Thursday, September 07, 2006

Paavo Speaks!

The Cincinnati Enquirer's classical music critic Janelle Gelfand has just posted an extensive interview with Paavo about the upcoming Cincinnati Symphony season on her blog. It isn't clear how much of it will be published in her story about him next Wednesday, but usually her blog contains the uncut version of things. Unfortunately, most people aren't aware of it, so I wanted to make sure to call attention to it here. Some highlights:
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.

Read the whole entry here.

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