Janelle: It’s an eclectic season: What are you trying to accomplish overall?
PJ: Eclectic is exactly the right word. For me to focus only on narrow repertoire would be, in a way, shortchanging the audience here in Cincinnati. But it’s not just about the audience, it’s also the way I function. I like to have a broad spectrum, and it’s good for the agility of the orchestra. It makes their life more interesting, for audiences, musicians and myself...
Janelle: OK, how about Messiaen's L'Ascension: four meditations symphoniques (Nov. 10-11)?
PJ: It’s originally an organ piece, and I thought it was a sensational, unbelievably spiritual and touching piece. I perform it a lot, and when I was looking for something to couple with Mahler 9 – that’s another piece that doesn’t need a coupling. And yet I wanted to create a connection to audiences here.
Messiaen's L’Ascension is about the Ascension. It’s a religious piece by a supremely religious person. It’s a way to see an end.
Mahler 9 is about the end, as well. So the whole program has a Christian and Jewish way of seeing the end. And it's a soul-searching, typically Jewish way of looking at what it all means. Then Messiaen who sees the end of life on earth in a very Christian way. I thought it would add an intellectual angle to it, to those who realize it. To those who don’t get this kind of connection, it still works musically very well.
Janelle: Many of us know Scriabin's piano music, but have never heard Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.
PJ: That’s my favorite symphony. Everybody loves the 3rd and 4th, but I love the second symphony, because it’s truly a Russian symphony. He’s already starting to go alittle bit mystical and French, but it’s still basically Russian.
There is a kind of Germanic Russian music, that is following a strict symphonic master plan, like Tchaikovsky. There’s a certain classical clarity about them. Then there’s a real, Borodin, Glinka, and Mussorgsky (style). Scriabin is a descendent of this group, where there’s more emphasis on color and flavor.
So there’s something beautiful and Russian about it. I fell in love with the symphony when I was a small boy in Estonia and my father was conducting it, and I thought it was so beautiful. I’ve done it many times, but it is not well known.
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