September 18, 2007
By Mary Ellyn Hutton Post music writer
By Mary Ellyn Hutton Post music writer
Frankfurt Radio Orchestra
Paavo Järvi conducted a multimedia presentation of Dvorak's "New World Symphony" wit the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in Frankfurt, Germany. It was one of the many gigs he has around the world, but he and his family make Cincinnati their home.
Paavo Järvi conducts around the world, but returns to Cincinnati's Music Hall, where he conducts the Cincinnnati Symphony Orchestra. The CSO started its season Friday.
"How natural and nice to come back," Paavo Järvi told a post-Cincinnati Symphony concert crowd in the Music Hall foyer Saturday night. "How much like home it is."
Järvi, 44, opened his seventh season as CSO music director Friday and Saturday with a festive program of Wagner and Beethoven.
He leads CSO concerts at 11 a.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall in Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra and Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2 with flutist Sharon Bezaly.
Järvi, who has been around the world since leaving Cincinnati in early May, is the CSO's first truly international conductor. At least since the advent of the jet plane, all previous CSO music directors have guest conducted outside Cincinnati. Most have had relationships with other orchestras, but none have had quite as many as Järvi.
In addition to the CSO, with whom he extended his contract last spring through August 2011 season, with an "evergreen" clause for automatic renewals, Järvi is music director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony (through 2009 with option to renew), artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (through 2008 with option to renew), artistic advisor of the Estonian National Symphony (a flexible but important commitment solidified by his Estonian heritage) and beginning September, 2010, music director of L'Orchestre de Paris (calling for 14 weeks a year).
"Maybe I can do them all," he said half-seriously, over a quick lunch last week in his Music Hall office.
Having just returned from opening the season in Frankfurt Sept. 6 and 7 - shot out of a volcano, as it were, having led the German premiere of Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür's aptly titled "Magma" - he conceded that "something will have to give." What it will be, however, "I'm not clear about yet."
What is clear that is that Järvi has the ability to keep up an astonishing pace. After closing the CSO season in May, he led three concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra, helped celebrate his father Neeme Järvi's 70th birthday with the Estonian National Orchestra in Tallinn and conducted in Paris, where his new appointment was announced.
He then embarked on a round-the-world tour with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, which put him in Tokyo just in time for the July 16 earthquake, at Montreal's Ladauniere Festival for a three-day marathon conducting all nine Beethoven symphonies, at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and in New York for the Mostly Mozart Festival. He toured with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra in August.
Two new Järvi CDs were released, Beethoven's Fourth and Seventh Symphonies with the DK and an all-Tüür disc with the Estonian National Orchestra (Virgin Classics). The latter, which includes "Magma," a symphony with percussion featuring renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie, was just named a record of the month by Gramophone and BBC Music magazines.
His latest CSO CD, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique") and "Romeo and Juliet" will be released by Telarc Oct. 23.
It is a measure of Järvi's total immersion on the podium that he did not notice the earthquake, at least the first one, which happened during a DK rehearsal in Tokyo. "I saw my orchestra looking up and I looked back and saw the chandeliers going, but I was so involved that I actually missed the earthquake (6.8 on the Richter Scale centered in Niigata Prefecture northwest of Tokyo).
He did feel the second one, which took place during the concert that evening, he said. "You have this feeling that somehow you're not standing securely. Then you realize it actually might be an earthquake" (the performance did not stop).
Having several orchestras can have a "cumulative effect," said Järvi. While in Montreal, the management of the Ladauniere festival approached him about bringing the Cincinnati Symphony to the festival. "If we do a summer tour, it could fit in, which would be great."
Järvi is never really away from the CSO, he said. "When I'm on the road, I'm in touch all the time with Cincinnati. You can't just organize something and then come back a month later without having contact with home base. We're constantly on the phone. And when I'm here, I'm completely here."
When Järvi is on the podium, he is completely "there," too, which explains why, unlike some conductors, he does not address audiences from the stage.
"You have to get to the point where you are ready to perform a 90-minute symphony," he said
"The intense concentration that goes on beforehand should be very clear to the audience. They surely don't think you just walk off the street and kind of do the thing."
"Paavo's Notes," taped remarks projected onto a screen above the stage before the concert, have been implemented this season to help lessen the formality between Järvi and the audience.
Järvi explained how he prepares for concerts. "I come here (to Music Hall) as late as possible, the later the better. I sleep before the concert. I try not to talk to people. I'm trying to get into this world. It's not a particular routine. I just need to be alone, because then everything starts getting into place."
Since he became music director in 2001, Järvi's commitment to Cincinnati has grown, he said, especially in the extra-musical area. "I recognize that the orchestra is in a situation where we are gearing up for a major (capital fund-raising) campaign. I don't have any problem with being part of that activity.
"I don't do any fund-raising in Europe (where governments support the arts). A person taking a job in America has to understand that this is part of the job. On the other hand, the people who are running these orchestras have to understand that if it starts taking away from the time that goes into artistic issues, then you are working against yourself. There is always a balance."
Unfortunately, the CSO's most pressing need right now is money. "The loss we took in this recent stock market (decline) needs to be made up. It was a real blow." (The CSO endowment fell from over $90 million to the mid-60s before recovering to $74 million today.)
"People in Cincinnati have to understand that they don't have to support Paavo Järvi - they need to support the Cincinnati Symphony. Artistically, we are better now than we were ever before. It's a question of the major institution in this community that people need to support ... The support is there, actually. It just needs to be made up."
The CSO, long an industry leader in the earned income area - ticket sales, revenue from Riverbend (which the CSO owns) and events such as "Tall Stacks" - has put enhanced priority on donations and trying to cultivate "super donors."
"We are talking about gifts in the $50 million range, like an Annenberg gift in Philadelphia," Järvi said. (The Philadelphia Orchestra launched its $125 million endowment campaign in 2003 with $50 million from the Annenberg Foundation).
"We have to be able to financially get to the point where we are able to worry less about box office. In light of the fact that we have a very large hall (3,516 seats, largest concert hall in the U.S.) we are worried about box office too much."
One of Järvi's "big disappointments," he said, has been lack of understanding by the "larger Cincinnati audience" of the need to downsize Music Hall. "I understand their emotional response, but they don't understand the issue. Nobody wants to demolish it or build something else. There are things that need to be done in this hall." Despite his numerous commitments elsewhere, Järvi, a resident of East Walnut Hills, is in Cincinnati "much more in comparison to my other orchestras," he said. "My family lives here (wife Tanya and daughters Lea, 3, and Ingrid, whose first birthday is Wednesday). Lea goes to Montessori School here. Cincinnati is very much the center for us in our life.
"Even if I would have only one orchestra - and it would be Cincinnati - we would still travel for guest conducting. We would travel just because of being Estonian and wanting to go back to Estonia and spend some time so my kids can actually get to know it. I want them to speak Estonian."
Some of Järvi's very best friends are in Cincinnati, he said. "Most of them are on the (CSO) board. I have people who I really feel close to who have been extremely kind and not only in terms of the necessary business relationship.
"I'm very open, you know. If you go to Hyde Park Kroger at twelve o'clock at night you could run into me. It's the perfect time to shop because there is nobody there."