Friday, January 13, 2006

Settling into his fifth season

Globetrotting symphony conductor Paavo Järvi at home in Cincinnati
By Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer, January 12, 2006

Paavo Järvi landed long enough between concerts at Music Hall for a casual chat in his backstage office shortly before the holidays. Now up for his second Grammy Award - he won last year for his gorgeous "Sibelius Cantatas" with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra - the 43-year-old music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra spends a lot of time on planes between Cincinnati and Europe.

Lately, Germany has become a regular stop for the Estonian-born American, who now leads two orchestras there (the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra).

But he's made Cincinnati his home base. In the fall, Järvi moved into a new condo in East Walnut Hills with his partner, Tania Berman, and their daughter, Lea, almost 2. Now opening the second half of his fifth season, he talked about getting to know the city and the music he has coming up with the Cincinnati Symphony.

On being recognized around town: People are so friendly. The nicest story was when I just came back from Germany with my slightly suspect American passport, which is issued in Sweden and renewed in England and has about 25 pages of extensions for extra stamps. I was mentally preparing myself to being interrogated, and the guy looked at me and said, "Oh, I know you! May I just congratulate you for the fine work you're doing here." I thought, that's so nice! Finally no strip search!

Getting to know Cincinnati: I've seen almost everything at the Playhouse in the Park. Love, Janis was great. With Tania, I often participate in Final Fridays, and we bought some art from local artists. Just to see literally hundreds of people walking through galleries - you don't think that this kind of thing is possible here.

On missing Estonian food: The food in Germany is a lot like Estonian - sort of basic meat and potatoes type of food. I'd rather keep it to a minimum (laughs). There are certain things that you miss, of course, like a real black bread.

Furnishing the condo: A lot of it comes from the Internet.

Foodies: Sometimes after a week of work, the biggest excursion outside my house is to go to Kroger. Tania now has completely converted to organic foods, so I think she'll start owning stock in Wild Oats. Even our cat eats organic food, which I think is ridiculous.

Most inspiring music coming up: Bruckner's Symphony No. 5 is enormous and fantastic and a very unusual Bruckner symphony (Jan. 27-28). Elgar's Enigma Variations is very popular (Jan. 19-21).

We have an interesting concert on March 3-4, where Christian and Tanja Tetzlaff, a brother and sister, are playing Brahms' Double Concerto. They are exceptional artists, and it is an incredible piece of music. And Mahler's Second Symphony - this is one of the pieces that one shouldn't miss (March 10-11).

Most fun to conduct: The jazz concert with Kurt Weill, Bernstein and Gershwin (April 21-23). That's very cool.

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