Thursday, November 30, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Le chef Paavo Järvi dirige une formule 1

Le chef Paavo Järvi dirige une formule 1
Par Marie-Aude Roux
Le Monde | 30.11.06

Hôte de marque régulier du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, l'Orchestre philharmonique de Vienne était dirigé ce 29 novembre par Paavo Järvi (né en 1962), qui faisait là ses premières armes avec la prestigieuse phalange autrichienne.

De fait, le chef estonien, qui s'est produit plusieurs fois à la tête de l'Orchestre de Paris, a semblé très tendu, à l'instar d'un pilote de formule 1 qui conduirait pour son premier Grand Prix un prototype à la fois inespéré et dangereux.


Inespéré et dangereux en effet, tant les Wiener Philharmoniker produisent une ivresse du son, un vertige de virtuosité incroyables, au point de donner à entendre de la musique de chambre là même où la masse instrumentale est la plus éclatante, la polyphonie la plus complexe, l'orchestration la plus recherchée.

MAGNIFIQUE DRAMATISATION

Cramponné à sa baguette, Paavo Järvi dirige juste et court, légèrement guindé. L'ouverture de La Flûte enchantée déploie certes une plastique sonore irréprochable, mais aussi le sentiment un peu triste d'un luxe inutile car vidé de vraie substance émotionnelle. Même constat dans la Symphonie n° 104, dite "Londres", de Haydn, que Järvi dirige au cordeau : pas un timbre qui dépasse, un archet qui traîne ou une attaque à côté.

Tout changera progressivement avec la Symphonie en ut majeur, dite "la Grande", de Schubert. Dans le premier mouvement, Järvi ne respire pas encore mais relâche un peu la pression. La musique suit toujours son grand et fastueux bonhomme de chemin, tandis que l'orchestre commence à vivre.

Le fameux "Andante con moto", totalement dépourvu de nostalgie se laissera gagner par une dramatisation magnifiquement élaborée jusqu'à l'hystérie sensorielle. La gestuelle même du chef s'est assouplie, plus sensuelle, qui dessine de la main gauche d'élégantes arabesques.

Mais c'est avec le troisième mouvement, "Scherzo", que l'esprit de la valse viennoise va opérer la métamorphose, premier temps marqué et étiré comme il se doit. De confortable et tranquille, l'écoute devient fauve aux aguets scrutant les bruits de la nuit tandis que se déchaîne la grande démiurgie schubertienne, juste revanche de l'âme sur la disgrâce physique de celui que ses amis viennois surnommaient "Schwammerl", soit "petit champignon".

Ouverture de "La Flûte enchantée", de Mozart, Symphonie n° 104 "Londres", de Haydn, Symphonie en ut majeur, "la Grande" D 944, de Schubert.Orchestre philharmonique de Vienne, Paavo Järvi (direction). Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, le 29 novembre.

CONCERT REVIEW: L’empreinte d’un chef; Wiener Philharmoniker, Paavo Järvi (direction)

L’empreinte d’un chef
Paris
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
11/29/2006 - et 30 novembre 2006 (Köln)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : Ouverture de «La Flûte enchantée», K. 620
Joseph Haydn : Symphonie n° 104 «London»
Franz Schubert : Symphonie n° 9, D. 944

Wiener Philharmoniker, Paavo Järvi (direction)
Par Simon Corley
ConcertoNet.com, 30 novembre 2006

La première des deux visites que l’Orchestre philharmonique de Vienne, toujours fidèle au Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, effectue cette saison à Paris marquait en même temps les débuts de Paavo Järvi à la tête de la prestigieuse phalange. La curiosité était d’autant plus grande que le chef estonien a choisi pour l’occasion un programme classique et romantique, auquel il aura peut-être manqué l’attrait d’un concerto et d’un soliste pour remplir la salle: non seulement on l’a plutôt entendu jusqu’à présent diriger des compositeurs postromantiques, tels Mahler, Scriabine ou encore tout récemment Richard Strauss (voir ici), mais dans ce répertoire «viennois» par excellence, un tel orchestre peut décider de n’en faire qu’à sa tête, de mettre le «pilote automatique» et de s’en tenir à ce que l’on appellera, selon que l’on est plus ou moins bienveillant, la tradition ou les habitudes. Ce premier contact prenait donc tout particulièrement valeur de test.

Autant le dire d’emblée, le test s’est révélé parfaitement concluant: même s’il n’est pas certain que les musiciens aient été profondément convaincus de la pertinence de l’approche de Järvi, ils n’en ont pas moins pleinement joué le jeu et fait preuve d’une étonnante capacité d’adaptation, dans une fascinante démonstration de la façon dont une personnalité peut marquer un orchestre de son empreinte.

L’ouverture de La Flûte enchantée (1791) de Mozart semble certes débuter sur des bases connues, «avec tout le confort moderne», pour reprendre l’expression de Debussy à propos du Sacre du printemps – sonorités veloutées de l’Adagio liminaire, plénitude des vents dans la triple batterie d’accords qui suit l’exposition – mais l’Allegro ne manque pas de tranchant et d’allant, presque haletant, au détriment de l’articulation dans ce forte qui écrase toujours un peu les doubles croches du quatrième temps du thème fugué.

Dans la Cent quatrième symphonie «Londres» (1795) de Haydn, l’expérience est encore plus probante: la manière dont Järvi agit sur tous les paramètres de l’interprétation – phrasés, attaques, accents, équilibre entre les pupitres – traduit aussi bien la solidité de son métier que la souplesse des Viennois, mais ce qui frappe avant tout, c’est son travail sur la couleur: méconnaissable, la sonorité des Philharmoniker, inhabituellement rugueuse, avec des cordes parcimonieuses en vibrato et des bois d’une verdeur inattendue, n’est en effet pas aussi flatteuse que de coutume. Cet aggiornamento sert une lecture intransigeante et analytique, soulignant ruptures et silences, aussi bien dans l’Adagio introductif, sombre et dramatique, que dans le caractère déjà beethovénien qu’il confère au développement dans les mouvements extrêmes. Mais il n’en oublie pas pour autant la dose d’humour et la verve indispensables à ce répertoire, avec un Menuetto robuste et un Spiritoso final non moins dansant.

En seconde partie, la Neuvième symphonie (1826) de Schubert confirme que la Philharmonie de Vienne, au risque d’enfoncer des portes ouvertes et nonobstant quelques légitimes moments de faiblesse, demeure une formation d’exception: merveilleux unisson des deux cors à découvert dans l’Andante initial, homogénéité et transparence des soixante cordes, dont la masse n’étouffe jamais bois et cuivres. Bien loin d’un Wanderer rêveur, plus en poigne qu’en rondeur, le Schubert de Järvi propose une vision profondément renouvelée de la partition, sans verser dans la caricature des tics «baroqueux», car le discours est sans cesse mû par un élan épique et conquérant, parfois même rageur (Andante con moto), mais sans précipitation: malgré l’omission de la reprise dans l’Allegro final, la symphonie s’étend sur cinquante-sept minutes. Une durée qu’il maîtrise sans peine, malgré d’importantes fluctuations de tempo, car la dynamique et la tension qu’il insuffle à l’œuvre sont bien plus structurants que vibrionnants, mettant en relief le classicisme de la construction, tandis que la fluidité avec laquelle le propos s’écoule parvient à compenser les risques de raideur de cette lecture exigeante, d’une logique implacable.

En bis, Järvi trouve fait se rencontrer la Baltique et la cité de la valse, dans une Valse triste (1903) de Sibelius bien plus Delirien-Walzer que Bonbons de Vienne.

Il ne fait pas de doute que sous la direction de Christian Thielemann, la Philharmonie de Vienne offrira une toute autre physionomie pour son retour dans la capitale le 17 mars prochain, dans la Huitième symphonie de Bruckner.

Le site de l’Orchestre philharmonique de Vienne

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Paavo Järvi : «L'autorité ne m'intéresse pas»

Paavo Järvi : «L'autorité ne m'intéresse pas»
Par Christian Merlin
Le Figaro, 28 novembre 2006

Le chef estonien dirige mercredi le Philharmonique de Vienne à Paris.

LE FIGARO. – Entrez-vous beaucoup dans le détail en répétition ?

Paavo JÄRVI. – Le travail de détail est important, il aide l'orchestre à atteindre un niveau confortable, néanmoins on risque de perdre la grande ligne. Quand vous êtes un jeune chef, vous voulez tout fixer noir sur blanc. Aujourd'hui, je laisse beaucoup plus jouer car j'ai appris qu'il ne faut pas sous-estimer l'intelligence des musiciens. Je commence toujours la première répétition en dirigeant l'oeuvre en entier, même si elle est longue, sans interrompre l'orchestre. Dès la deuxième lecture, vous vous rendez compte que les instrumentistes ont corrigé d'eux-mêmes nombre d'erreurs, sans intervention de ma part.

Mais contrôle et efficacité ne sont-ils pas essentiels dans votre travail ? L'efficacité est séduisante mais peut être trompeuse. Certains orchestres virtuoses travaillent très vite : tout est en place dès la première répétition. Mais ils ne vont pas au-delà. Je trouve plus intéressants les orchestres qui travaillent lentement : on a le temps d'approfondir et le résultat est meilleur. Quant au contrôle exercé par le chef, il est purement manuel. C'est celui du bras, vous l'avez ou ne l'avez pas. Sinon, l'autorité ne m'intéresse pas. Je suis un compagnon des musiciens et non un général d'armée. Si les instrumentistes me suivent ce n'est pas parce que j'ai du pouvoir, mais parce qu'ils sont convaincus que je suis un musicien.

C'est pourquoi vous ne prenez pas la pose ?

PJ: Il peut être agréable de se prendre pour un artiste quand on débute, mais on fait vite le tour de cette vanité. Au début d'une répétition, je dis seulement «bonjour, commençons» et le lien s'établit par la musique. Mais c'est un lien extrêmement fort et sensitif. Je n'atteindrais pas un tel degré d'intimité avec les musiciens en conversant avec eux. Quand je vois une jeune musicienne transfigurée par la musique qu'elle joue sous ma direction, croyez-moi, ce peut être très érotique.

Vous donnez pourtant l'impression d'un chef sévère.

PJ: Question de personnalité. Leonard Bernstein est mon héros, mon dieu, avoir étudié avec lui a changé ma vie. Mais ce serait malhonnête de ma part d'essayer de l'imiter. Si je me mettais à danser au pupitre, ça sonnerait faux. Je suis d'Europe du Nord ! En revanche, il m'a appris une chose essentielle : la seule raison valable de faire de la musique, c'est l'émotion.

Sur le site Internet de votre orchestre de Cincinatti figurent aussi les mauvaises critiques, c'est rare !

PJ: C'est une question d'honnêteté. À long terme, vous gagnez toujours plus à admettre vos faiblesses qu'à les masquer. Et puis je suis mon premier critique : si je ne suis pas content de moi à la fin d'un concert, même les ovations du public ne me feront pas plaisir.

Qu'attendez-vous de votre premier contact avec le Philharmonique de Vienne ?

PJ: J'ai grandi avec les enregistrements de Furtwängler et Bruno Walter. À la maison, nous étions les seuls en Estonie à posséder l'intégrale des symphonies de Mozart par Karl Böhm. Mon père, le chef d'orchestre Neeme Järvi, rapportait ces disques de ses tournées à l'Ouest. La recherche d'authenticité des orchestres baroques m'a énormément apporté et j'en tiens compte, mais quand je pense au début de la 9e de Schubert que je dirigerai mercredi soir, je pense de plus en plus que Furtwängler avait raison. Je sais ce que je veux dans cette oeuvre, le Philharmonique de Vienne sait comment il la joue d'habitude : ce doit être du donnant-donnant, j'apprends moi-même beaucoup des orchestres que je dirige. Je ferai un pas dans leur direction, j'espère qu'ils en feront un dans la mienne. Les diriger sera une expérience, elle marchera ou non. Elle marchera si la relation se fonde sur la compréhension musicale. Comme avec tout orchestre.


Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, 29 novembre à 20 heures. Rés. : 01 49 52 50 50.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Where in the World Are Our Visitors? (Update)

The PAAVO Project maintains an enviable worldwide audience of music lovers from all of the continents in the world -- save one (Antarctica!). I love checking the SiteMeter log to see who's visiting each day. And I'm always amazed by the wide variety of places listed there. Here's a list of the 60 countries represented lately (new additions appear in bold type):

Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, Dubai, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdon, United States, and Vietnam.

Many thanks to all of you. (And please, don't be shy about posting comments! We love hearing from you and hope you return often to visit again!)

Big Week for Paavo!


This week marks a special time for Paavo as he makes his conducting debut with the highly acclaimed Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Wiener Philharmoniker).

He will lead the orchestra on two tour concert dates: Wednesday, November 29, at 20:00 at the beautiful Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris (France) and on Thursday, November 30, at 20:00 in the Kölner Philharmonie, Cologne (Germany), the only concert hall worldwide in which the Vienna Philharmonic is engaged to play a regular concert series outside the metropolis on the Danube.

This week's programs consist of: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Overture to "Die Zauberflöte"; Joseph Haydn's Symphony D Major, Hob. I:104; and Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8, C Major, D 944 "Great C Major".

Acoustics, character of Music Hall make renovation no easy feat

Acoustics, character of Music Hall make renovation no easy feat
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, November 27, 2006

Music Hall is headed for a makeover, and renovating a National Historic Landmark is a tricky business.

But the theater and acoustical consultants, who have worked on high-profile projects such as Cleveland's 1931 Severance Hall, are confident.

"There's a concern that what you do doesn't destroy in some way the historical character of a building," says Joshua Dachs, principal of Fisher Dachs Theatre Planning and Design in New York.

"You're not starting with a clean sheet of paper. You have to come up with inventive solutions that work within or take advantage of the unique situation that exists. That's an interesting puzzle sometimes."

On Monday, officials announced that the first phase to study a remodeling of the 128-year-old hall was complete.

In coming months, the Music Hall Working Group representing the main tenants will receive a menu of architectural solutions and their costs, and begin to hammer out a workable plan.

If all issues are tackled - somehow "downsizing" the 3,400-seat hall for symphony concerts, adding an upscale restaurant, gift shop, bar or donor lounge, beefing up backstage technology, building better staff offices and building an entry from a planned new parking garage - the price tag could soar above $35 million.

And no one knows where the city's main performing arts groups will move while Music Hall is a construction zone.

MAINTAINING ACOUSTICS

Perhaps more critical than cost, though, is the charge of maintaining the auditorium's fine acoustics, where Telarc records the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops CDs.

The mission is to create more intimacy between the players and the audience while preserving Music Hall's legendary sound, says Mark Holden, chairman of Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc., a Connecticut-based firm that recently designed the acoustics of Dayton's widely praised Schuster Center.

"Music Hall has a mellow and well-balanced sound. But the concerns relate to the fact that it's not as intimate a room for a smaller audience," Holden says. "You don't want to ruin the beautiful sound that's there. Yet you want to improve the presence, the proximity."

Holden and Dachs were part of the team that successfully remodeled the Cleveland Orchestra's home, Severance Hall, in 2000. The two-year, $36 million makeover - which included a restaurant, gift shop, expanded backstage facilities and improved access from the garage - required the Cleveland Orchestra to decamp to an old movie theater for part of two seasons.

Even though the entire stage area was rebuilt, the team succeeded in preserving - and even enhancing - Severance Hall's acoustics.

Last year, the same team created a more intimate environment for the large (2,800-seat) Avery Fisher Hall in New York, for its "Mostly Mozart Festival." The orchestra was placed on a platform jutting 30 feet into the hall, with seating on all sides.

"You could sit onstage and read music over the shoulders of the violinists," says Dachs, also a classically trained violinist who played in Carnegie Hall as a student. "It broke down the formality of the relationship between performers and audience in a wonderful way and created a more intimate setting and a more powerful acoustical setting."

A "thrust stage" was briefly considered for Music Hall in the '90s.

"It really changes the dynamic in an exciting way," says Dachs. "There's no more exciting place to watch the conductor than as the orchestra sees them. When you're that close, you feel as though you're in the middle of the orchestra."


A LOOK AT HISTORY

Coming back with recommendations has been slow because Music Hall lacks good architectural drawings. But Bob Howes, Cincinnati Symphony violist and historian for the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall, a volunteer arm, has been digging through archives.

A little known fact is that Music Hall has a double proscenium arch - one for opera, one for orchestra. The orchestra has been sitting too far back for decades, Howes believes. Placing it in front of the gilded arch would coincide with Music Hall architect Samuel Hannaford's original intentions.

Last season, the orchestra moved forward for two concerts. The musicians were pleased, and there was a better connection with the audience, Howes says.

"Look at history. The hall was designed for a specific purpose and everybody needs to know what it is."


REACTION TO REMODELING

Originally built for the choral concerts of Cincinnati May Festival in 1878, Music Hall is a multipurpose hall. A reconfiguring of Springer Auditorium could be a flexible solution that would change according to the needs of the tenants - the Cincinnati Symphony, May Festival and Cincinnati Opera. It may - or may not - mean making the hall smaller, says Steven Monder, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra president.

"Our consultants have five or six concepts in mind," he says.

Karen McKim, executive director of the Corbett Foundation, wonders if the orchestra has explored enough options before planning a redo of the auditorium.

"I wonder if they've looked at all the questions - why is it not full?" says McKim, noting that the Corbett Foundation paid $400,000 for new seating about 15 years ago.

If plans call for reduced seating, how would that affect the opera, which typically has crowds of 3,000 for opera chestnuts like "Aida"?

"We're not going to shut the door on anything," says Cincinnati Opera CEO and general director Patricia Beggs, adding that fewer seats would mean more performances.

Everyone wants to see the grande dame of Elm Street remain the city's premiere arts destination.

The acoustical consultant Holden feels "very positive."

"There seems to be a great sense of moving forward, of 'we can do this' and this is the time," he says. "A lot of things are coming into alignment, in terms of will of the city and trying to improve the area. There seems to be a real gathering of momentum, which is very exciting and rewarding to have been entrusted with this."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Pingpong mit Tönen

Pingpong mit Tönen
Erkki-Sven Tüürs Klavierkonzert in Frankfurt uraufgeführt
Von Ellen Kohlhaas
Frankfurter Allemeigne Zeitung, 25.11.2006

Junge Gesichter, lautlose Konzentration, mitreißende Begeisterungsfähigkeit: Die Jugendkonzerte des hr-Sinfonieorchesters in der Alten Oper Frankfurt haben ihre ganz eigene Atmosphäre. Die Programme aber sind die gleichen wie bei den Abonnementskonzerten an den folgenden Tagen, von der Moderation abgesehen. Diesmal hieß dies schwere Kost für die Jugendlichen. Mit "moderner Musik" war nicht Pop, Rap, Techno oder Disco gemeint, sondern die Uraufführung von Erkki-Sven Tüürs Klavierkonzert und Anton Bruckners mehr als einstündige siebte Sinfonie. Doch es stellte sich bald heraus, daß die Jugendlichen im Saal gut auf diesen Abend vorbereitet gewesen sein dürften - womöglich durch das "Netzwerk Musik und Schule", das Juliane Stahl während der geschickt zwischen Information, Witz und Suggestion vermittelnden Moderation des hr-Redakteurs Stefan Hoffmann vorstellte. Und für das Klavierkonzert steuerte der Komponist im Gespräch mit Hoffmann Verständnishilfen bei, die das hr-Sinfonieorchester unter seinem neuen Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi mit drei Klangbeispielen veranschaulichte.

Ohne sich bequemen Hörgewohnheiten anzubiedern, eignet sich Tüürs einsätziges, gut zwanzigminütiges Klavierkonzert, ein Auftragswerk des Hessischen Rundfunks, dank seiner dramatischen Ereignisfülle, der dichten Zwiesprache zwischen Solist und Orchester, seines weiten instrumentalen Farbspektrums und seiner Einprägsamkeit als Einstieg in die neue Musik - gerade auch für Jugendliche. Der Beginn ist ein Ideen-Pingpong zwischen dem Pianisten, der impulsgebend die ganze Tastatur von ihren Baß- und Diskantzündern her erkundet, und dem Orchester, das die solistischen Einfälle aufgreift und variiert dem Solisten zurückspielt, der sie seinerseits verarbeitet und dem Orchester zuwirft. In kontrastreichen, im hochdifferenzierten Ensemble klangvariabel beleuchteten Wellen bauen sich so drei aggressive Höhepunkte auf. Der zweite dynamische Gipfel braut sich im lichteren, ruhigeren Mittelteil zusammen und mündet in eine rhythmisch zugespitzte Jazz-Episode. Nach dem dritten Dynamikgipfel endet das Werk kontemplativ bis hin zum tonlosen Hauchen in die Hörner, resonanzartig unterstützt vom bogengestrichenen Becken, wie schon zu Beginn der Komposition.

Der Pianist ist fast pausenlos höchst virtuos, aber ohne avantgardistische Techniken aktiv. Thomas Larcher, selbst ein renommierter Komponist, stürzte sich so lustvoll in die Kontrast- und Klangerforschungen seines Kollegen, als ginge es um eine experimentelle Selbstbefragung. Spannend gerieten dabei nicht zuletzt die Wechselwirkungen mit dem Orchester, das dem Klavierklang immer neue Resonanzräume öffnet oder mit ihm verblüffende, manchmal synthesizerartige Farbmixturen bildet. Dem geradezu in lauter Solisten aufgesplitterten Orchester bietet die Partitur eine ungeahnte Vielfalt an Farbfächerungen, spannungsgeladenen Klangfeldern und Überlagerungen unterschiedlicher Schichten - ähnlich wie beim ebenfalls vom Hessischen Rundfunk beauftragten Violinkonzert, das Isabelle von Keulen und die hr-Sinfoniker unter Järvis Vorgänger Hugh Wolff am 16. September 1999 am selben Ort uraufgeführt hatten. Wie damals erwies sich das Orchester als reaktionsrascher, plastisch "erzählender" Führer durch die Klangarchitekturen des estnischen Komponisten.

Exemplarisch glückte hernach auch Bruckners Siebte im eindringlichen Aufriß, Fluß und in ballastfreier Durchhörbarkeit. Durch die vorangegangene Uraufführung hellhörig geworden, erkannte das Ohr auch in diesem monumentalen Viersätzer die Kontrastdramaturgie, wenn auch aus anderen Gründen als bei Tüür: orgelregisterartig statt als Spannungsentladungen gegensätzlicher Energien, Zeiträume, Kompositionstechniken. Die überwiegend jungen Zuhörer reagierten auf den gewiß anstrengenden Abend, den sie diszipliniert, aufmerksam und während der Pause grüppchenweise diskutierend verbracht hatten, spontan zustimmend: Vielleicht ist für die altehrwürdige, immer wieder junge "klassische" Musik doch noch nicht aller Tage Abend.

Friday, November 24, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Fesselnde Dynamik; Klavierkonzert in der Alten Oper uraufgeführt

Fesselnde Dynamik
Klavierkonzert in der Alten Oper uraufgeführt
Von Axel Zibulski
Wiesbadener Tagblatt, 25.11.2006

FRANKFURT "Ein Individuum versucht, die Welt zu verändern, aber kann nichts anderes tun, als sich selbst zu ändern - und stellt dann fest, dass auch die Welt sich geändert hat." Der estnische Komponist Erkki-Sven Tüür hat diese außermusikalische Idee zu seinem Klavierkonzert notiert, das jetzt in der Alten Oper uraufgeführt wurde. Nach Tüürs Violinkonzert (1999) ist es das zweite Werk, das der 1959 geborene Este im Auftrag des Hessischen Rundfunks komponiert hat. Die Uraufführung unter der Leitung von Paavo Järvi, seit September dieses Jahres Chefdirigent in Frankfurt und seit seiner Jugend mit Tüür befreundet, wurde vom Publikum freundlich aufgenommen.

Denn Effekt macht Tüürs gut 20 Minuten dauerndes, einsätziges Konzert ohne Frage; die Interaktion zwischen dem Solisten, in Frankfurt dem österreichischen Pianisten Thomas Larcher, und dem Orchester ist eine höchst spannungsreiche, reibungsvolle. Schon der schroffe Eröffnungsakkord des Klaviers wird klirrend kalt vom Schlagwerk beantwortet, ob mit diffus-flächigen Kontrabass-Passagen, haltlos purzelnden Läufen der Bläser oder jazzig verschobenen Rhythmen bietet das Orchester dem Solisten auch sonst wenig Halt. Er steht für sich - beim Ausloten der extremen Register seines Instruments wie beim permanenten Wiederholen und schritthaften Ergänzen langsam sich ausformender Motive. Ob eben "Minimal music", Jazz-Anklänge, tonale Felder oder gleichsam improvisatorische Schlagwerks-Passagen: Tüür hat sie in seinem Klavierkonzert bis zum versöhnlich-meditativ wirkenden Ausklang kompakt gebündelt; das Konzert, von dem Solisten Thomas Larcher nicht nur interpretiert, sondern einst auch initiiert, dürfte auch dank seiner fesselnden Dynamik kein Stück für die Schublade bleiben.

Für seine Programme als Chefdirigent des hr-Sinfonieorchesters hat Paavo Järvi nicht nur eine verstärkte Einbindung zeitgenössischer Musik, sondern auch einen Schwerpunkt bei der Sinfonik von Anton Bruckner und Gustav Mahler angekündigt. So führten er und die hr-Sinfoniker im zweiten Konzertteil Bruckners Sinfonie Nr. 7 E-Dur auf. Transparenz statt Pathos, stets fein ausgearbeitete Übergänge und eine kluge formale Disposition, die einmal nicht das Scherzo und das Finale wie ein Appendix der gewichtigeren ersten Sätze erscheinen ließ, prägten die Interpretation, die auf weitere Bruckner-Dirigate Järvis neugierig machte.

LIVE: Das hr-Sinfonieorchester in der Alten Oper Frankfurt

Please forgive me if this is wrong, but you know I am unknowledgeable when it comes to the German language. I think this may mean that today's concert of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra is being broadcast live on HR2--and SOON now, at 20:05. This page may help you more than it helped me!:
Mit einer Uraufführung beginnt das hr-Sinfonieorchester unter der Leitung seines Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi das heutige Konzert in der Alten Oper Frankfurt. Mit dem österreichischen Pianisten Thomas Larcher am Flügel erklingt zum erstenmal ein neues Klavierkonzert des estnischen Komponisten Erkki-Sven Tüür (geb. 1959).

Das Konzert entstand als Auftragskomposition des Hessischen Rundfunks, für den Erkki-Sven Tüür bereits ein Violinkonzert schrieb, das 1999 erfolgreich uraufgeführt wurde. Tüür, ein Landsmann des neuen hr-Chefdirigenten, gehört neben Arvo Pärt zu den estnischen Komponisten, die international anerkannt sind. Der Pfarrerssohn Tüür betrieb seine musikalische Ausbildung zunächst autodidaktisch, studierte dann an der Musikschule von Tallin und gründete 1979 ein Rock-Ensemble. Er wirkte in dieser Band als Flötist mit, als Keyboarder und Sänger, komponierte aber auch für dieses Ensemble. Seit der politischen "Perestroika" wird seine Musik auch außerhalb Estlands aufgeführt. Tüürs Musik lebt von Kontrasten: barocker Klang steht neben minimalistischen Sequenzen, Archaisches folgt auf vermeintlich Improvisatorisches, auch Rockanklänge sind nicht selten zu erkennen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

CSO DVD: Remembrance of Things Past


Maestro Paavo Jarvi counts his Sept. 14, 2001, CSO debut among his most cherished moments. The performance is now available on DVD.

Remembrance of Things Past
The CSO's first DVD commemorates Paavo's historical debut
Interview By Alan Scheidt
CityBeat, November 21, 2006

An artifact, according to my American Heritage Dictionary, is "an object produced or shaped by human workmanship ... an ornament of historical interest." This month the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra released an artifact of sorts, its premiere DVD entitled The First Concert: September 2001, which commemorates Paavo Jarvi's inaugural performances as music director of the CSO.

Originally filmed by Brandenberg Productions for broadcast on PBS, this beautifully crafted DVD is drawn from the first weekend of performances in Music Hall just days after Sept. 11, 2001. The program that evening included the World Premiere of Charles Coleman's "Streetscape" as well as Debussy's venerable "La mer" and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony. Scheduled cellist Truls Mork was unable to fly into the U.S. and Samuel Barber's famous "Adagio for Strings" was substituted as a tribute to the fallen.

I was in attendance on opening night, Sept. 14. Charged with emotion, that evening remains the most memorable of my arts-going life. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the new DVD with Jarvi and share memories of a time that was, in more respects than anyone could have anticipated, the beginning of a new era.

Alan Scheidt: This is the first time the CSO has produced a DVD. How did it come to be?

Paavo Jarvi: It was made as a television program, but we wanted it for ourselves, too. It would be a living history of ours. It is much more than a commercial undertaking. I like the fact that it just exists, that it is part of our legacy.

AS: Your first rehearsal was on 9/11. You literally began your career with the CSO as the planes were flying into the twin towers.

PJ: My first thought was that my tenure here is doomed -- this is obviously not a good sign. I'm thinking, "Somebody is trying to tell you something." Of course, now, looking back, I can say it was a kind of numbness. There was serious consideration of canceling because some people said it wouldn't be right to play music in such a horrible circumstance, and I said, "This is exactly when you need to play it."

AS: Was that why you decided on the Barber "Adagio?"

PJ: It became a question of should we add something or not. It was so ... right. It's amazing just how powerful that piece actually is. There's no need to explain it; it's just there. It's strong in emotion, but not sentimental. It's not asking for pity music. It's about inner strength. It has a sense of mourning in it, something universal. It's a masterpiece.

AS: Sometimes standing ovations are obligatory in Cincinnati, but that night a crowd of 3,000 literally leapt to their feet not once but three times, including when you first walked onstage. What was going through your mind?

PJ: I had mixed feelings because I felt in the beginning that maybe we should have canceled. Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do. I walked out onstage and I saw the sort of reaction. People were so warm, so accepting. And another thing that put me immediately at ease was when I gave the cue to the snare drum for the National Anthem. The minute people got up ... never have I heard before or since that sort of participation. I, of course, didn't have much sense, much understanding of this community. You never know in the beginning. And when people began singing I knew, of course, the only thing you can do is have a concert. Not to do a concert would have actually been really wrong.

AS: The situation didn't just thrust you onto the Music Hall stage. You were, in essence, thrust onto the world stage.

PJ: That's one of the reasons I'm glad this DVD exists now. To have the proof of it, the proof that it actually happened. For me it was very special. For me it's quite touching to see how nervous I am. And on top of everything else, there was a cellist who fainted. And my first thought was, "My God, he's dead!"

AS: Sort of, "What the hell else can happen?"

PJ: There you go -- what else is going to happen? And so I had to get off the stage and come back. And it was very funny because the first thing, when he opened his eyes, he said, "Is my cello OK?" (He laughs.) Not, "Am I still alive?" No. "Is my cello OK?"

AS: I've always thought of that evening as being Dickensian, sort of the best of times and the worst of times because we were seeing the very best we had to offer as humanity in light of the very worst. Music made all the difference.

PJ: It made a lot of issues clear. What is the social importance of music? Music is sometimes treated as a sort of soundtrack to life, but not really the event itself. But there is something really unifying about music. I don't know one really important event that isn't marked by music. We send our people to war with music. We play it at funerals, christenings and bar mitzvahs. I don't know one wedding that doesn't have music in it. There are a lot of situations that have no place for words. You don't talk to your child when you want him to fall asleep; you sing. There is something about music that is so incredibly basic to us. I think it's healing.

THE FIRST NIGHT is available for $20 by calling the CSO at 513-381-3300 or by going to www.cincinnatisymphony.org

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Tüür Work to Premiere in Frankfurt



I sometimes wonder how PJ keeps track of what time it is! Just one day after conducting in Chicago, here he is back in Europe already, busily preparing his new Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra for three concerts this week. This week's program features the premiere of Paavo's friend Erkki-Sven Tüür's new Piano Concerto, performed by Austrian pianist Thomas Larcheron Wednesday, November 22 at the Alte Oper in a youth concert. Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 completes the program. Other concert dates this week are Thursday, November 23 and Friday, November 24. All concerts take place at 7:00 pm in the Alte Oper, Frankfurt.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, CSO

"Only Britten’s own recording, with the London Symphony, is better." How's that for some high praise?
Elgar: Enigma Variations
Britten: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes
Cincinnati Symphony; Paavo Jrvi, conductor.
Telarc SACD-60660, Hybrid Multichannel SACD.

In the past two decades, the Cincinnati Symphony has become a world-class orchestra. It is fitting, then, that it record Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, originally composed for a 1946 educational film, Instruments of the Orchestra, when it was conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent. The work gives every section of the orchestra, and most of the first-chair players, chances to shine, and that is exactly what the Cincinnati players do here. Only Britten’s own recording, with the London Symphony, is better. Conductor Paavo J�rvi handles the Four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes with dramatic flair and an ear for bringing out different orchestral colors. Elgar’s Enigma Variations is absolutely idiomatic and first rate until the finale, which is a bit slow and lacking in shape. The sound is what we’ve come to expect from Telarc’s Cincinnati sessions: rich, warm, and full, with great clarity, a wide, deep soundstage, and just the right amount of reverb. The timpani in The Young Person’s Guide are awesome, and the organ in the finale of the Elgar makes its presence known without sounding like a solo instrument.

--Rad Bennett, Ultra Audio, Novemeber 1, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, CSO

Here's a French review by Pierre-Jean Tribot for ResMusica.com. It's would you would definitely call a RAVE!
Telarc
Britten, le coup de poing dans l’estomac, acte II
par Pierre-Jean Tribot (18/11/2006)

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) : The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra op. 34 ; Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes op. 33a. Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) : Variations on a original theme « Enigma » op. 36. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, direction : Paavo Järvi. 1 CD Telarc CD-80660. Notice de présentation en anglais. Enregistré en janvier 2006 à Cincinnati. Durée : 66’18’’.

Au fur et à mesure des disques, l’association du chef d’orchestre Paavo Järvi avec son orchestre de Cincinnati pour le label Telarc s’impose avec le couple Jonathan Nott-Bamberger Symphoniker comme l’un des rares tandems discographiques capable de pulvériser la discographie d’une œuvre. À la suite d’un précédent disque renversant consacré aux Concertos pour orchestre de Lutosławski et Bartòk, le tandem livre ici un album idéal de musique anglaise.

Le style Järvi associe la précision, la pugnacité et le soin apporté aux détails. Cette esthétique fait mouche dans les spectaculaires Variations sur un thème de Purcell de Britten dont chaque détail, chaque nuance deviennent perceptibles. Cette interprétation surclasse toutes les autres versions concurrentes. Contraste total avec les Quatre interludes marins de Peter Grimes de Britten. Le chef sait saisir les différents climats de ces pièces, il sculpte un véritable drame en insufflant une tension de tous les instants avec une tempête finale qui emporte tout sur son passage. Seul, le disque de Constantin Silvestri (BBC légends) et le dernier concert de Leonard Bernstein (DGG) nous semblent égaler cet enregistrement.

Les Variations Enigma s’imposent comme la caractérisation de la musique anglaise. Archi-enregistrée, ces variations majestueuses et imposantes versent facilement dans la mièvrerie minaudante sous de nombreuses baguettes. Lors d’un précédent article, nous constations que les meilleures versions de cette œuvre étaient à porter au crédit de chefs d’orchestre non britanniques. Ce disque confirme donc la règle ! Avec sa direction racée, dynamique mais musicale, Paavo Järvi se rapproche de la réussite de Toscanini et l’orchestre de la BBC, évitant tout épanchement lyrique téléphoné au profit de la progression narrative.

Tout au long de ce programme, le Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra est impérial de justesse et de style. La prise de son Telarc est encore une fois une merveille de précision, de restitution des timbres, des dynamiques et de la profondeur. Un grand disque!

CONCERT REVIEW: Paavo Jarvi comes to Chicago

Martin of Darien, Illinois, blogs about his experience at the Thursday evening concert:
Paavo Jarvi of the famous Jarvi conducting clan of Estonia comes to Chicago to conduct the Chicago Symphony. He put together an eclectic collection of 20th century orchestral works that really gave the Chicago Symphony and ALL of its players a real workout. In this past year of Mozart being played everywhere we are used to seeing a very small group of musicians emulating the orchestras of Mozart's day. This concert was the opposite of that. The Armour Stage Symphony Center was very full for every work on the program.

This program included Kodaly's Concerto for Orchestra to start off. Gershwin's Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra completed the first half. Wayne Marshall was the excellent pianist for the Gershwin. His playing was remarkable. He played his own cadenza in the middle.

The second half of the program included the U.S. premiere of Errki-Sven Tuur's Zeitraum. It ended with Witold Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra.

All of this music was incredibly interesting.

Jarvi is a fabulous conductor. He stands straight and conducts with precise, detailed and logical movements. He is in command of the orchestra.

Some of the second tier players in the Chicago Symphony got their chance to shine in this concert.
Mathieu Dufour stood aside for the entire concert and let Richard Graef lead the flute section and perform all the solos. Jennifer Gunn got a real workout on the piccolo during some of the works. Joseph Gustafeste stepped aside and let Joseph DiBello play all the double bass solos. Christopher Martin played the important solos in the Gershwin but for all the other works on the program he left the stage and let Mark Ridenour, John Hagstrom, and Tage Larsen have the floor. Robert Chen stood aside during the first work and let Yuan-Qing Yu take the position of concertmaster. He came back for the second half of the concert. The new principal oboe Eugene Izotov played most of the concert but for some of the pieces he let Scott Hostetler take the principal oboe chair. Larry Combs was absent and let John Bruce Yeh handle the clarinet for the entire concert. Yeh is a fabulous player and shines all the time when he plays.

The rest of the orchestra including all the players I did not specifically mention were outstanding in this concert that involved new and strange rhythms and different harmonies.


I took the train to Chicago on Thursday, November 16, to attend this concert.

CONCERT REVIEW: 'Concerto' composers offer refreshing view of outsiders

'Concerto' composers offer refreshing view of outsiders
By Andrew Patner
Chicago Sun-Times, November 18, 2006

This week's Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts are billed as "The Art of the Concerto." But they really feature the art of the outsider.

For by plan and accident, guest conductor Paavo Jarvi is leading four 20th century works by composers who were geographically, culturally and even emotionally outside of the Austro-German traditions at the heart of most orchestral music. Each of these composers -- a Hungarian, a Jewish-American, a Pole and an Estonian -- wrote his piece to demonstrate an ability to fit into more standard forms.

The most famous "Concerto for Orchestra" is that of Bela Bartok, and justly so. The work was a summation of everything Bartok knew and felt about orchestration and structure. A valedictory, it has been one of his most performed works not least by the CSO under Reiner, Solti, Boulez and others. But Zoltan Kodaly, Bartok's Hungarian compatriot and colleague in the collecting and exploration of folk music, actually wrote such a work in 1939-40, three years before Bartok, for the 50th anniversary of the CSO. Heard rarely since its 1941 premiere, it is filled with ideas and folk references that would reach their apex in Bartok's brilliant hands.

George Gershwin wrote his Piano Concerto in F in 1925 after the runaway success of his "Rhapsody in Blue" with the specific goal of legitimating his role as a "serious" composer. Gershwin himself was the soloist in the first CSO performances at the Century of Progress in 1933, and this was the piece he played at his legendary Ravinia appearance 70 summers ago.

The CSO's soloist this week is the much-too-little-known British pianist, organ virtuoso and conductor Wayne Marshall. With technique to spare, Marshall played the concerto as a work of music rather than musical theater -- complete with his own beautifully improvised blues cadenza -- but also did so at a breakneck speed that often distracted from his obvious knowledge and sensitivity.

Witold Lutoslawski probably has the best-known and most successful post-Bartok "Concerto for Orchestra," and it brought out the best work from Jarvi in his several appearances here this year. Where Kodaly anticipated the master of the form, Lutoslawski consciously pays him homage with this demanding but wholly rewarding virtuosic showcase written between 1950 and 1954.

Several players suggested to me that this piece should join the orchestra's touring repertoire, so well does it allow the CSO to show its myriad abilities, and they are absolutely right.

The newest work on the program, the 1992 "Zeitraum" ("Time Space") by Jarvi's Estonian contemporary Erkki-Sven Tuur, played with dual ideas of time -- static and progressive -- in a 15-minute span. It was much more appealing than one might have expected and no less interesting than the work of Estonia's leading composer, the often overrated Arvo Part.


Andrew Patner is critic at large for WFMT-FM (98.7).

Friday, November 17, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Jarvi, CSO offer full program with empty moments

Jarvi, CSO offer full program with empty moments
By John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2006

Paavo Jarvi won't win medals for putting together coherent symphonic programming, but at least his concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Thursday at Symphony Center gave patrons their money's worth.

To the originally announced bill of Kodaly, Gershwin and Lutoslawski works, the Estonian-born Jarvi added the American premiere of "Zeitraum" by his countryman Erkki-Sven Tuur, postponed from the previous month. The sometimes static, sometimes busy fields of melody and harmony trade on the tension created by two kinds of musical time, one moving quickly and kaleidoscopically, the other moving hardly at all.

The opening pages of "Zeitraum" — massive, portentous full-orchestra chords giving way to sputtering woodwinds, murky waves of violas and cellos and darting figures in the divided violins that are soon layered over those opaque waves — promise much that the derivative later pages fail to deliver.

Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F also proved disappointing, though not for any lack of sonic or musical excitement.

The soloist was the gifted British pianist and organist Wayne Marshall, who reimagined the score as an extended jazz improvisation, a perfectly defensible approach. Any interpreter less secure in the Gershwin idiom would not have dared what he attempted in the bluesy slow movement: a long, ornate cadenza of his own devising, not unlike something Gershwin himself might have dashed off at one of his famous soirees.

But while you had to admire the uncanny accuracy with which the pianist's pistonlike fingers tore through the outer movements, you had to wonder why on earth he chose such mercilessly fast tempos. Was it to pump up the crowd? If so, it inspired a tumultuous ovation. Not my idea of Gershwin.

The only pieces that belonged together were the concertos for orchestra by Zoltan Kodaly and Witold Lutoslawski, which served as bookends for Jarvi's generous program.

Kodaly's Concerto for Orchestra, written for the CSO's 50th anniversary and first performed here in 1941, is invented Hungarian folk music done up in the trappings of a Baroque concerto grosso, with plentiful instrumental solos adding to its exuberant spirit. The music is nowhere near as inspired as Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra, or, for that matter, countryman Bela Bartok's own later orchestral concerto. But it was good to hear it in Jarvi's rousing account.

The Lutoslawski remains the late Polish master's most popular orchestral work. One could only marvel at how the score's coloristic variety, impeccable craftsmanship and bracing vitality were reflected in the sweep, intensity and incisiveness with which the CSO players threw themselves into the score. Lutoslawski could have written it with the brassy bite of our orchestra in mind.


jvonrhein@tribune.com

The program will be repeated at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday; 312-294-3000.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PJ in Chicago


British pianist Wayne Marshall joins Paavo and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this week for three concerts, dubbed The Art of the Concerto by the CSO. Designed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for African American audiences and featuring American musical elements, these concerts, part of the "Classical Tapestry" series, will offer a special performance at Symphony Center, Thursday, November 17 at 8 pm. Friday, November 18, and Saturday, November 18 at 8 pm, conductor Jarvi will again accompany Marshall in Gershwin's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra". These two evenings officially kick off CSO's "Classical Tapestry" subscription series that showcases contemporary music written and performed by African American musicians. Also on the program: Erkki-Sven Tüür's Zeitraum (U.S. premiere); Kodály's Concerto for Orchestra; and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. From the CSO's website:
The concerto for orchestra was a characteristic 20th-century idea, a way to showcase the unprecedented virtuosity of the modern orchestra. Kodály’s concerto was written to celebrate the CSO’s 50th anniversary and Lutoslawski’s concerto was inspired by Bartók’s great work of the same name. Pianist Wayne Marshall, who was named Artist of the Year by BBC Music Magazine in 1998, is featured in Gershwin’s Piano Concerto.

Read the Program Notes before you go.

Recommended recordings:

Paavo Jarvi and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra: Searching for Roots, includes Erkki-Sven Tuur's Insula Deserta, Zeitraum and Searching for Roots (Tribute to Sibelius).

Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: Bartok and Lutoslawski: Concertos for Orchestra

Wayne Marshall: Gershwin

Japanese DVD


Marcelo in France sends us this link to a Beethoven DVD, exclusive to Japan, released last month by BMG Japan. Japanese pianist Ikuyo Nakamichi performs the Piano Concertos No. 3 and 5 accompanied by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, conducted by Paavo. Merci beaucoup, Marcelo.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Nixon in China update


Dancer/choreographer extraordinaire, Seán Curran
Janelle Gelfand reports some casting news for the Cincinnati Opera's production of John Adams' Nixon in China, to be conducted by Paavo's brother, Kristjan, in his Cincinnati debut.
Two decades after its world premiere (1987), John Adams’ minimalist opera, “Nixon in China,” will be mounted by Cincinnati Opera this summer (July 12 and 14).

Robert Orth and Maureen O’Flynn star as President and Mrs. Nixon, during their historic 1972 visit to China to meet Chairman Mao Zedong. Cincinnati favorite Thomas Hammons is Henry Kissinger, a role he created for the 1987 premiere at Houston Grand Opera.

Conductor Kristjan Järvi (brother of Paavo Järvi) will make his company debut and Seán Curran, original cast member of the New York cast of “Stomp,” will be choreographer.

Cincinnati Opera will present the 2004 St. Louis production by James Robinson, which uses video media techniques.

New subscriptions will be available in March and single tickets will go on sale in May. Information: 513-241-2742, www.cincinnatiopera.org. All performances take place in Music Hall.

Out of all the new information presented here, the part that most intrigues me is the selection of Seán Curran as choreographer for this 20th anniversary production. I had the great pleasure of seeing Mr. Curran and his company several years ago when they performed in Cincinnati as part of Contemporary Dance Theater's Guest Artist Series at the Aronoff Center and, to this day, I remember it as one of the most exhilarating evenings of creative dance I have ever seen. This production is definitely one to put on your "must see" list for 2007!

Addendum to Mahler 9 Review

Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer published this addition to her earlier review, published on Saturday, on her blog today:
[H]ere are some of my thoughts on Messiaen's L'Ascension: quatre meditations symphoniques:

I was interested to see that it had been performed at least twice in CSO history. Max Rudolf did it first, in 1960, and the most recent performance was in 1987 led by Erich Bergel. (Incidentally, Mahler's Ninth, also programmed, was premiered here in 1976 by -- Carmon DeLeone!!)

Messiaen was a deeply religious Catholic, and he wrote these four meditations on Christ's ascension into heaven shortly after being appointed organist at the Church of La Sainte Trinite in Paris. I always find his music extraordinarily spiritual, colorful and evocative of organ sonorities.

This piece was incandescent -- musically and visually. Since Messiaen is believed to have had "synesthesia" -- the ability to envision colors when hearing music -- Paavo Jarvi decided to have subtle lighting to accompany the music. (Apparently, he and assistant conductor Eric Dudley designed the lighting themselves -- it was not indicated in the score by the composer.) I liked the effect, which featured barely discernible changes on a screen behind the acoustical "towers" from movement to movement.

Messiaen's music was bright, mildly dissonant and of course, had lots of ascending motives. The first meditation, "Majesty of Christ Asking Glory from His Father," was an exquisite brass chorale, in which all the brass moved in parallel motion around a narrow theme. Their sound was legato, extremely controlled, light and almost chant-like. (Kramer's notes say that the trumpet theme recalls the Magnificat Antiphon for the First Vespers of the Ascension.) Kudos to Doug Lindsay, who carried the high theme beautifully. The effect was like floating, and it ended with a wonderful ascending progression.

The second, "Serene Hallelujahs of a Soul Desiring Heaven," was again atmospheric, with a freely expressive theme given to the English horn (Chris Philpotts). In contrast, "Hallelujah on the Trumpet, Hallelujah on the Cymbal" was celebratory, with massive, organ-like sonorities in the large orchestra.

The finale, "Christ's Prayer Rising to His Father," painted an exquisite mood with expansive, flowing blocks of sound and close parallel harmonies in the strings. The final moments, an ever-ascending motive with the strings, had a shimmering effect.

Though the ensemble could have been more precise at times, I thought it was a radiant performance.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A blogger reviews the Mahler 9

ashemas2006 and a friend attended the CSO concert the other night and wrote:
Tired as hell. I've got to stop staying up so late.

Went to go listen to Mahler's 9th symphony on Friday...it was incredible. I get chills every time I hear Mahler, he says a lot in his symphonies. We got a picture with Paavo Jarvi--who never smiles--yet he still kicks ass.

Well. And there you have it!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Extras

Program Notes

This program will air via streaming audio on Sunday, February 4, 2006 at 7:30 pm on Classical 90.9 FM, WGUC

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler's Ninth riveting

Mahler's Ninth riveting
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, November 11, 2006

Mahler's Symphony No. 9 is the composer's farewell to earthly things, a symphony written against the specter of his own impending death.

I'm not sure I've ever heard such an intensely dramatic reading of Mahler's Ninth as was performed by Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Music Hall Friday night. Prophetic in character (Mahler died before he could complete his Tenth), the symphony is a kind of culmination of all his previous symphonies - collages of the banal against the elevated, the grotesquely comical against the terrifying.

But unlike his other symphonies - and clearly apparent in Järvi's interpretation - the Ninth has an unrelenting desperation, as if the composer is shaking his fist at the heavens. It's not until the final moments, after an electrifying 80-minute journey of thundering outbursts, marches and vulgar waltzes, that man's struggle with his destiny comes to a serene conclusion.


For the second week, an expanded orchestra was on Music Hall's stage for another monumental survey.

The first movement of the Ninth has an autumnal feel, but Järvi's view was more bittersweet than nostalgic. From the outset, the music had a driving urgency. Järvi allowed little time to bask in brief moments of beauty, etching every accent, cut-off and sudden fortissimo in bold relief.

The two inner movements were vivid with detail. The first, an Austrian landler, was heavy, grotesque and exaggerated. The next, a "Rondo-Burleske," was obsessive and coarse, performed with such tension it seemed ready to snap. It was an intensely human, almost manic picture. Just when the music lingered on a beautiful reminiscence, the moment was overtaken and thrust ahead.

The musicians performed spectacularly, swept along through powerful brass moments contrasted against the most inward-looking themes. Special note goes to principal horn Elizabeth Freimuth and principal viola Marna Street for beautifully shaped contributions. The finale, which turns to resignation, unfolded through glorious buildups and heart-stopping sudden pianissimos. It was a universe of emotion, masterfully crafted.

Järvi's program was a mystical journey that opened with a contrasting view of the end of life: Messiaen's "L'Ascension: Quatre meditations symphoniques" - four radiant meditations on Christ's heavenly ascension.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatisymphony.org.

CONCERT REVIEW: Perfect pairing: Jarvi and Mahler

Perfect pairing: Jarvi and Mahler
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, November 11, 2006

It's not often that a conductor can command such concentration from an orchestra and have his wishes so perfectly expressed in the music as Paavo Jarvi did Friday night at Music Hall.

The Cincinnati Symphony music director has what it takes to make this orchestra not only the best it can be, but even better, by taking them beyond mere excellence into truly inspired music-making.

So it was with Mahler's Ninth Symphony. As the violas sounded the last four notes of the Adagio, communication with Jarvi was total. These notes, marked "extremely slow" and "pianississimo," seemed to flow directly from his hands into their instruments. Each note seemed to have a special meaning, and Jarvi lingered over them, the next-to-last given an achingly gentle touch as it yielded to the valedictory chord.


The concert was a particularly thoughtful one, since both works on the program deal with death. But Mahler's Ninth and Olivier Messiaen's "L'Ascension" have completely different points of view. Messiaen was a devout Roman Catholic and his 1933 "L'Ascension" brooks no doubts as to what lies beyond the grave. Mahler, on the other hand, was haunted by the specter of death and in fact, died of a heart ailment at 51 just after completing this symphony. Mahler's Ninth, said Jarvi in videotaped remarks before the concert, "was a very personal, Jewish, angst-ridden journey."

It begins almost nonchalantly with a few fragmentary thoughts in horn, harp and strings, before being gripped by turmoil. Rushes of hope alternate with sheer terror and it works into a funeral march and nauseous heavings of sound that finally die away as if exhausted. Jarvi filled the second movement, an Austrian landler, with falling-down drunk enthusiasm, lurching from side to side at one point, and giving the saucy little ending a flip of his hand.

The Rondo-Burleske was more sound and fury, as Mahler struggles against the shadow of death (he knew he was dying when he wrote the Symphony). The E-flat clarinet (Jonathan Gunn) whistled in the dark and a pitiful cry in the trumpet interrupted the clamor. Still, it ended with a great big kick in the pants, signaled by a huge sideways swipe of Jarvi's baton.

The Adagio, a shining moment for the strings, has some amorous as well as tender moments and Jarvi led it with incredible intensity.

"L'Ascension," subtitled "Four Symphonic Meditations," is inspired by biblical texts dealing with the afterlife. The first, "Majesty of Christ Asking Glory from His Father" is a soaring brass chorale (kudos to Doug Lindsay and the entire trumpet section). The second, "Serene Hallelujahs of a Soul Desiring Heaven," features the woodwinds in exotic, chant-like music of great timbral beauty.

"Hallelujah on the Trumpet, Hallelujah on the Cymbal" begins with a trumpet fanfare and introduces tambourine, bass drum and cymbals as fitting symbols of the journey to heaven.

"Christ's Prayer Rising to His Father" conveys the ultimate majesty, Christ's own ascension. This is portrayed in slow-moving string passages that climb higher and higher until the final unresolved-sounding chord.

Each movement was accompanied by colored lighting, blue, mauve, peach and finally kettledrum copper. Messiaen experienced synesthesia, i.e. he associated particular chords and pitches with particular colors.

Repeat is 8 tonight at Music Hall.

Friday, November 10, 2006

On the road...to Chicago


CSO Encore has issued a "last call" if you would like to join them on a little road trip to Chicago next weekend. On the itinerary is a November 18 concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paavo, at Symphony Hall. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is providing discounted tickets and a preconcert tour. A small but dedicated group of CSO Encore! members will be meeting for dinner in Chicago before the concert. Contact Matt if you would like to join the party! They can recommend a hotel and possibly provide car pooling options.

Click here for Paavo's Chicago concert information. On the program: Tüür's Zeitraum (U.S. premiere); Kodály's Concerto for Orchestra; Gershwin's Piano Concerto (Wayne Marshall, piano); Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra.

DVD captures Järvi's post-9/11 debut

DVD captures Järvi's post-9/11 debut
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, November 10, 2006

Five years ago on Sept. 11, while Paavo Järvi was leading his first rehearsal as the 12th music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the unthinkable was happening.

Thousands were killed when planes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.

Now the orchestra has released "The First Concert: September 2001," its first-ever DVD, covering Järvi's inaugural concert weekend.

Occurring just days after 9/11, it was perhaps the most subdued welcoming of a music director in the orchestra's history. The scheduled soloist, cellist Truls Mork, was stranded in Norway. Instead of the planned concerto, the conductor substituted Samuel Barber's sorrowful Adagio for Strings, dedicated, he said, "to the honor and memory of those who perished."

Although the DVD doesn't capture the human emotions that were almost palpable that night, it records the legacy of a distinguished ensemble that, through music, transcended one of the most horrific moments in our nation's life.

If you attend the Cincinnati Symphony concerts, it might seem odd to see musicians who are now gone performing prominent solos, such as principal horn Robin Graham. Others, such as former principal timpani Eugene Espino, are now deceased.

That said, these are visceral performances magnificently filmed by Brandenburg Productions, the company that has repeatedly taped symphony and Pops concerts in Music Hall to air on PBS.

There is an expansive view of Music Hall from the gallery, with its glimmering chandelier, and several shots of the full house. But most of the camera angles focus - quite creatively - on the musicians and the conductor, against acoustical towers that are aglow with colored lighting.

Järvi's face - at first tense, later relaxed but always engaged in the music - is seen in a way an audience rarely sees it.

The program opens with the world premiere of American composer Charles Coleman's Streetscape, a piece written in New York before 9 / 11, but which, in an eerie coincidence, has an explosive cutoff followed by a mournful cello solo.

Järvi leads a nuanced performance of Debussy's La Mer. But it is Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 that gets the most enthralling performance. One can admire the explosive power of the brass, Espino's split-second precision on timpani and the strings' edge-of-your-seat playing. Järvi galvanizes his players athletically, but one can also observe his attention to the winds to create the orchestral color he desires.

There is no commentary, except for the dedication before Barber's Adagio, which concludes the DVD. The sound is clear, but its quality will only be as good as your home system.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mahler take[s] center stage

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, November 9, 2006

There'll be music of the spirit and for the spirit by the Cincinnati Symphony this weekend.

CSO music director Paavo Järvi pairs two powerful works, Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony and "L'Ascension: quatre meditations symphoniques" ("Ascension: Four Symphonic Meditations") by Olivier Messiaen, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Music Hall

Both express the soul's search for higher meaning, Mahler not without struggle, Messiaen secure in his Catholic faith.

Mahler who had withheld the number nine from his real ninth symphony (entitled "Das Lied von der Erde") out of superstition that, like Beethoven and Bruckner, it would be his last, says farewell to life with resignation and acceptance of the unknown. Signifying another kind of farewell, it is also the last great late Romantic symphony.

Messiaen's "L'Ascension" (1932-33) is four reflections, all with liturgical titles, on the soul's journey to heaven.

Tickets are $18.50-$77, $10 for students, half-price for seniors. Call (513) 381-3300 or order online at www.cincinnatisymphony.org.

Half-price ZIPTIX are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. concert days at the Music Hall box office.

Friday's concert is the first of this season's "College Nites" at the CSO, with $10 admission for college students, including a party after the concert in Music Hall's Corbett Tower. There will be live music by Sasha's Gypsy Caravan, free food, cash bar and mingling with Järvi and members of the CSO.

CSO DVD is a touching musical memory

CSO DVD is a touching musical memory
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, November 9, 2006

This fall was the fifth anniversary of 9-11.

It's been five years, too, since Paavo Järvi became music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Oddly enough, the anniversaries are related. On Sept. 11, 2001, Järvi, 38 at the time, led his first rehearsal as CSO music director.

His inaugural concerts were Sept. 14 and 15 at Music Hall.

A special celebration had been planned, including a street fair in Over-the-Rhine, a world premiere commission by American composer Charles Coleman and the CSO debut of Norwegian cellist Truls Mork.

In light of the World Trade Center disaster, the street fair was canceled.

Flights were grounded and Mork was unable to travel to the U.S. Debussy's tone poem "La Mer" replaced Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1.

Coleman, who lives in lower Manhattan near the disaster site, rented a car and drove to Cincinnati for the premiere. Barber's Adagio for Strings was performed in memory of those who died in the 9-11 attacks.

The concert, telecast live by CET in conjunction with Brandenburg Productions, Inc., raised spirits, closing with Tchaikovsky's stirring Symphony No. 5. The CSO has released a commemorative DVD in observance of Jarvi's fifth anniversary season. Entitled "The First Concert: September 2001," it includes the entire two-hour program, not just the 90 minutes aired nationally by PBS in 2003 (the later telecast omitted Barber's Adagio).

It's a choice item for holiday giving and a must for Järvi and CSO fans (also local history buffs and music-lovers in general).

Visually as well as musically engrossing, it will turn back the clock for anyone who was there in Music Hall five years ago.

Differences then and now include Jarvi's "look." He dressed traditionally at those first concerts, in white tie and tails.

He prefers mandarin jackets now. His hair was longer, and like his father Neeme Järvi, he tucked a blue handkerchief in his jacket pocket in honor of their homeland, Estonia.

Music Hall is captured in all her splendor (and nearly full for the occasion). Different colors light up the acoustical towers behind the orchestra.

The enormous crystal chandelier is caught in several breathtaking shots from the gallery.

Brandenburg's expert crewmen, who produced the CSO's first PBS concert in 1997, do their magic again here.

You get so close to the players that you can watch their fingerings and embouchures (positions of the lips). Brandenburg director Phillip Byrd knows the score well enough to zoom in on a player or section at just the right moment - former principal hornist Robin Graham's solo in the slow movement of the Tchaikovsky, for example, or a side view of the brasses at full-bore moments. But it's not just principals who get close-ups.

You can check out section players, too.

A portrait of New York, Coleman's vibrant "Streetscape" seemed uncannily prescient in the 9-11 aftermath. You can watch the percussionists re-create city sounds with hammers and sand paper blocks, and iridescent lighting heightens the pizzazz.

(Coleman, jubilant onstage with Järvi, will be in residence with the CSO later this season and has written a new work for the orchestra, "Deep Woods," to be premiered at Music Hall in May.)

"La Mer" and Tchaikovsky's Fifth get handsome treatment. Blue-lit "La Mer" radiates musical color - sprays of harp, the haunting oboe near the end. Bathed in red-orange, the towers seem to reflect heat from the CSO in the finale of the Tchaikovsky, where Järvi whips up a victorious sound.

The CSO maestro rewards his players with smiles and "bravos" at the end of each piece. The chemistry between them is palpable.

Seeing what the musicians see is a real treat - snarls, beatific expressions and all - making a case for video screens at Music Hall.

Barber's Adagio, performed just after the National Anthem in 2001, is heard as a final, "special tribute."

It's a poignant episode, musically and otherwise. Järvi, who prefers not to address audiences, does so here, simply and directly.

The CSO strings join him in a searching exploration of grief. He kept his hands raised at the end, eyes closed, then drew them together in front of his face, signaling a long moment of silence before the applause began.

The DVD is $20 at the CSO's Bravo Shop, open in the Music Hall foyer before and during intermissions of CSO concerts.

Monday, November 06, 2006

CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 3 and 8, DKAM

From Deutchland Radio:

Aufklärend und betörend
Paavo Järvi und die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen spielen Beethoven
Von Ludwig Rink, 05.11.2006

Beethovens Sinfonien zu spielen oder zu dirigieren gehört auch heute noch zum Alltagsgeschäft jedes Orchesters und Dirigenten. Wer diese 9 Standard-Werke allerdings via Tonträger weitesten Hörerkreisen präsentieren und sie so für eine gewisse Ewigkeit konservieren möchte, sollte schon besonders gut sein und überdies auch möglichst noch ein schlüssiges Interpretationskonzept haben.

Denn ob traditionelle Dirigenten-Größen wie Furtwängler, Toscanini oder Karajan oder die jüngeren, zum großen Teil aber auch schon mit "Sir" geadelten Verfechter einer historischen Aufführungspraxis wie Gardiner, Norrington oder Harnoncourt - sie alle haben ihren Beethoven zum Teil sogar mehrfach auf Vinyl oder CD gebannt. Jetzt schickt sich die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen an, beim Label RCA pro Jahr zwei bis drei Sinfonien herauszubringen und so bis 2009 alle Neune beisammen zu haben. Den Anfang machte man jetzt im Oktober mit den Sinfonien 3 und 8, und schon gleich die ersten Minuten der "Eroica" genannten 3. Sinfonie lassen aufhorchen.

* Musikbeispiel: Ludwig van Beethoven - 1. Satz, Anfang (Ausschnitt) aus: Sinfonie Nr. 3

Gefesselt lauscht man dem wohlvertrauten und doch neuen musikalischen Geschehen, gespannt darauf, wie der nächste Abschnitt der Partitur umgesetzt wird, man will gar nicht mehr aufhören, die Sichtweise der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie mit den Klängen im Kopf zu vergleichen. Es ist ein subtiles Hör-Abenteuer ganz besonderer Art, aufklärend und betörend zugleich. Hier spielt, ganz klar, ein Orchester mit großer Erfahrung in historischer Aufführungspraxis, aber dennoch ohne alles Akademische. Vielmehr scheint das musikalische Material der Sinfonie allen Musikern so vertraut, dass sie geradezu spielerisch, fast wie im Augenblick improvisiert damit umgehen können. Weitab von jeglichen spieltechnischen Problemen kann man sich befreit den Klangfarben, der Dynamik, der Gestaltung der großen Form, kurz: der Musik widmen.

* Musikbeispiel: Ludwig van Beethoven - Ausschnitt 2. Satz "Marcia funebre" aus: Sinfonie Nr. 3

Die deutsche Kammerphilharmonie ist inzwischen gut 25 Jahre alt und hat seit 1992 ihren Sitz in der Freien Hansestadt Bremen. Heinrich Schiff, Jiri Belohlávek und Thomas Hengelbrock waren ständige Erste Gastdirigenten bzw. Künstlerische Leiter des Orchesters. Sehr erfolgreich war auch die Zusammenarbeit mit Daniel Harding, der von 1999 bis 2003 als Musikalischer Direktor an der Spitze des Klangkörpers stand. Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie war und ist ein junges, hoch motiviertes Ensemble. Das liegt unter anderem an ihrer Organisationsform, denn sie ist ein Unternehmen, in dem die Musiker alleinige Gesellschafter sind. Das heißt: sie tragen auch das wirtschaftliche Risiko, spielen gewissermaßen um ihr Leben und entscheiden gemeinsam über alle Belange der Arbeit. So entwickelten sie nicht nur ihren einzigartig-frischen Interpretationsstil, sondern dachten sich auch immer wieder ganz besondere Programme zwischen Barock und Moderne aus, überschritten die Grenzen der Genres und bauten mit international anerkannten Solisten und Dirigenten langjährige Freundschaften auf, mit Sabine Meyer, Viktoria Mullova, Olli Mustonen, Hélène Grimaud, Christian Tetzlaff, Hilary Hahn; mit Ton Koopman, Trevor Pinnock oder Marc Minkowski. Der aus Estland stammende Paavo Järvi wurde 1995 erstmals als Dirigent eingeladen; seit 2004 ist er künstlerischer Leiter der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie. Und er ist der Mann, mit dem das Orchester sein Beethoven-Projekt entwickelt hat. Bei der 8. Sinfonie faszinieren ihn Vitalität und rhythmische Besonderheiten. Hier, sagt Järvi, "nimmt Beethoven einfach das was jeder kennt, und stellt es in ein anderes Licht, nimmt alles auseinander, stellt alles auf den Kopf - und zwar so, als würde er sich fast lustig machen über die traditionelle Form der Sinfonie... Es ist keine vulgäre Parodie, aber es steckt darin eine Menge ziemlich zweifelhaften Humors - und das liebe ich!"

* Musikbeispiel: Ludwig van Beethoven - Ausschnitt aus dem 1. Satz aus: Sinfonie Nr. 8

Was hier im ersten Satz der 8. Sinfonie Beethovens so scheinbar mühelos und wunderbar transparent klingt, ist zum einen Teil kluges Kalkül und klangliche Planung: Die deutsche Kammerphilharmonie spielt mit relativ kleinem Streicherapparat auf der Basis von acht ersten Geigen. Das verschiebt die Klangbalance etwas zugunsten der nun deutlicher wahrnehmbaren Bläser. Es werden neue und alte Instrumente kombiniert, die Kontrabässe zum Beispiel haben sich entschieden, Darmsaiten aufzuziehen, die Trompeter spielen auf alten Naturtrompeten ohne Ventile und die Pauken sind nicht mit Plastik, sondern mit Kalbshaut bespannt und werden zudem mit Holzschlegeln und nicht mit Filz gespielt. All das macht den Klang zusätzlich prägnanter. Zum anderen ist diese außergewöhnliche Einspielung aber auch Folge harter Arbeit und einer Proben- und Aufnahmestrategie, die früher üblich, heute aus finanziellen Gründen aber leider immer seltener geworden ist: Nach ausführlichen Proben geht man auf Tournee, spielt die Werke wieder und wieder im Konzert, feilt dazwischen noch hie und da und geht schließlich noch mit jeder Sinfonie für mehrere Tage ins Aufnahmestudio. Ja, diese neuen Beethoven-Sinfonien sind erstmals wieder echte Studio-Produktionen - das musste früher nicht betont werden, stellt aber heute, wo CD-Neuveröffentlichungen im Bereich der Sinfonik meist auf Konzertmitschnitten basieren, die Ausnahme da. Möglich wurde das, man muss es einmal erwähnen, nicht durch Fördermittel aus öffentlichen Töpfen oder Gebührengeldern, sondern durch Sponsoren und vorbildliches privates bremisch-hanseatisches Mäzenatentum.

* Musikbeispiel: Ludwig van Beethoven - letzter Satz: Ausschnitt (Schluss) aus: Sinfonie Nr. 3

Beethoven - Sinfonien Nr. 3 & 8
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Järvi
Label: RCA
Labelcode: LC 00316
Bestellnr.: 88697 00655 2

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Pianist Harmonizes With Wolves


Hélène Grimaud and residents of the Wolf Conservation Center, in South Salem, N.Y., which she helped found. She divides her time between the center and her classical music career. (Photo: Susan B. Markisz)

Today's New York Times features an article about French pianist Hélène Grimaud (registration required) and the Wolf Conservation Center she helped establish in New York state in 1999.

She will appear with Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony January 18, 19, and 20, 2007 at Music Hall playing Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, which is described in this article as possibly her favorite piece.
...Three of the ambassador wolves can be seen in a striking photograph on the dust jacket of “Wild Harmonies,” which shows them greeting Ms. Grimaud after a long trip, one nuzzling each of her ears; the other, her chin. It was a spontaneous moment, she said, not something that could be staged.

Her advocacy work has aroused a certain skepticism in the classical music world. Some have suggested that she’s in it as much for her own image as for the wolves’. But surely there are easier — and safer — ways to gain publicity. With her well-defined features and dreamily expressive blue eyes, for example, Ms. Grimaud could easily have followed the glamour route of the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and others. Instead, she tends to play down her looks, at least onstage. At a recent Carnegie Hall concert with the NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo, she appeared in an understated black pantsuit and a severe hairstyle.

Far from promoting her pianistic career, she says, her preoccupation with wolves has to a considerable extent hampered it. “Only in the last three years was I able to start really focusing on my music completely,” she said, “because before that, the wolf center took so much time and energy.”

She has more than made up for lost time and has by now performed in most major halls around the world, with most major orchestras and conductors and with some of the finest chamber musicians, including the violinist Gidon Kremer.

But she suffered another setback late last year when she contracted microplasmic pneumonia, which led to chronic fatigue syndrome and an infection that traveled from the lungs to the heart. She lost consciousness regularly, she said, and was unable to leave Europe. She got a clean bill of health only in July.

The memoir, meanwhile, had appeared in France (“Variations Sauvages”) in 2003 and quickly become a best seller. The name “Variations” probably fits it better than “Harmonies,” for it consists of short segments in almost kaleidoscopic profusion, often alternating emotionally superheated autobiographical material with sober discussions of wolf lore. Ms. Grimaud presents herself as compulsive and an outsider — in her family, in the music world, in society — uncomfortable in her own skin. When, for example, she discovered the area where she would establish the wolf center, she writes, “it was Elsewhere, that Elsewhere I had always hoped for.” (A second book, “Leçons Particulières,” appeared in France last year.)

So what is the connection between classical music and wolves? On a personal level for Ms. Grimaud, they both offered salvation.

“Music converted me,” she writes. “It saved me.”

And of Alawa, the she-wolf: “She, too, saved my life.”

When she conceived the goal of a wolf center, it liberated her as a pianist, no longer a slave to the instrument, she writes. “I had become a wild woman.”

On a broader, impersonal level, Ms. Grimaud said that at a time when classical music and wolves are devalued if not endangered, with both “there’s no long-term hope for conservation without education.”

The English publication of “Wild Harmonies” by Riverhead Books, like the NHK concert, is part of a major American confluence of events for Ms. Grimaud, who maintains homes in South Salem and in Berlin. Deutsche Grammophon has just released a new CD, “Reflection,” with works by Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Brahms. And on Wednesday, the day after her 37th birthday, she gives a solo recital at Carnegie Hall, playing works by Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Rachmaninoff.

That Rachmaninoff work, the Second Sonata, takes Ms. Grimaud back to her first recording, made for the Japanese label Denon when she was 15 and fresh from undergraduate studies at the Paris Conservatory. Mercurial and headstrong, she made the recording in a state of euphoria but disavowed it after hearing it. Although it won a French Grand Prix du Disque the next year, she writes, “it took me four years — four years of purgatory — before I returned to Rachmaninoff.”

Ms. Grimaud was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1969. After her mother introduced her to a piece by Schumann, she took up the piano at 6 and made quick progress. She entered the Paris Conservatory at 13, the youngest student there at the time.

The other great interest of her youth was animals, starting with stuffed ones. Before the piano took over her life, she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and living in a zoo, and then she wanted to be a biologist. “I was interested in primates,” she said, “not particularly in wolves, actually.”

Then came the encounter with Alawa, followed by a plunge into the wolf world. “I began to study ethology,” Ms. Grimaud writes. “I audited courses at the university, and I attended conferences. I traveled throughout America visiting wildlife reserves where specialists studied the biology and behavior of wolves.”

That avid curiosity has never waned. Ms. Grimaud is extremely well read in French, Russian and American literature as well as in history and philosophy. Asked what she was reading at the moment, she replied, “I’m rereading ‘The Third Chimpanzee’ by Jared Diamond and otherwise a lot of new biology papers that have come out in connection with new wolf discoveries from studies in Yellowstone.”

Ms. Grimaud’s musical passions are equally well defined, and as with the Rachmaninoff, they have changed little since her youth. Although she often starts her day with Bach, she spends most of her time immersed in the literature of High Romanticism.

She calls Chopin “my composer.” She loves his music of course, but being left-handed, she also loves him for having liberated the pianist’s left hand. “Chopin invented ambidextrous music,” she writes, “a tremendous door through which Liszt, Scriabin, Ravel and Fauré would subsequently pass.”

But perhaps her greatest affinity has always been for Brahms. She made precocious early recordings of music by this most unyouthful, un-French and unfeminine of composers. Those discs were her first introduction to many listeners, and a stunning one. “I loved his impetuous character,” she writes, “his torment and his furies, the emotional heartbreak and the relationship to the world he expressed so subtly in his contrapuntal music.”

The towering and daunting Brahms First Concerto seems to be her favorite work in that form. She recounts in the book that, though not much given to crying, she broke down on a plane once, several hours after having played it: “a delicious liberation from the incredible tension of the concert, from the sorrow that Brahms expressed so well, a sorrow that can strangle and suffocate you.”

On the “Reflection” CD, Ms. Grimaud takes her theme of love and loss from the historical moment when Brahms entered the household of Robert and Clara Schumann, comforting Clara through Robert’s mental decline and death, and becoming infatuated with Clara himself. In addition to songs by Clara and solo and chamber music by Brahms, it includes Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with the Dresden Staatskapelle conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Mr. Salonen, who has worked with Ms. Grimaud often, said last week: “She has a very rare combination of a strong intellectual side and a strong emotional side. She has a very detailed concept worked out ahead of time, but in the concert she is very spontaneous and very natural.”

Ms. Grimaud is not a particular champion of contemporary music, although her earlier thematic recording for Deutsche Grammophon, “Credo,” included works by Arvo Pärt and John Corigliano alongside Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata and Choral Fantasy. In any case, she said, a contemporary piece has to pass the same test she sets for any other work: “It has to be something I can’t live without.”

Like wolves.

Roll over, Beethoven

Roll over, Beethoven: Classical music turns to technology as audience ages
By Barbara Zuck
Columbus Dispatch, November 5, 2006

Opera in Times Square, orchestras on iTunes, maestros on podcasts.

To counter graying audiences and sagging support, classical music is going contemporary.

The most conservative American art form, in fact, is trying to change its image.

"The message is to talk to people in new ways," said Carrie Krysanick, public relations director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

"It’s about how people get their news and information, and how we can get our news and information to them."

From sea to shining sea, classical institutions are going on the offensive — perhaps in the nick of time.

According to a 2002 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts, audiences for symphony orchestras and chamber-music groups are now the oldest for any of the fine arts in America, with a median age of 49.

The median audience age for opera — 48 — is barely younger.

Combine the aging audiences with shrinking public support, increasing competition from electronic media and popular entertainment, a lack of superstars with name recognition and the post-Sept. 11 malaise, and the negatives stack up. Just Google "the death of classical music" and see what you get.

But not everyone in the field is content to roll over and play dead.

Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony and 61-year-old protege of Leonard Bernstein, announced in June the $23 million, five-year Keeping Score project.

Combining national PBS broadcasts and a radio series with educational outreach efforts, Thomas is striving with his orchestra to re-create the magic of Bernstein’s "Young People’s Concerts." He is hosting three TV shows and eight radio programs.

"Keeping Score is designed to give to people who have been intimidated by the rituals of classical music the chance to get past that," Thomas said by e-mail.

"If I were sitting down next to somebody before I was about to play a piece on the piano, I’d say, ‘Let me tell you a few things’ — one-on-one, as simple and direct as that. . . . My goal is to clarify everyone’s intentions — what the composer had in mind, what the performers have in mind, what kind of voyage of discipline and self-discovery goes into the process of making music."

Perhaps the exposure will help Thomas become something missing in the 21 st century — a classical media personality comparable to maestros such as Bernstein and artists such as Pavarotti in the 20 th century.

On the East Coast, institutions are also unveiling initiatives. The new general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Peter Gelb, is taking a high-tech, high-stakes approach to revitalizing the company’s image and maybe taking some of the "snooty" out of it.

In recent months, Gelb:

• Gave away 2,000 tickets to the final dress rehearsal for the 2006-07 season opener, Madama Butterfly, and presented a broadcast of the opening performance on outdoor screens in Times Square and Lincoln Center Plaza.

• Established a relationship with Sirius Satellite Radio, enabling subscribers to hear archival Met performances without interruptions.

• Announced that six of the season’s productions would be transmitted live to movie theaters throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

• Began weekly Internet streamings of live Met productions, starting with the Oct. 25 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto.

• Initiated a ticket-sale "rush" program, making $100 orchestra seats available for $20 two or three times a week.

The efforts, Gelb said, are "symbolic of our plans to keep the Met connected to mainstream culture and contemporary life."

Response to these and other new programs has been "fantastic," according to associate press director Peter Clark. Although percentages haven’t been calculated, ticket sales and attendance are up this season, he said.

"There is a line down the block here every afternoon the special rush tickets are on sale," he said. "We don’t have specifics yet, . . . but, yes, the audience is broadening through this program and the other initiatives."

Other major American institutions are hopping on the bandwagon:

• The Philadelphia Orchestra and a few other large symphonies have upgraded their Web sites to offer free downloads of music and to sell compact discs of archival performances (www.thephiladelphia orchestra.com).

• Opera America initiated online learning courses through partnerships with nine North American companies.

• The Cincinnati Symphony launched several high-tech projects featuring Music Director Paavo Jarvi: giant preconcert videos; free podcasts of conversations between Jarvi and his players; and DVDs of his first season.

Tony Beadle, new executive director of the Columbus Symphony, said the orchestra would also be doing more "get-toknow-us" events as well as "concerts aimed at those who have no knowledge of or affinity with a symphony orchestra." In a program new this season, groups of young professionals meet with Music Director Junichi Hirokami in pre-concert chats and post-concert parties.

Beadle praised the Thomas and Gelb initiatives even as he noted their hefty price tags.

Bill Conner, president of the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, also applauded the efforts toward securing younger and more diverse audiences.

"From CAPA’s perspective," he said, "I think that audience development has become our mission."

CAPA continues its annual Signature Series of prestigious classical performers but recently branched out into funky American musical theater. A partnership with the Ohio State University Theater Department resulted in six almost-sold-out performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show last season at the Southern Theatre, where the same team will present Hair this month.

Another initiative is the partnership between Chamber Music Columbus and Columbus’ Chamber Music Connection, provider of coaching and performing opportunities for young musicians: Students attend concerts, play short pre-concert programs and attend workshops offered by the touring professionals. The arrangement is bearing fruit: More than 50 young people and their families attended Chamber Music Columbus’ Oct. 21 concert with the Cypress String Quartet, said Ivan Mueller, past president.

Yes, classical music has been shaken in recent years, but many in the industry remain optimistic that audiences can still be found and can grow.

"This art form is too vital and has meant too much to civilization for too long to die," said Henry Fogel, president of the American Symphony Orchestra League. "Might we have to adjust how we present it? Yes, but the marketplace will make us figure that out."