Physics of the podium
By WYNNE DELACOMA
Chicago Sun-Times, April 9, 2006
If Paavo Jarvi were a rock and roller, smarty-mouth young critics might dismiss him as a geezer. In the classical music world, the 43-year-old music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is considered a notable up-and-comer.
Jarvi takes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's podium on Tuesday, returning for the first time since 2004. Now in his fifth season in Cincinnati -- and scheduled next season to add a second major post, music director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra -- Jarvi is a conductor deeply attached to symphonic music's centuries-old traditions, as well as its yet-to-be-charted future.
His father is Neeme Jarvi, the distinguished Estonian conductor who was the Detroit Symphony's music director from 1991-2005. His brother, Kristjan, heads the hip, accomplished Absolute Ensemble, a chamber group devoted to contemporary music.
Balancing the old and the new has been vital to Jarvi's artistic success as Cincinnati Symphony's music director since September 2001. Like most big-city orchestras, the 111-year-old ensemble is facing formidable challenges. Its elegant and venerable home theater, the 3,417-seat Music Hall, is much too large for orchestral concerts. Observers blame a price hike last season and problems with crime in the Music Hall area for a drop in subscription sales.
On the artistic front, however, the news hardly could be better. Jarvi and his Cincinnati colleagues consistently win high praise for their local performances, international tours and commercial recordings -- up to four a year -- for Telarc.
"There's great energy emanating from the stage, from the orchestra and from the podium,'' said Steven Monder, president of the Cincinnati orchestra. "There's a certain edginess to everything that's going on because they're working together, they're creating spontaneously. There's just a great chemistry between Paavo and our orchestra, and it's very clear and very easy to feel in the audience. From concert one [Jarvi made his Cincinnati conducting debut in February 1999], our musicians were immediately impressed with Paavo, so we immediately re-engaged him.''
The orchestra has been holding him close ever since. Not even two years into Jarvi's initial contract, it was extended through 2008-09.
Jarvi has conducted around the world and was principal guest conductor of both the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic and the City of Birmingham Symphony before arriving in Cincinnati. He landed at a city with an enviable musical heritage. Fritz Reiner, who led the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to artistic glory as its music director from 1953 to 1963, held Cincinnati's top musical post in the 1920s. Jarvi's immediate predecessor was Jesus Lopez-Cobos.
"I inherited an orchestra that was in very good shape,'' said Jarvi. "The orchestra in general is known as being of very high quality.''
One of his main goals has been to raise the Cincinnati Symphony's national and international profile through recordings, tours and exciting concerts at home.
"I like Cincinnati very much,'' Jarvi said, "but there's a kind of mentality here. They like to keep the good things to themselves. I want to make the symphony a little less of a best-kept secret.
" 'Balance' is the vital world,'' he said about his approach to programming. "It's important for me to do something that has proven value and also to add a little spice, to play works the orchestra or the audiences might not know.'' He has brought the music of a few contemporary composers to Cincinnati, playing a wide range of their works over several seasons so that audiences can become familiar with their musical voice.
Jarvi deplores the notion that orchestras must stick with familiar masterworks to increase audiences.
"There is too much great music that isn't played,'' he said. "Why should there be a culture where we gravitate toward the popular? Our mission is not the same as in the pop world. Our mission is to explore art.''
Jarvi's name regularly pops up as a possible successor to Daniel Barenboim, who leaves the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's music director post in June. Both Jarvi and Monder turn vague when asked about the conductor's plans beyond 2008-09.
"At this moment, I haven't thought about the future,'' said Jarvi. "All this talk is quite premature. I'm not the type of person who goes easily from one place to another. I'm a person who commits and is quite loyal. I like to see something important happen, to build something."
Monday, April 10, 2006
PJ Breezes Into Chicago!
Is there gossip here? Check out this piece from the Chicago Sunt-Times on Sunday! (And yes--I am still without a computer and blogging this from the library!! :-((()