picture of the imperceptible movement of clouds.

Fetes is an irresistible vision in vivid colors, with stunning contributions from the brass. And Sirenes, with the Women of the May Festival Chorus, has an ethereal beauty, as Järvi builds this song of the sea, wave upon wave, against the haunting, wordless chorus.

The Frenchman is perhaps most famous for his seascape, La mer. Here, Järvi and his players evoke the sea in a glowing, spontaneous performance. The momentum of Games of the Waves is breathtaking, with its atmospheric, brass-filled climaxes and sparkling color.

In contrast, Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea speaks to the sea's power. Järvi brings out ominous colors from depths of the orchestra, and Philip Collins' trumpet solo slices through as the storm builds. Other orchestral soloists shine, including Randolph Bowman in the languid, sensuous Faun, and harpist Gillian Benet Sella throughout the album.

The Telarc sound is lush, though the string sound may be a bit too glamorous for some tastes

Sunday, March 20, 2005

CD REVIEW: Sentimental music, tone poems, and a guide to all of it

Frank Behrens of the Laconia [New Hampshire] Sunday Citizen (3/20/05) highly recommends Paavo's new recording with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra!

Debussy:

"Any serious collector of classical music recordings will certainly have the major works of Claude Debussy. But for beginners, a fine concert of three major and one minor orchestral works has come out on the Telarc label (CD-80617) on which Paavo Jarvi conducts the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

"There are Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faun with its eerie flute opening, the three lovely Nocturnes that end with the fascinating Sirens (here the Women of the May Festival Chorus), one of the greatest tone poems of them all La mer, and the brief Berceuse heroique.

"The first three are easily available on just about every label, but this is a wise combination of three of Debussy’s most inspired orchestral paintings and a wonderful gift for those who appreciate such music. Much recommended."

UPDATE: Radio merger alters area news

Here's an update on the recent shake-up on the local airwaves by the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Kiesewetter (3/20/05), as WGUC, the Cincinnati Symphony's broadcast partner and WVXU merge and make anticipated on-air changes:

"The big news behind WGUC-FM's $15-million takeover of Xavier University's WVXU-FM could be how local news programming changes on the area's four public radio stations and Cincinnati's public television station.

"Classical music WGUC-FM (90.9), which dropped local news in 1992, plans a news and information format on WVXU-FM (91.7). Xavier is selling WVXU-FM and the seven-station X-Star network to help build the $45-million James E. Hoff Academic Quadrangle.

"Already WGUC-FM folks are talking to Northern Kentucky University's WNKU-FM (89.7), Miami University's WMUB-FM (88.5) and WCET-TV (Channel 48) about pooling news coverage here.

" 'I'd like to create a public radio news bureau for Cincinnati. It's inefficient for all three stations to send a reporter when the mayor holds a news conference. This is a great opportunity to combine our investments and expand our coverage,' says Rich Eiswerth, WGUC-FM president and general manager.

"WNKU-FM already has a partnership with five Kentucky public radio stations funding a Frankfurt statehouse bureau.

" 'We're not ruling out any kind of collaborative effort,' says Ben Singleton, general manager of WNKU-FM, which provides most area news to National Public Radio. 'The audience would be the winner in the long run.'

"A cooperative deal may influence how WMUB-FM replaces News Director Darrel Gray, who is leaving to pastor a church in suburban Dayton, says Cleve Callison, WMUB-FM general manager.

" 'Right now we don't have a Cincinnati reporter. We're talking about ways with WGUC-FM that we might strengthen each other,' Callison says.

"Channel 48 has a close relationship with WGUC-FM, which rents space from the public TV station across Central Parkway from Music Hall. They share a chief financial officer, webmaster, engineers and receptionist.

" 'Bringing WVXU-FM into the family is going to offer us opportunities for more collaboration, particularly in news and public affairs. I'm very excited about it,' says Susan Howarth, Channel 48 president and CEO.

"In the future, the stations could jointly hire a reporter with TV, radio Internet skills, Eiswerth says. But that could be a year or two away, he says.

"Exactly how much local news WVXU-FM will do after the ownership change this summer is not known. While WVXU-FM has three full-time news staffers, Eiswerth says the station may only have one at the beginning. He plans on adding seven to 10 employees - compared to 21 now operating WVXU-FM - when business, engineering and programming staffs are merged.

" 'We want to be as conservative as we can,' Eiswerth says. He sees the two stations operating on $5.5 million, much less than the combined budgets now for WGUC-FM ($3 million) and WVXU-FM ($3.5 million). Cincinnati Classical Radio Inc., which oversees WGUC-FM, plans to pay for the purchase with tax-exempt bonds over 20 years.

"To learn how to consolidate the stations, WGUC-FM has looked to Louisville. A WGUC-FM staffer last week visited the Public Radio Partnership, which operates three public stations: WUOL-FM (classical), WFPL-FM (news/information) and WFPK-FM (jazz, bluegrass, folk, blues).

"For more than six years, Eiswerth's goal has been to procure a second station, so WGUC-FM could broadcast only classical music.

" 'A significant number of our listeners would like nothing but music,' he says. It also will help the station compete with satellite radio classical music channels.

"If WVXU-FM picks up more NPR programs, WNKU-FM and WMUB-FM may alter their lineups."

CD REVIEW: Part - Pro et Contra

Joe McLellan, Classical Music Critic Emeritus of The Washington Post, offers a good review in webzine Red Ludwig.com's March 20, 2005 edition for Paavo's CD with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Ellerhein Girls Choir, Arvo Part: Pro et Contra.

"The later works of Arvo Pärt have a sublime calmness that might be very comforting for a child awaiting birth, but I think expectant mothers would do well to avoid Arvo Pärt: pro & contra (Virgin), a disc dedicated to his early works in which he cultivated tension, violence and atonality. On the other hand, for those with more developed tastes, this highly spiced music has a strong impact and the performances have lots of color and energy, with Paavo Järvi conducting the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Ellerhein Girls' Choir, and cellist Truls Mork an eloquent soloist in Pro et Contra, which is a concerto for cello and orchestra. Besides the title work, the disc includes Symphonies 1 and 2, the Collage über B_A-C-H, Perpetuum Mobile and a choral work, Meie aed (Our Garden)."

Buy here from Amazon.com.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

CONCERT REVIEW: Järvi introduces us to Nielsen

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand writes glowingly of this weekend's concert in Järvi introduces us to Nielsen, (March 19, 2005):

"It was a stunning evening of discovery. But then, so are most concerts under Paavo Järvi at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra these days.

"Järvi's program Friday night introduced some of the best music you've never heard, including Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 in its first Cincinnati Symphony performance, and the remarkable British cellist Steven Isserlis in a rarity by Dvorak.


"The orchestral showpiece on the program, Nielsen's Symphony No. 3, "Sinfonia espansiva," is an extraordinary work that travels from the majestic to the mundane. You might call Nielsen the Danish Mahler - he wrote monumental brass passages, quirky tunes in the winds, broad anthems and fantastic waltzes into his music.

"He also added the human voice. The most glorious moment came in the slow movement, when singers Caitlin Lynch and Joshua Benjamin Jeremiah (both students at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) sang a wordless solo from their balcony perches on either side of the stage.

"The first movement might have been mistaken for Shostakovich, with its bold, crashing chords in the brass and angular winds. Details in the music popped out, and the strings played fugal passages with bite. This Nielsen universe evolved into a spectacular, swirling waltz, with Järvi digging into the music as exuberantly as his players.

"The finale's broad Elgar-like theme was one that left you humming on the way home. It alternated with a chirpy little staccato tune - more of Nielsen's quirkiness.

"Järvi's reading was consistently inventive and well shaped; he made sense of what might have been a tough piece to hold together. The musicians played with spectacular precision, and the crowd was on its feet.

"Isserlis, 46, a champion of unusual music, brought, not Dvorak's familiar Concerto in B Minor, but the early, obscure Concerto in A Minor, originally for cello and piano. (A certain Gunter Raphael orchestrated and embellished it in 1929.)

"An emotive performer, he made a convincing case for its beauty. The first two movements, which were mainly romantic flights of lyricism, were an ideal vehicle for the big, gorgeous tone that he projected with his 1730 "Feuermann" Stradivarius.

"The cellist took off like a rocket in the finale
, which gave us a glimmer of Dvorak's genius to come.

"Swaying in his chair and tossing his curly mop of hair, Isserlis played with an effortless technique that made double stops, arpeggios and other virtuosities look easy.

"His encore was another chance to revel in his exquisite sound: Pablo Casal's arrangement of Song of the Birds, a Catalan carol, played with a pure tone that seemed almost vocal.

"Järvi opened with a solemn, spiritual performance of Wagner's Overture to Parsifal. It was hymnlike, with seamless brass chorales and glowing sonorities. Go to this one."

Over and Out...

Me and my peeps wuz busy last night checking out the mountain of freshly-made Cajun seafood risotto, replete with salmon, crabmeat, and crawfish, at an Over-the-Rhine jazz speakeasy, which, sad to say, was tremendously underutilized -- so -- needless to say -- we missed the Stephen Isserlis thang at the CSO.

But our gal, M.E., can always be counted upon to be on the scene and issued this report!

Isserlis, Jarvi work magic with CSO
by Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post (3/19/05)

"Two guys at the top of their game took the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra into new territory Friday night at Music Hall.

"One of them was CSO music director, Paavo Jarvi, who led the CSO premiere of Danish composer Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 ("Sinfonia espansiva").

"The other was guest artist Steven Isserlis, who made a case for Dvorak's little known Cello Concerto in A Major, Opus posthumous, also a CSO premiere.

"It was rewarding program in all respects, opening with the Prelude to Parsifal, one of Jarvi's rare essays into Wagner with the CSO.

"Bushy-haired and affable, Isserlis introduced the concerto, an early work left incomplete and unaccounted for until it turned up in Germany in the 1920s. The subsequent orchestration, by Gunter Raphael, involved considerable re-working and has been criticized as unauthentic.

" 'Because a puppy doesn't have a pedigree, you don't love it any less,' said Isserlis, who proceeded to give Raphael's version a splendid performance.

"The British-born cellist commands a heart-stopping, mahogany tone unmatched among today's cellists. And it isn't all his 1730 Feurmann Stradivarius. He simply knows how to make the instrument sing, as he did abundantly in the concerto's many lyrical moments. His technical facility is similarly incredible and he negotiates the thorniest passages with ease and focus.

"Isserlis worked closely with Jarvi and the CSO (though there were moments when the orchestra was too heavy). The interplay between soloist and woodwinds in the second movement was extraordinarily beautiful, and Jarvi made the most of the work's romantic highs. Isserlis scampered nimbly through the finale, earning a standing ovation. He encored with a hushed and profoundly moving "Song of the Birds," a Catalan folk song beloved of cello great Pablo Casals.


"Nielsen's Third Symphony isn't called "espansiva" for nothing (Allegro espansivo is also the first movement title). It's a big village dance of a work with vibrant rhythms, catchy themes -- many featuring snappy non-harmonic tones -- and a ravishingly beautiful second movement (Andante Pastorale, not Largo as the program incorrectly noted). Other symphonists have used voices in their works, but Nielsen makes his a part of the texture. Baritone Joshua Benjamin Jeremiah and soprano Caitlin Lynch (both of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) sang wordlessly from the balcony for a gorgeous, other-worldly effect.

"The third movement (Molto Vivace) brimmed over with sass -- trills and staccato figures in the winds, razzes in horn and bassoon -- and the Finale (Allegro), with its expansive (yes) theme was big-boned and rousing.

" Parsifal opened with soft-brushed strings, exquisitely shaped. Jarvi built the work with great feeling and care and the brass chorales soared. More Wagner, please."

Friday, March 18, 2005

We feel pretty! Oh, so pretty...

Aw, come on! Show us some love!

So how do you like all the new additions to the blog? We think it's looking pretty cool these days.

Have any suggestions? We're listening...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Paavo & Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen to Make Mostly Mozart Debut


According to Daniel J. Wakin's article Mozart's Musical Ports of Call, and a Met Opera Premiere in today's New York Times (registration required), Paavo and his German chamber orchestra, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen will make their New York debut at Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival on Thursday, August 4, in Alice Tully Hall. The program, still to be announced, will be an all-Beethoven one, featuring the astonishing young Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova.

Kristjan Jarvi to Make Cincinnati Opera Debut in 2007 Season!


Now this is exciting! Paavo's younger brother, Kristjan Jarvi, founder and director of New York's adventurous contemporary chamber group, The Absolute Ensemble, will make his Cincinnati Opera conducting debut in July 2007. He will conduct Nixon in China by the highly respected American composer John Adams, a frequent guest conductor with the Cincinnati Symphony. Nixon in China, which premiered in 1987, is recognized as one of America's greatest 20th-century operas. Kristjan Järvi will conduct the new St. Louis production by James Robinson. Robert Orth and Maureen O'Flynn star as President and Mrs. Nixon, who make a historic 1972 visit to China to meet Chairman Mao Zedong.

CD REVIEW: First Review of Debussy CD Is In!

Webzine Classics Today. com and reviewer Victor Carr Jr. beats everybody else to the punch with this excellent review of the Cincinnati Symphony's new Debussy CD!

CLAUDE DEBUSSY
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun; Nocturnes; La mer; Berceuse heroique
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Paavo Järvi
Telarc- 80617(CD)
Reference Recording - Boulez (DG); Martinon (EMI)

ARTISTIC QUALITY 9/SOUND QUALITY 9

"Tonal beauty is the overriding principle in these Debussy performances as Paavo Järvi draws gorgeous sounds from the Cincinnati Symphony. Strings shimmer throughout La Mer, while woodwinds flutter about like so many butterflies--effects most pronounced in Jeux de vagues. Järvi takes to heart Debussy's description of the work as a suggestion of the sea, coloring everything in pastel shades and treating the brass as accents in the sonic picture, not the bold declamations that other conductors have done. Percussion receives similar treatment, with the quieter moments more pronounced than the loud. The tam-tam appears in the background at the close of From Dawn to Noon on the Sea, allowing the striking and rarely-heard bass pizzicatos (real "slaps") to emerge from the texture. Some listeners may prefer a more extrovert approach, but Järvi's subtler way is just as valid. And make no mistake, there's still plenty of punch in his performance, especially in Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea.

"In Nocturnes Järvi achieves that rare balance of tempo and timbre that creates Nuages' hypnotic effect--no time seems to have passed by the movement's end. The slightly understated brass in Fêtes evokes the atmospheric flashes Debussy was after--but most remarkable is Sirènes, where Järvi's fluid motion, combined with the orchestra's lively playing and the soothing chant of the wordless chorus evokes an atmosphere of almost palpable pleasure.

"You really don't want it to end, but it does, followed by a sparkling rendition of Debussy's poignant Berceuse heroique, which I would program not last, but second, after Järvi's luscious yet delicate Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
. The sound is typical of Telarc's Cincinnati recordings: solid presence and realism, with wide dynamic range--qualities that only reveal themselves at high playing levels. Boulez and the neighboring Clevelanders still hold the palm for La Mer, but Järvi's disc is a fine achievement in its own right, especially for the Nocturnes, one that I suspect will sound even finer on SACD."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Paavo to Sign New Debussy CD at Joseph-Beth Today


PJ with Chefs at first Joseph-Beth Reception, Fall 2001

Well, I won't be there, but you can be when Paavo visits Joseph-Beth Booksellers, 2692 Madison Road, in Rookwood Pavilion to sign his new Debussy CD with the Cincinnati Symphony at 7 pm tonight.

Meet the Mod Maestro and join him for a wine and cheese reception where he will mix and mingle with guests and sign copies of the soon-to-be released CD. He will also offer insights on the newly announced 2005-2006 Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra season. Co-hosted by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Stephen Isserlis Guests with CSO


Paavo's friend cello virtuoso Stephen Isserlis returns to the Music Hall stage this weekend and this time, Paavo will be there, too!

This week's program features Wagner's Prelude to Parsifal; Dvorak's Cello Concerto in A Major; and Nielsen's Symphony No. 3 (Sinfonia espansiva). Performances are 8 pm Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19. Read the Program Notes before you go.

This concert will be broadcast and can be heard via streaming audio on WGUC-FM on Sunday, April 24, 2005 at 7:30 pm.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Paavo and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen to Appear at Beethovenfest


Paavo will be appearing this fall with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen at Beethovenfest Bonn 2005. There is an evening concert on September 11 featuring Beethoven's Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 in C Minor; Albert Roussel's Symphony No. 3,op.42 in G Minor; and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, op. 67 in C Minor.

According to the Agence France Presse, the annual Beethovenfest that Bonn holds in honour of its most famous son, composer Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), will this year focus on Beethoven's relations with France and French music.

"Under the motto Liberte (Freedom), the Beethovenfest Bonn 2005 will stage a total 64 concerts -- including orchestra and chamber concerts, piano and song recitals and even performances of jazz and French chansons -- at 25 venues in and around Beethoven's native city between September 8 and October 2.

"The focus of this year's festival will be the huge impact that the ideas and turmoil of the French Revolution had on Beethoven and his musical language, festival manager Ilona Schmiel said.

"The most famous example is perhaps Beethoven's Third Symphony written in 1803, which the composer dedicated to Napoleon under the subtitle "Eroica". Later he angrily scratched out that dedication when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in 1804.

"The concerts will also explore Beethoven's influence on later French composers such as Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Claude Debussy (1862-1918) and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)."

The concert will be held in Beethovenhalle, Wachsbleiche 17, 53111 Bonn. Take Busline # 630 or 638 to the Beethovenhalle stop.

Paavo and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen are recording the entire cycle of Beethoven's symphonies for future release over the next several years.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Shakeup in Cincinnati Public Radio Happening!


Robin Gehl, WGUC Program Director

Bucking the recent trend in U.S. public radio circles of changing from classical music formats to all-talk, the Cincinnati Symphony's broadcast partner, Cincinnati Classical Public Radio, Inc., also known locally as WGUC announced Friday, March 11, that it has acquired its rival, WVXU and its affiliated X-Star Radio Network for $15 million pending FCC approval. The X-Star Radio Network, encompassing stations in Chillicothe and West Union, Ohio; Rogers City, Harrison and Manistee, Michigan, and Richmond, Indiana. I must idly wonder whether this move may bode well in the future for the Cincinnati Symphony broadcasts in terms of potentially increasing audience penetration in the tri-state area, particularly at a time when major cities such as New York, Philadephia, Miami, and Detroit no longer have classical music stations.

As the Cincinnati Post's Rick Bird reports in A new era for public radio; WGUC buys WVXU stations for $15 million:

"...Changes will be slow, at least at first.

"The deal allows WGUC to shift its news and public affairs programming to WVXU, essentially becoming a classical music juke box.

"Such WGUC Saturday shows as Car Talk and Brain Brew would move to WVXU.

"It means the popular All Things Considered from National Public Radio would air only on WVXU, ending duplication of the show on the two stations.

"WVXU would essentially turn into a news, talk and public radio information powerhouse. WVXU will move from the Xavier University campus to the WGUC studios on Central Parkway.

"Whether the changes are ultimately a good or bad development might depend on whether you're asking management pursuing profits, employees concerned for their job safety, or loyal listeners.

" 'We certainly think one license holder operating both stations will provide a great deal of synergy and cross promotion activities between the two,' said Richard Eiswerth, WGUC general manger and president. 'This will be healthy and strengthen both services dramatically.'

"The purchase price is the second largest amount ever paid in the country for an established public radio license. It is the largest public radio consolidation deal in terms of the number of stations involved. WGUC officials said the debt for the purchase would be funded by municipal bonds amortizing over 20 years.

"...The consolidation is expected to make major national news in the radio world since such buyouts are rare in the public radio sphere.
They have become the norm in commercial radio since ownership restrictions were lifted in 1996, leading to such radio giants as Clear Channel, which owns 1,200 stations, eight in Cincinnati.

"...The deal puts under one owner two nationally celebrated heritage public stations.

"WGUC, coming on in 1960, was the first licensed public station in the United States and is one of the few remaining that is dedicated exclusively to classical music. WVXU was founded in 1976 by Dr. James King, who nurtured it as an alternative mix of specialty music programming and news with an almost religious devotion to preserving Cincinnati's radio heritage.

"Like commercial radio consolidation, the purchase allows for plenty of efficiencies in operation by combining marketing, strategically targeting programming and cross-promotion opportunities between the stations. Eiswerth suggested the new WGUC/WVXU configuration will be closely watched nationally from such interested parties as National Public Radio and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as public radio struggles to find a niche in the increasingly splintered radio universe wracked by Internet competition.

"...The agreement calls for an ex officio member to be appointed by Xavier's president to the 20-member board of Cincinnati Classical Public Radio, Inc., the body which owns WGUC. Eiswerth said the deal states that, if WGUC dramatically alters the WVXU format, it must give up the call letters.

"Eiswerth said there is no intention of radically changing WVXU programming, but he said the station will undergo a massive revaluation of its programming. "We will spend several months interviewing the local hosts and get their feel for what listeners like and don t like. Everything's up in the air right now. Everything's on the table."

"WGUC average some 150,000 listeners a week; WVXU averages about 110,000, according to Arbitron ratings...."

The Cincinnati Business Courier in its article Crosstown sellout (3/11/05) reports:

"...The deal will be financed with tax-exempt bonds, backed by revenue from both stations, according to Marc Hand, managing director of Public Radio Capital in Denver. The nonprofit financial adviser has helped assemble financing for several public radio acquisitions in recent years. In Denver, a public broadcasting station acquired two AM stations in a model similar to what's planned by WGUC in Cincinnati. By shifting news and talk to its sister stations, the Denver classical station boosted membership by 25 percent and realized $2 million in additional revenue, Hand said."

And as Janelle Gelfand reports in WGUC to 'super serve listeners in the Cincinnati Enquirer (3/11/05):

"Across the nation, classical stations, faced with declining listenership and funding, are dropping Bach, Beethoven and Mozart altogether. The most prominent demise of a classical station was WETA-FM in Washington, D.C., which announced in February that it would drop classical music programming in favor of an all-news and public affairs format.

The same month, Pittsburgh's WQED-FM fell short of its fund-raising goal, threatening its existence. Philadelphia, Miami and Detroit no longer have classical music stations.


"There has been a constant erosion over the past years," says Robin Gehl, WGUC's vice president for programming.

"Only a couple of dozen National Public Radio stations are fully classical, says Richard Eiswerth, WGUC president and general manager. In the last decade, the number of stations devoted to classical music has been cut in half, while the number of talk radio stations has tripled.

"The audience for news and information has been growing dramatically, so there's much more demand for that," says Marc Hand of Public Radio Capital, a Colorado-based nonprofit organization that advised WGUC during negotiations.

"The more public radio stations you have, the more listeners you have. Ultimately, that translates into more revenue.

"I think it's very exciting for Cincinnati to put the combination together and preserve the service on both sides."

"WGUC has a strong local presence, including broadcasts of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, May Festival and Cincinnati Opera.

"Last winter, WGUC's market share - percentage of people in this market who listen to the station - was 18th nationally among public radio stations in a Radio Research Consortium study.


"In the last six years, WGUC has seen an 18 to 20 percent audience growth to more than 163,000 weekly listeners, as well as a nearly 40 percent bump in memberships, grants and corporate gifts - totaling $1.4 million last year.

"While other stations are 'dumbing down' their play lists, the move will make WGUC a stronger player in the classical market.

" 'It will allow them to super-serve their classical listeners,' says John Birge, former morning host at WGUC, now at Minnesota Public Radio.

The acquisition could imitate Minnesota Public Radio, in which KNOW-FM broadcasts syndicated news shows like NPR's Morning Edition and locally produced talk shows, and KSJN-FM airs classical music."

Friday, March 11, 2005

Rare Jarvi CSO repeat a winner

The Cincinnati Post's Mary Ellyn Hutton found much to like about Thursday night's concert in her review Rare Jarvi CSO repeat a winner (3/11/05):

"Paavo Järvi has conducted Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (from the New World) scores of times. This week marks the second time he has programmed it with the Cincinnati Symphony, one of the few works he has repeated since becoming CSO music director in 2001.

"One of the best-loved of all symphonies, it invariably receives a warm reception, as it did Thursday night at Music Hall.

"I found it instructive in preparing for the concert to listen to a 1993 recording of the work by Järvi and London's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. There was a special poignancy, not to say pain, about his earlier thoughts, as of a homesick composer far from home (Dvorak spent three years in the U.S.). Perhaps Järvi identified with that image, since he was an exile from his native Estonia at the time.

There was little of that in Thursday's performance. The opening movement was filled with confidence and Järvi lingered lovingly on the gentle flute theme, shaped exquisitely by principal flutist Randolph Bowman.

The famous Largo (whose "Going' Home" theme was made into a spiritual and not the other way around) was deeply moving. English hornist Christopher Philpotts played with heart-stopping tenderness, but the effect was more of nostalgia than loss. Järvi had fun with the folkish scherzo, practically dancing on the podium at one point, and there was nobility and strength in the finale.

The performance was not perfect. There was some jarring intonation in the winds in the Largo and the horns faltered a couple of times in the finale, disturbing the pace of the work a bit toward the end. However, visiting principal hornist William verMeulem (Houston Symphony) acquitted himself well on his solos, and the strings played with warmth, muscle and precision.

The concert also marked the CSO debut of Latvian violinist Baiba Skride in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Winner of the 2001 Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Competition, Skride, 24, is meticulous and eminently musical. She drew a honeyed tone from her 1708 Stradivarius, never heavy or forced, even in the finale with its bracing double stops and steeplechase-like exertions.

The emphasis was on collaboration, not her solo role, and she worked hand-in-glove with Järvi, who brought out every delicious detail in the score. The music had an almost chamber music quality at times, as her lines inter-meshed with those of the CSO players, including percussionist Bill Platt on bass drum at the end.

The concert opened with the CSO premiere of American composer Kevin Puts' 1997 Networks, a colorful, seven-minute work of a motoric, minimalist cast, reminiscent of John Adams and Steve Reich.

Oft-played 'New World' Symphony seems new again in CSO's rendition

Cincinnati Enquirer classical music writer Janelle Gelfand found the 'New World' Symphony seems new again in CSO's rendition last night.

"Dvorak's New World Symphony is one of the most familiar - and overplayed - works in the symphonic literature.

"So it could have been a ho-hum evening. But the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance Thursday night in Music Hall was a voyage of discovery, as Paavo Järvi found something new to say in every measure.

"The New World Symphony capped an evening that included two other discoveries: An ingenious short piece, Network, by a young American named Kevin Puts, and rising star Latvian violinist Baiba Skride in her Cincinnati debut.

"Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 (From the New World), is a panorama of American impressions, seen through the eyes of a 19th-century Bohemian composer. Its most famous theme is that of the slow movement, clearly inspired by the African-American spiritual.

"Where many performances are full of tension, Järvi's view was warmer, more spontaneous and often slower than one usually hears. That pulling back in the lyrical themes brought to the fore the nostalgic, folk-like quality.

"The first movement was a study in contrasts, from the full-blown power of the brass, to dancing solos in flute or oboe. Järvi animatedly danced between violins and cellos, leaning forward to urge his players along, other times leading with full-body sweeps of his arms.


"The famous English horn solo in the slow movement (Chris Philpotts) was beautifully phrased, and the movement had a haunting beauty, particularly in the muted violins. The timpani (Richard Jensen) leaped out like exclamation points in the energetic scherzo.

"The brass was simply unbeatable in the finale, in which Järvi balanced supercharged drama with glowing lyricism.

"The 24-year-old Skride, who won the 2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, was soloist in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2.

"An extraordinary virtuoso, the Latvian violinist does not possess a big sound, but she spun a flawless line on her 1708 Strad. The slow movement, with its flowing violin melody against staccato accompaniment, was spellbinding. Every note was immaculately in place, her high notes soared and her technique was stunning, especially in the fiendishly difficult finale.

"Oddly, the performance left me cold; what it lacked was risk-taking and soul. Järvi and the orchestra gave her excellent support.


"The program opened with "Network," an urban collage of bright sounds and colors, with repeating figures tossed about sort of like a communications network.

"The concert repeats at 11 a.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: (513) 381-3300."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

CD REVIEW: Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

Powerful Intensity: Paavo Järvi and Cincinnati Symphony in The Rite of Spring and Nielsen's Fifth Symphony
By Clare Mackney
Birmingham Post, 10 March 2005

Telarc (CD 80615)

Former CBSO Principal Guest Conductor Paavo Järvi has something of a reputation for innovative programming, and Telarc is quite right to promote this CD on the synergy of its Stravinsky/Nielsen coupling — the similarities and contrasts are at first satisfyingly obvious, and then genuinely thought-provoking.

Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra present The Rite of Spring (1913) with cruel brilliance. The sound quality is excellent and the cutting, focused character of woodwind and brass (with almost no resonance or warmth) vividly exposes the virtuosity of Stravinsky's instrumental textures; nothing fudges the insistent rhythmic dynamism, and there is an exhilarating sense that composer and conductor are deploying the entire orchestra as a gloriously extended percussion section.


Despite the clarity, this is a sensual and emotionally telling performance. The reedy opening bassoon launches the first movement with an earthy mysticism which becomes overtly primitive with the yomping strings and horns of Harbingers. Game of Abduction and Spring Rounds are threateningly weighty, then energy builds through Games and Procession until The Sage conjures up real fear. The remorseless momentum does not mount so inexorably through the second movement, but the final Sacrificial Dance is powerfully visceral and raw.

Such a graphic account makes it difficult to believe Stravinsky's claim that his savage ballet music had no plot. Its theme (the creative force and sacrifice of spring, as reflected in his vision of ancient Russian ritual) shares a violence and duality with the portrayal of good and evil in Nielsen's 1922 Fifth Symphony (his response to World War II), but neither two-movement work has a narrative. The immediate effect of placing the two, with all their parallels, together, is to make Nielsen's orchestration seem more ponderous and less imaginative than Stravinsky's. However, Järvi's reading conveys the constructive/destructive conflict with such unflinching intensity (lower strings perhaps more darkly expressive of oppression than the martial snare drum, which Nielsen identifies as the primary representation of barbarism), that the symphony's massive, epic qualities soon assert their own authority.

Let's hope that Järvi has more exciting and enlightening combinations in the pipeline.

Cellist Expressive, Diverse

Elaine Guregian, the classical music writer for the Akron Beacon Journal, has an article in today's paper about cellist Truls Mork's visit to Severance Hall this week to play with the Cleveland Orchestra. In it, she touches upon his new recording with Paavo and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France of the Schumann Concerto for Cello.

Excerpt:

"...An older work that's not so familiar can seem new, too, when brought to the fore by a performer of Mork's experience and charm. This week at Severance Hall, Mork will play Schumann's Concerto for Cello with the Cleveland Orchestra. A just-released CD of that concerto, paired with Ernest Bloch's Schelomo and Kol Nidrei, gives a tantalizing taste of what this week's concerts have in store for Northeast Ohio listeners.

"On this new recording on the Virgin label, Mork performs with conductor Paavo Jarvi and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. He plays a cello created in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari, nicknamed The Bass of Spain.
Normally, Mork plays a Domenico Montagnana made in 1723 that the SR Bank in Norway bought for him.

"The Schumann Cello Concerto wasn't premiered until 1860, four years after Schumann died. Although cellists don't play it as often as concertos by, say, Haydn, Dvorak or Elgar, Schumann's strengths as a composer for piano and for voice can be heard in this melodious writing. This suave performance recommends the piece highly.

"On the Virgin recording, Mork's radiant tone and singing lines get inside the Romantic voice of the concerto
. Especially in the light, chamberlike scoring of the slow second movement, the Cleveland Orchestra should feel right at home accompanying Mork at this week's concerts."...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Make the "New World" Part of Your World This Week!

Join Paavo this week as he and the Cincinnati Symphony premiere Network by the young American composer Kevin Puts. Also, making her CSO debut, is Latvian sensation Baiba Skride playing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor. Rounding out the program is the always inspirational Symphony No. 9 in E Minor (From the New World) by Dvorak, which will be recorded by the CSO next week, along with Martinu's Symphony No. 2.

Concerts are scheduled for Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 pm (with complimentary buffet dinner at 6:15 pm); Friday, March 11 at 11 am; and Saturday, March 12 at 8 pm.

Listen to Paavo's thoughts about this concert. Buy tickets online.

Buy Paavo's recording of Dvorak's Symphony No.9 in E Minor (From the New World) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

PJ and CSO Get Another Moment in the NY Sun

Fred Kirshnit of The New York Sun makes mention (albeit a brief one!) of Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony in his article The Sound of the Danube (March 8, 2005). (Registration required)

Excerpt

"Recently in Vienna, I took a cab from the airport to my hotel on the Margaretenstrasse, where the first performance of The Magic Flute took place. Along the way, we passed many remarkable sights, but the only one which the driver, who had no idea that I might be musically inclined, pointed out was the magnificently illuminated opera house. The Viennese are extremely proud of this structure and view it as the center of their cultural universe.

"This remarkable building is home to the best opera orchestra in Europe. In fact the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and our own Metropolitan ensemble establish the worldwide standard of excellence within the pit. But when the personnel at the opera house take the short stroll from the Ringstrasse to the Musikverein to change into the Vienna Philharmonic, the transformation is as radical as that of Clark Kent to Superman.

"This change is a lot more complex than, say, the Cincinnati Symphony performing classical music at Carnegie Hall on a Monday night under Paavo Jarvi and then donning their white jackets to become the Cincinnati Pops with Erich Kunzel the next. In Vienna, the musicians must change something much more elemental than their clothes: They must adopt the mindset of management as well as that of labor."...

CD REVIEW: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie/Strauss


STRAUSS: Der Bürger als Edelmann, Op. 60. Duett-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon. Sextett from Capriccio.
Daniel Sepec, violin;Nicole Kern, clarinet; Higinio Arrué, bassoon; Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Järvi, cond.
PENTATONE SACD PTC 5186 060 (5 channel) TT: 65:36

"Paavo Järvi and the German orchestra give us an assortment of chamberesque works of Richard Strauss, far removed from the huge orchestral textures of his major symphonic poems. The composer wrote 17 incidental pieces of music for Hofmannsthal's Le bourgeois gentilhomme which the author called "a burlesque comedy." The 1918 premiere was not well received so Strauss made an orchestral suite of 9 of the sections including several baroque style dances, brief quotes from his own Don Quixote and Wagner's Das Rheingold, and a final extended (10:33) "Dinner." Duet-Concertino, composed for the unlikely duo of clarinet and bassoon, was written in 1947, one of the last works of the composer. The disk is completed with the sextet that opens Strauss's Capriccio premiered in 1942, on the subject of the question: what is more important in opera—words or music? Järvi and the chamber orchestra play all of this music superbly, and producer Stephan Schellmann and his staff have provided state-of-the-art surround sound with performers in front, ambient sound from the rear."

R.E.B., Classical Review.com, February 2005

Monday, March 07, 2005

CD REVIEW: Another "Convert" to the CSO's Magic!

Bill F. Faucett of the St. Petersburg (FL) Times Floridian (March 6, 2005) issues a strong endorsement of the power of Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony in two recent recordings:

NIELSEN: SYMPHONY NO. 5, STRAVINSKY: RITE OF SPRING, CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, CONDUCTOR PAAVO JARVI (TELARC)

RAVEL: SUITE NO. 2 FROM DAPHNIS ET CHLOE, CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, CONDUCTOR PAAVO JARVI (TELARC)

"Count me among the converted.

"Several years ago a friend of mine from Cincinnati rambled on and on about the magnificence of his hometown orchestra. I tried to be polite, but probably didn't hide my skepticism very well. After all, I recall mumbling, everyone knows that the orchestra in Ohio is in Cleveland (with all due respect to Toledo). Right?

"Well, two recent discs by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, ably lead by Paavo Jarvi, give every indication of creating not only a good in-state musical rivalry, but also show the Cincinnati ensemble to be in the front rank of orchestras in the world.

"On one of the discs, Jarvi, the son of the great Estonian conductor Neeme Jarvi of Detroit Symphony fame, paired Stravinsky's riveting The Rite of Spring with Carl Nielsen's lusterless Symphony No. 5.

"The Stravinsky, so utterly difficult to play and understand, was illuminated as I have never heard it before. The usual noise and bombast, which can admittedly make for a thrilling performance, was limited by Jarvi. Here he displays a remarkable control of the orchestra and chooses his tempos carefully.

"For instance, the "Spring Rounds" section languishes compared to other interpretations, but its slower tempo lends an entirely different character. This is but a single example of Jarvi's innovation, and there are many others.


"A second Cincinnati recording includes five selections by Ravel. The Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe, a beloved orchestral staple, is light, airy, unforced, and gorgeous in Jarvi's hands. He has a keen understanding of the French repertoire, and the substantial technical challenges pose no threat to the players who have been well-drilled.

"What is most appealing about Jarvi's conducting is his sense of pace. One never gets the feeling that he is conducting according to the formula of another, but that he has unique and insightful interpretations of his own that he cannot help but present to his listener.

"Telarc's sonics are crisp and alive on my modest home sound system, but in the end it is the work of Jarvi and his group that make the experience surpassing. These are two terrific discs any music fan will want to own. Grades: Stravinski, A; Ravel, A-
"

Sunday, March 06, 2005

CSO Announces 2005-2006 Season Schedule


"Oh bliss! Bliss and heaven! Oh, it was gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh. It was like a bird of rarest-spun heaven metal or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now. As I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures!" -- Alex, transported by his favorite piece of music: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess).

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra announced its new schedule for 2005-2006 today. The new season will kick off with what I like to think of as A Clockwork Orange weekend September 16 and 17, with, oh, yes, my brothers, Ludwig Von's glorious Ninth Symphony! Paavo and the CSO will be joined by the May Festival Chorus for the stirring Ode to Joy.

Saturday Night Fever

Audience members at Saturday night's Cincinnati Symphony concert had an added special treat when Lukas Vondracek, the 18 year old piano sensation from the Czech Republic, returned to Music Hall's stage after repeated curtain calls to perform an encore for the appreciative assembly. Tossing his hair emphatically as his fingers flew across the keyboard (but remarkably never seemed to leave his hands!), Lukas gave us a remarkable version of Smetana's Czech Dance No. 10. Ah, the true joys of hearing live music!!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"We have him, they don't"

Mary Ellyn Hutton goes one-on-one with Paavo in an interview about his future with the CSO and elsewhere. (Cincinnati Post, 3/5/05)

Excerpts:

"Recently back from an extensive trip, Paavo Järvi is looking fresh nonetheless. The Cincinnati Symphony music director, 42, relaxes over a cup of tea in his Music Hall office as one of the biggest weekends for the CSO is about to begin.

"Järvi is preparing for a new round of CSO concerts that began this weekend -- and there are meetings, player auditions and fund-raisers to attend, plus the myriad other responsibilities that consume a music director's life.

"....Through all of this however, Järvi, who has been mentioned as a candidate for the top post with the Chicago Symphony, is still concentrating on making the Cincinnati Symphony one of the most outstanding in the world.

"He says he wants to spread the reputation of the CSO, the fifth oldest orchestra in the nation, through aggressive touring and recording. And that also means spreading the word around the world that Cincinnati has an orchestra of international caliber.

"And, on another topic, he says he wants to make physical and acoustical changes to Music Hall, which he says is 'killing' the symphony.

" 'Economics,' in one form or another, tops the list of concerns facing the CSO, Järvi said.

" 'It's an issue you can't avoid. It's a problem for us,' he said. 'It's a problem for American orchestras.'

"After the endowment, the biggest challenge facing the CSO is Music Hall itself, he said.

" 'The hall is killing us actually, because it's just too big for us.'

"At 3,516 seats, Music Hall is the largest concert hall in the U.S. By contrast, Symphony Hall in Boston holds 2,625, Severance Hall in Cleveland 2,000, Orchestra Hall in Chicago 2,310, and New York's Carnegie Hall 2,804. These venues all have larger population bases as well.

"In addition to being hard to fill, the scale of Music Hall robs both the performers and the audience of the intimacy and excitement of a close-up concert experience. It also puts a strain on the players, notably the French horns, who risk injury by having to play out more than they would in a smaller hall.

" 'I am really tired of this,' said Järvi. What he and CSO leaders would like to do is 'shrink' the Music Hall auditorium. Ideas include moving the stage forward and closing off part or all of the gallery. Järvi concedes that getting it done presents problems.

" 'It's complicated to make major changes. All kinds of people have to agree to it.'

"Optimizing Music Hall for the CSO is vital to meeting the goals Järvi envisions for it -- and perhaps to keeping him in Cincinnati (his contract expires in 2008-09).

"Estonian born Järvi has been mentioned prominently as a possible successor to Chicago Symphony music director Daniel Barenboim, who steps down at the end of next season. Järvi drew rapturous reviews when he made his guest conductor debut with the orchestra in October and has been re-engaged as a guest conductor for next season.

" 'I literally don't know,' said Järvi, when asked if he were a candidate for the job. 'Everything you read in the papers is not to be believed.'

"....At some point, Järvi likely will accept a more permanent post with one of Europe's major orchestras.

"This is a 'normal circumstance' for today's international conductors, he said. 'It's unusual when somebody doesn't have a European orchestra.'

"....Being an international conductor while meeting your primary orchestra's expectations is 'a complicated subject,' Järvi said. 'The reason you are interested in somebody is because they have an international profile. How does one get an international profile and maintain it? By being international and conducting all over the place. On one hand, you want somebody who sits in one place and does the local fund-raising. This is fair enough and I do that. I am involved in everything. On the other hand, that person has to be conducting in Berlin, Vienna, London and Paris. Unless you clone yourself, you can't do it.'

"The 'balance' is the question, he said. 'You need to have somebody who feels like it's their home and puts in enough time. That's clear. But it's probably a necessity to travel and maintain an international profile, which is very good for the orchestra as well. Every time I go to those places, I talk about this orchestra and bring them my CDs. My sister (flutist Maarika Järvi) was at home in Geneva listening to the radio and there was a concert of mine being broadcast. At intermission, they played excerpts from the Cincinnati records and talked a lot about Cincinnati. This is PR you cannot get for any money.'

"Another reason Järvi would like to take on a European orchestra someday is because he is ready to do less guest conducting and spend more time with his family.

...." 'If I want to ever see my daughter grow up, I need to be able to be in one place more often,' Järvi said.

" 'When I come to Cincinnati, I feel at home. I work hard. I leave at 10 o'clock at night sometimes -- and I don't mean concert nights. I go home afterwards and I see that little monkey running around. I love it.'


"What he is doing in Cincinnati, he said, is 'building something. We are building this orchestra together and we are making progress. When I go and guest conduct in Paris or Berlin or London, I build nothing. I just go there to show what I can do. People come to the concerts and say, "Oh, wasn't that nice." For me, the stage where you have to go and do that, just to get your name recognized, is past. People know who I am.'"

...."As for his plans after his current CSO contract expires, he said 'I mean I am very happy here and I really, really love this orchestra. I certainly am not dying to leave here.' "' "

Teenaged piano phenom wows CSO crowd

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand found herself transported to Vienna last night by the magnificent playing of Paavo's CSO and guest artist, piano phenom Lukas Vondracek in Teenaged piano phenom wows CSO crowd.

"You might have thought, if you closed your eyes Friday night at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, that you were listening to the Vienna Philharmonic.

"Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F Major is probably the most difficult of Brahms' four symphonies to pull off. Yet under Paavo Järvi, this was a glowing performance of one of the great masterpieces of the symphonic literature.

"Friday's concert included the debut of a teenaged piano phenom named Lukas Vondracek, who wowed the crowd in Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. , and the orchestra's first performance of Symphony No. 2 by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu.

"Brahms' Third is not a heroic symphony. It has an autumnal quality, suggesting someone looking back on life. Järvi's view was both warm and intense. Turbulent passages had tremendous momentum that were thrilling for their drama and passion. Softer, lyrical passages glowed, sonorities were wonderfully balanced and every detail of the music was illuminated.

"Järvi urged his players on with sweeping gestures. The inner two movements had an intimate quality that reminded us what a romantic Brahms was. The third (Poco allegretto), with its yearning cello theme, was remarkable for its silken string sound and extraordinary dynamic range. When french hornist Eric Overholt took the theme, the result was deeply moving.

"Nowhere was the feeling of nostalgia so powerful, though, as in the finale, which was almost mystical in feeling.

"In the first half, Vondracek, an 18-year-old native of the Czech Republic, tackled Mendelssohn's youthful showpiece, not heard here since 1981. The shaggy-haired teen hunched over the keyboard and proceeded to toss off cascades of difficult arpeggios with impressive finesse.

"The first movement was charged with adrenalin; after some initial harshness he settled into a glittering touch. In the slow movement, Vondracek proved that he's more than a technical whiz; here his phrasing was poetic and he projected a singing tone. The finale flew like the wind, and had the audience cheering.

"Järvi opened with Martinu's Symphony No. 2, composed in 1943 for Czech refugees in Cleveland. The four-movement work is a real find - an evocative canvas, colored by piano and harp and bursting with folk tunes.

"Great orchestral buildups were balanced by jazzy, Stravinsky-like moments, and the winds carried on witty conversations. Järvi was an inspired leader; still, I wished for more spontaneity."

Martinu, Vondracek are names to remember

Cincinnati Post classical music critic Mary Ellyn Hutton praises the Friday night performances of Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony and their special guest, rising Czech piano star Lukas Vondracek, in her review, Martinu, Vondracek are names to remember (3/5/05).

Excerpt:

"Martinu's Second Symphony is compact (in length) and packed with color. His aesthetic was beauty and it spilled over in Jarvi's hands, from the mildly exotic minor-key opening to the gleeful sustained unison at the very end. The sweetly lyrical Andante gave way to a merry gallop in the third movement, which included some trumpet-and-drum mustering. The Allegro finale was particularly painterly, with soft scalar effects in piano and harp (both instruments prominent throughout the work) bubbling up like a rivulet at one point among the happy goings-on.

"...Vondracek, 18, is no mere wunderkind, but a remarkably mature artist whose performance of the Mendelssohn tempts the word perfect. Crouching low over the keys, he impressed the music with precision, clarity of focus and a singing tone that bespeak a classic temperament of the first order. Jarvi and the CSO strings (violas, cellos) joined him in a gorgeously effusive Andante and he demonstrated arresting technical proficiency in the Presto finale....

"Jarvi's Brahms was very personal, even courageous, in over-sized Music Hall. The sheer volume of the hall does not treat subtlety well and much of what he was doing -- crafting transparent textures, cultivating intimacy -- did not engage his listeners as it should have. They were simply too far away and too scattered among its 3,516 seats.

"That said, it was a deeply moving performance. Jarvi is a softie who can deliver more than high voltage. He didn't go for high drama here, but tenderness, nostalgia and communication within the orchestra itself that delivered its own emotive message.
String sound was warm and carefully delineated, as were the winds and brass, with every detail audible...."

Paavo and the CSO will be recording the Martinu Symphony No. 2, coupled with Dvorak's "New World" Symphony (to be performed in concert next weekend) later this month for an autumn release on Telarc.

This program will air via streaming audio on WGUC-FM Sunday, April 10, 2005 at 7:30 pm ET.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Paavo Bear ISO honey!


Paavo Bear in search of honey! (Photo Credit: Veronica Moermond)

Partying With Paavo
by Julie Vossler
University of Cincinnati News Record, March 3, 2005

Excerpt:

"...Jarvi said that UC students should come see the CSO on College Nite, or any other night, because it is a chance to be involved in an artistic experience.

" 'Music is not something that has been perfected, it happens at the moment,' said Jarvi. 'It's live. These are human beings, so anything can happen.'....

" 'Classical music can be violent, disruptive, erotic, hallucinogenic,' said Jarvi. 'Somehow, people seem to associate classical music with one thing, that it's relaxing. It is art.'...

"Jarvi said that symphony orchestras have a bad image in America. He said he feels most people, especially young people, think symphony concerts are for old, rich, elite, white people. According to Jarvi, this conception is wrong and he wants to change it....

"Jarvi also said that UC students should know they have access to one of the best American orchestras in their home city.

" 'This is a luxury,' said Jarvi. 'It's very important to take advantage of it.'

"Jarvi said he encourages all UC students to come more often to CSO concerts, but he especially encourages CCM students to attend.

" 'Students do not learn in a vacuum,' he said. 'There needs to be interaction between the CSO and CCM to help students learn. They should come to concerts and also watch rehearsals.'...

" 'It's perfectly possible to live life without music, but," he said, "as Nietzsche said, 'Life without music would be a mistake.' "

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Paavo's Back in Town

Paavo returns to Cincinnati for three weeks of concerts with the Cincinnati Symphony at Music Hall, beginning with a special three-day weekend's worth of performances: Friday, March 4 (College Nite) and Saturday, March 5 at 8 pm; and Sunday, March 6 at 3 pm. Purchase tickets online.

This week's concerts feature Martinu's Symphony No. 2; Mendelsshon's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G Minor (Lukas Vondracek, piano); and Brahms's Symphony No. 3 in F Major.

Read the Program Notes before you go. Hear Paavo's thoughts about this concert via Real Player or MP3.

Sounding off on the South Bank

You love him or hate him, but Norman Lebrecht can always be counted on to be full of ... strong opinions about the music world he surveys! From Sounding off on the South Bank his most recent column for La Scena Musicale, he writes of an unusual letter written in support of "the restoration of the acoustic of the Royal Festival Hall to be the chief priority in the coming refurbishment of London’s South Bank." The thing that establishes this letter as unusual is that it was signed by 30 of the world's top conductors (including Paavo).

Excerpt

"The roll of names includes such sworn enemies as Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemann; Riccardo Muti and most other Italian maestri; Simon Rattle and several of his less guarded professional critics. What unites them is a concern for London’s premier concert venue and a fear that it may suffer as a result of declining political regard for classical music and the general decay in British arts policy

"The sheet bearing these 30 names is a rare, if not unique, testament of baton solidarity. Offered for sale at Sotheby’s it could raise enough money to pay … oh, I’d guess, the undisclosed salary of English National Opera’s inauspicious new music director.

"Conductors don’t come cheap, and they don’t come wholesale. If you think that 30 of them appealing for the renewal of a concert hall is like footballers voting for better pitches and turkeys for the abolition of Christmas, think again. A hall, to a conductor, is just a place of work, not something to get worked up about. You can count on the fingers of two hands the halls conductors value, and it is by no means a foregone conclusion that the Royal Festival Hall, with its deficient sound and Balkan levels of backstage comfort, would come out as one of their favourites.

"That it does is a mark of London’s enduring centrality as a capital of orchestral music, and to the inadequacy of the Barbican and Royal Albert Hall as first-choice facilities for touring bands
. The Barbican is too small for profit – 800 seats fewer than RFH – and the Albert is not and never will be a place where symphony seekers will throng year round. Like it or not, the Festival Hall has history, geography, good sightlines and a sense of occasion. It’s the best of a poor bunch and the world’s swagger-sticks are united in its defence - to the extent that some of them, I gather, have privately offered to make a financial contribution towards the acoustic refit."...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Review: BBCSO/Järvi

Here we go! Geoff Brown of The Times (London) reviews last week's concert at the Barbican Centre:

First Night reviews

February 26, 2005
BBCSO/Järvi
Geoff Brown at the Barbican

* * * * stars

CONFIDENCE and command, exultation at music’s power: you felt these at almost every turn in this concert. They were there in every sweep of Paavo Järvi’s baton and left arm; in each department of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, in the sombre beauty of Truls Mørk’s cello. And don’t forget the composers’ richness of thought and design, especially with Nielsen and the contemporary Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür encountered on top form.

Tüür’s Aditus gave us nine meaty minutes of brilliantly individual, chiselled sounds, marked by contrary motions, motifs and textures, and steps climbing to Heaven or descending to the grave — destinations fitting for a piece dedicated to the composer’s late teacher, Lepo Sumera. Finished in 2000, revised two years later, this fizzing account was its London premiere; considering its marvels, not a day too late.

For another miniature, by Arvo Pärt, Mørk returned with the beautiful cello we earlier met in Schumann’s concerto — a sleeping beauty of a work that should be woken more often. Absorbed in his fingering and passions, Mørk sometimes looks like a harried man who has lost his house keys. With Pärt’s Pro et contra, how his worries rocketed.

Gnomic, jagged as broken glass, this mischievous little piece from the mid-1960s pitches the soloist into a madhouse, strewn with the wreckage of colliding styles. Mørk’s fingers slapped wood; gestures led nowhere; musical history became crushed in a blender. An exhilarating novelty, if nothing else.

And then Nielsen’s Fifth, the side-drum symphony from the early 1920s, a wrestling match between war and peace. This was the night’s biggest triumph. Järvi’s command was total as he ferreted out instrumental colours that other conductors miss and controlled the tensions so tightly that their release often left you winded.

I loved the acid gargle of Richard Hosford’s clarinet, snaking its way across Nielsen’s wasteland. But the performance wasn’t all devastation: the strings applied plenty of soul and silk as speeds and dynamics dropped and light peeked over the horizon. War may have given us a battering, but this was an interpretation, and a BBC concert, to send us out hopeful, and beaming.