Monday, December 29, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Erkki-Sven Tüür: Aditus. Ludwig van Beethoven: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op. 61. Igor Stravinsky: Pètrouchka; Scherzo à la russe. (Christian Tetzlaff, v.; Paavo Järvi, cond.).
"Folksy peasants, pure of mind, body and spirit romp about like so many Kansas corn huskers in Eastern European drag." Such was Lillian Hellman's scathing description of the 1943 filmThe North Star. And Hellmann ought to have known. She had written the script. But Hollywood had gotten hold of what was originally envisioned as a stark and serious production. Spectacle took the place of seriousness. In the midst of war, this story of a Ukrainian village resisting Nazi invasion garnered half a dozen Oscar nominations. But much had been lost along the way.
One of the things abandoned was a score by Igor Stravinsky, who had been replaced by Aaron Copland because of contractual and script-related differences. But Stravinsky, seeing no reason for good music to go to waste, recycled part of his North Star score as the Scherzo à la Russe,which guest conductor Paavo Järvi includes on this weekend's Cleveland Orchestra concerts.
Järvi uses the Scherzo as a sort of programmed encore following his not-quite-complete rendition of the 1947 Pétrouchka. Järvi's Stravinsky is both robust and deliberate. He gets better results in the ballet than in the somewhat heavy-handed Scherzo. Not surprisingly, Pétrouchkasounds less modern under his baton than it does on the highly regarded Pierre Boulez-Cleveland Orchestra recording. But what Järvi sacrifices in analytical precision he makes up for in narrative vividness. After hearing this richly colored Pétrouchka, you'll think you've been to see the ballet.
This weekend's concerts also feature Christian Tetzlaff's performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto. And if you heard Gil Shaham perform this music last year at Severance Hall, you might find Tetzlaff equally satisfying, completely different, and, yes, a bit offbeat. Tetzlaff's Beethoven seems far more introverted than Shaham's. There's no flashy virtuosity here: just a provocative reading that brings out the gentle and cerebral sides of the concerto. On repeated hearings, Tetzlaff's discursive Larghetto could prove wearing. So could the rather odd first-movement cadenza for violin and timpani that he's arranged from Beethoven's piano-concerto version of the work. But Tetzlaff's is an interesting alternative approach, easily meriting the encore elicited on Friday by the audience's enthusiasm: the Andante from Bach's Unaccompanied Violin Sonata BWV 1003.
Perhaps the most memorable component of the program was the curtain-raiser: Aditus, by Järvi's Estonian compatriot Erkki-Sven Tüür. In Järvi's recording of the work with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Aditus comes off as ten minutes of unbridled energy. Friday evening's Aditus seemed altogether subtler: a product of careful and ingenious craftsmanship.
When Lillian Hellman lashed out at Samuel Goldwyn over the final version of The North Star, the eminent producer retorted: "My name is Samuel Goldwyn and I do not turn out junk!" Judging from Aditus—as well as the handful of other works by the composer that I've heard—neither does Erkki-Sven Tüür.
I'm Jerome Crossley for WCLV 104/9.
|Review||by Uncle Dave Lewis|
It is a little surprising that Telarc decided to go with the Vadim Repin portrait of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky for its recording of Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphonyin his best-known orchestral works. Painted as Mussorgsky lay dying in a St. Petersburg hospital, it captured the composer at his most dissolute and chaotic, but as it remains the most famous image of Mussorgsky among the limited amount of iconography left for him, perhaps its use was a foregone conclusion. It certainly does not reflect the vision of the music that's inside. This is Mussorgsky at its most pristine, cohesive, and well-tailored; a little like the photographic portrait, with his beard trimmed and waxed moustache turned up at its sides, that Mussorgsky might have preferred as the image we keep of him in our minds. Järvi opts for the standard Rimsky-Korsakov scores of Night on Bald Mountain and the prelude "Dawn on the Moscow River" from Khovantschina, but introduces a little twist inRavel's orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition in that the original French published edition of 1929 is consulted for correction of errors and specifics on phrasing and dynamics. A whole industry of activity has grown up around Mussorgsky's scores, not to mentionRimsky-Korsakov's and others' alleged meddling with them, resulting in a donnybrook that has raged pro and con among musicologists and performers alike for decades. Nevertheless, amid all of that confusion, no one else thought to go back and review the familiar Ravelscore, and there is every reason to. It has been a public domain score, at least in the United States, for decades. Practically every orchestra has a copy filled with markings and changes of various kinds even beyond errors stemming from the original prints themselves.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Paavo Järvi juhatab Saksamaal Beethoveni IX sümfooniat
Paavo Järvi dirigeerib Beethoveni Üheksanda sümfoonia ettekandeid jõulueelsel Saksamaal, orkestriks ta oma Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremenist.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Also, Telarc producer Robert Woods was nominated for classical producer of the year, citing the CSO's Mussorgsky and Prokofiev albums, as well as Ravel's "Bolero" by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
New Favorite Conductor
Paavo Jarvi is from Estonia. Studied at the Curtis Institute of Music and is now the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He's a FABULOUS conductor - I'm looking forward to the rest of his career! I just saw him conduct the Cleveland Orchestra. They played the Beethoven Violin Concerto, Stravinsky's Petrouchka, a piece by an Estonian composer, and Stravinsky Scherzo a la russe. All great.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
CONCERT REVIEW: Cleveland Orchestra guest conductor Paavo Jarvi offers Stravinsky ballet 'Petrouchka'
Plain Dealer Reporter
Heavy food and heavy music don't mix well. No wonder the Cleveland Orchestra's post-Thanksgiving meal goes down as easily as it does.
While the program at Severance Hall this weekend isn't exactly light, it certainly isn't weighty. Furthermore, the vibrant, nimble performances with guest conductor Paavo Jarvi practically guarantee smooth musical digestion.
The highlight in this regard is the revised 1947 version of Stravinsky's ballet "Petrouchka." Like the puppet who is the work's title character, the performance under Jarvi, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, is animated, colorful and brimming with emotion.
Even without dancers, the dramatic action is clear. The opening and closing crowd scenes are full of bustling energy sparked by principal flutist Joshua Smith and pianist Joela Jones, and in Jarvi's hands, the simultaneous unfolding of disparate musical material is dynamic rather than chaotic.
The orchestra, too, thoroughly inhabits Stravinsky's magical world, infusing the music's rhythmic dimension with lurching, unpredictable quality reminiscent of loose-limbed puppets. Principal trumpet Michael Sachs even injects humor into his portrayal of a tired, faded Ballerina.
By contrast, scenes depicting Petrouchka's frustrations and conflicts with his owner and the Moor are presented with childlike directness. The imaginary puppets may leap and stagger, but there's no stumbling on the part of the performers.
On paper, Erkki-Sven Tuur's "Aditus" could be mistaken for a heavy piece. It is, after all, a tribute to the contemporary Estonian composer's late mentor, Lepo Sumera. But the work, whose Latin title means "opening," is far from ponderous.
Harmonic stasis soon gives way to rocklike development with a strong rhythmic profile. A few key pitches define the musical arena, while dramatic outbursts from the brass whip the entity forward.
Alas, the piece fades away just as it's beginning to take shape in an evocative performance. Here, at least, "Aditus" sounds more like an approach than a full-on entry.
At least one performance could use greater heft. The touch that Jarvi uses to bring "Petrouchka" to life renders Beethoven's Violin Concerto strangely lifeless under the bow of guest violinist Christian Tetzlaff.
A dazzling showman, Tetzlaff executes filler passages such as trills and scales with the wiry tension of a hummingbird. His restored version of the cadenza for violin and timpani also makes for an exotic experience.
But the conscious fragility with which he imbues so many melodic ideas runs counter to the score's playful spirit. Where Beethoven asks for grandeur and earthy vigor, Tetzlaff delivers quicksilver technique and a dainty, precious sound. Rather than a sampling of delicacies, it's a smorgasbord.
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Cleveland Orchestra — 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m Sunday, Severance Hall, 11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland. Paavo Jarvi will conduct the Cleveland Orchestra in Thanksgiving weekend concerts featuring Igor Stavinsky's Petrushka. Christian Tetzlaff will be soloist in Beethoven's Violin Concerto. $31-$82. $5 more on Saturday. 216-231-1111 or 800-686-1141.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Think you’ve heard Gustav Holst’s “The Planets?”
You probably haven’t unless you were at Music Hall in Cincinnati Thursday night (Nov. 20).
Although the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has performed “The Planets” many times, this was their first time with music director Paavo Järvi.
It was like seeing the stars in the countryside, free of city lights.
Järvi not only knows the score, he really knows the score. He has an uncanny ear for detail and knows how to summon textures and colors from his players and craft them into a compelling whole. As a result, the seven bodies closest to the Sun (excluding Earth) took on all the attributes Holst built into them, and then some. (Holst excluded Pluto because it hadn’t been discovered yet, but in any case, it has recently been demoted to “dwarf planet” or “Trans-Neptunal Object.”)
Guest artist for the evening was violinist Julia Fischer in an uncommonly beautiful performance of Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.
Fischer, 25, may have been playing a priceless 1942 Gaudagnini, but the pure, lustrous tone she produces is her own. If the bow arm is what gives the violin its soul, she is a mahatma, (“great soul”). She engages the string so completely that everything from fortissimo double stops to the softest passages emerge with clarity and focus. She is also a sensitive, collaborative musician who interacted closely with Järvi and his players, while Järvi saw to it that there was vivid dialogue between the two. There were dramatic interchanges between the violin and French horns in the Adagio, as well as a small, still moment where she sank to a whisper, but with pinpoint projection over a long-held note by principal hornist Thomas Sherwood.
Fischer spun a sweet, light sound in combination with the violins on the catchy rondo theme that opened the finale -- the aural equivalent of sunlight peeking through curtains. Nothing fazed her as technical challenges mounted, as in the rapid, double-stopped octaves toward the end. The concerto itself, which is less often heard than some, was filled with Czech color and panache.
Järvi launched “The Planets” with shattering force in “Mars, Bringer of War.” The phalanx of brass behind the orchestra (16 players in all) made for a wall of sound buttressed by two sets of timpani (Patrick Schleker and Richard Jensen). Peter Norton shone on tenor tuba, whose urgent sound made a sharp contrast with the feeling of menace conveyed by the low-lying passages that slithered through the orchestra in its wake.
Venus, Bringer of Peace” set up a questioning, four-note theme (principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth) that was given a gentle, assured resolution in lovely solos by concertmaster Timothy Lees and principal cellist Eric Kim and in silvery textures of harp, celesta and glockenspiel at the end.
Järvi delineated “Mercury” brilliantly as it darted through the CSO, every detail in place to yield a quicksilver, somewhat mischievous portrait of the Messenger god.
If there were smiles in “Mercury,” there were belly laughs in “Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity,” a fittingly big movement with a kind of “Britannia Rules the Waves” hymn in the middle. There were bumptious rhythms, ringing tambourine, clarinets with their bells pointed in the air and a last big swath of the hymn in augmentation with lots of decoration on top.
“Saturn,” a somber and sobering movement (“Bringer of Old Age”), brought dark timbres to match, such as bass oboe (Lon Bussell) and bass flute (Kyril Magg). Järvi shaped it with exquisite care. The sudden, asynchronous alarm in the middle (bells tolling) and the heavy tread of the orchestra yielded gradually to resignation and dissolution, as the violins reached hopefully upward and instrumental colors ran together at the end.
“Uranus, the Magician” (compare John Williams’ “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) brought out the brass band, bassoons a la Dukas (“Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) and delightful shrieks of piccolo. Still, this was a good-natured, if slightly tanked magician.
Repeats are 11 a.m. Nov. 21 and 8 p.m. Nov. 22 at Music Hall. Note: “Järvi and the CSO will record "The Planets” for Telarc. It’s a safe bet that it will be both a critical and a popular success.
Friday, November 21, 2008
The floors of Music Hall vibrated in this high-voltage performance of "The Planets," the English composer's suite evoking seven celestial bodies. With an expanded orchestra onstage, a panorama of glowing orchestral colors unfolded through each of the seven movements. Besides the music - which has inspired many a Hollywood film score - here was an orchestra playing at the height of its powers. It simply doesn't get any better than this.
Topping off the evening was a spectacular violin soloist, Julia Fischer, in the Dvorak Violin Concerto.
Holst, who was interested in astrology, depicted each planet according to its astrological character. Järvi led impressively, opening with a relentless drive and controlled power that brought "Mars, the Bringer of War," written when Europe was on the brink of World War I, to a ferocious climax.
Each planet was vivid with atmosphere and Järvi illuminated each detail of the orchestral palette. "Venus," was warm and transparent, with gentle horn calls, the glowing sounds of harp and celesta, and gorgeous playing by the strings. In contrast, Järvi took "Mercury" at very quick tempo. Its playful mood was echoed in "Uranus, the Magician."
When the noble English tune of "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity," emerged from the orchestral canvas, it was deeply moving. "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age," on the other hand, had an eerie coolness, and the performance projected its aura of mystery as well as its heavy-heartedness.
The musicians played with exciting precision, from the red-blooded brass and timpani flourishes, to the most ethereal sounds in winds and strings at the softer end of the spectrum. The final movement, "Neptune, the Mystic," lived up to its name; a mystical canvas that floated through space, while the Women of the May Festival Chorus sang their celestial choir from Music Hall's lobby.
The evening opened with the Dvorak Concerto in A Minor, which, in the hands of Fischer, was another rare treat. Even though the German violinist is just 25, her star is already in the firmament. (This week she signed an exclusive contract with Decca.)
From the first note, it was clear that this would be a performance of depth as well as virtuosity. The violinist unleashed a big, golden tone in Dvorak's lyrical tunes and effortlessly tossed off the work's difficulties with vigor and intensity.
There were no theatrics - just stunning artistry and a genuine sense of joy for the music. She gave the slow movement an introspective cast, communicating its melodies with deep feeling and beauty of line. The finale, with its charming Bohemian dances, was a sunny display of light and shade.
Järvi and the orchestra were completely in synch, even when she was at her most spontaneous.
Drop everything and go.
The concert repeats at 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: 513-381-3300,
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Here's one of my top picks of the season, Thursday through Saturday in Music Hall:
Julia Fischer, 25, one of the top violinists in the world right now, performs Dvorak's tuneful Violin Concerto with Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall.
Jarvi will conduct Gustav Holst's "The Planets," which is sure to be one of the orchestral highlights of the season -- even if you have never heard this spectacular suite before. The orchestra will record it for Telarc.
Fischer, a native of Germany, was named Gramophone magazine's youngest ever "Artist of the Year" last year, in 2007. Right after she appears in Cincinnati, she'll zoom off to play with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall. December finds her in Chicago with 8 performances with the Chicago Symphony...
We listed this concert as one of our great "deals" because on Thursday, you also get a free dinner buffet (starting at 6:15 p.m.)
And here's a unique preconcert lecture: Astronomer Dean Regas from the Cincinnati Observatory will give a multimedia presentation, one hour before each concert (except on Thursday, because of the dinner buffet). Tickets: 513-381-3300, http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org/
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A program of 20th century masterpieces might not have been one to attract a crowd on a Sunday afternoon, but its rewards were many.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's program, played before a small audience of several hundred in Music Hall on Sunday, was one of vivid orchestral colors and superb playing by the musicians. (The concert also was performed on Saturday.) The orchestra, led by Paavo Järvi, revisited Stravinsky's brilliant ballet score "Petrouchka," which Järvi and the orchestra have recorded together, and performed Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis," which they will record for Telarc this week.
The 20th century theme continued in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major, which introduced 21-year-old British violinist Chloë Hanslip.
The first half was filled with "Petrouchka," the 1911 ballet about a little puppet that loves a ballerina, in Stravinsky's 1947 version. It was a treat to revisit this wonderful score, which evokes the Russian tale so imaginatively.
Järvi and the orchestra brought it all vividly to life, opening with a galaxy of colors in the "Shrovetide Fair" music. Leading energetically, Järvi pulled each detail from the orchestral canvas, capturing both the humor and poignancy of the spurned puppet. The orchestra's playing was precise, atmospheric and often breathtaking. Among the solo contributions, pianist Michael Chertock's energized "Russian Dance" stood out.
Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 was a showpiece of a different kind. It features multifaceted moods, from gorgeous lyricism to sparkling fireworks, and calls for an arsenal of effects from the violinist.
Hanslip, a onetime prodigy who is already a concert veteran of more than a decade, had technique to spare. Somehow, though, the performance left me unmoved.
She projected a soulful tone in the great opening melody, crouching and swaying as she played. Her sound was not large, and the personality and poetry of this work failed to project. But her playing in the brilliant scherzo was full of impressive feats, and she tackled it fearlessly. If there was one magical moment, it was her finale, as she soared into the stratosphere with great beauty.
The program concluded with Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis," written in 1943 in America, when the composer was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Although not well known, it is one of Hindemith's most accessible pieces. Each of its four movements is based on a theme by Carl Maria Von Weber, and the writing is inventive and often unexpected.
Järvi and the orchestra gave it robust, energized treatment. The piece often showcased the brass, which played magnificently, arrayed on risers behind the winds. There was also impressive subtlety of color, from wonderful percussion contributions to the flute filigree in the slow movement (Randolph Bowman). The "Turandot" Scherzo, which features an Asian tune, built to a surprisingly jazzy fugue for the brass.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra continues its season with Gustav Holst's "The Planets," Thursday through Saturday in Music Hall.
Monday, November 17, 2008
November 16, 2008
Hanslip, Orchestral Splendor at the CSO
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
A “Petrouchka” so alive it could have danced off the stage, a visitor from Britain and an orchestral showpiece were the stuff of an engrossing concert by Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Nov. 15 at Music Hall.
The visitor was 21-year-old English violinist Chloe Hanslip in her CSO debut. Her calling card was Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, a work requiring agility, stylistic flexibility and lots of pure stamina. The former child prodigy was equal to these demands, with a quicksilver technique and the ability to spin a pure, sweet line as well as pop out all the piquant effects Prokofiev is known for. As for stamina, she seemed none the worse for wear as the concerto drew to a sublime end in the violin’s highest register.
She did not project a big sound, but seemed intent on working with Järvi and the CSO in chamber music fashion, often turning towards them and carefully aligning herself with his baton. This subtracted somewhat from the violin’s commanding role and gave her a more subtle, even sophisticated presence.
Certainly there was no faulting her musicality – for example, in the first movement where her carefully shaped opening statement took the breath away. She tended to avoid big romantic moments in favor of ensemble blends, as in the violin’s soft, high tracery against harp, flute and piccolo at the end of the first movement. All in all, this approach may have fit better in a more intimate venue than Music Hall, but this listener looks forward to hearing her again soon.
The rest of the concert featured the CSO in all its sonic glory. “Stravinsky’s Petrouchka” was startlingly transparent, with every note and every line in exquisite balance. Principal flutist Randolph Bowman’s called the puppets to life with the utmost grace in the first tableau (“The Magic Trick”), a vibrant movement where Stravinsky’s complex rhythms knocked against each other clearly. Järvi shaped the woodwind melody preceding pianist Michael Chertock’s subito forte (suddenly loud) repeat of the puppets’ dance soulfully and longingly.
Vivid characterization was another feature of the performance. There has rarely been a more sinister Moor than in the third tableau with its sinuous woodwinds and wicked timpani outburst. The Ballerina’s dance was bright and chipper (principal trumpeter Robert Sullivan) with a bump and grind accompaniment in the winds and Christopher Philpot’s leering English horn. The concluding fourth tableau (“Shrovetide Fair”) bustled with fun (Järvi grew almost balletic himself at times). Ixi Chen on E-flat clarinet and Jason Koi on tuba provided a vivid portrait of the bear lumbering through the marketplace.
The concert ended with Paul Hindemith’s 1943 “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber.” To be recorded by Telarc, the four-movement work is always a treat for its exuberance and brilliant orchestration. Järvi dug right into the march-like Allegro (nothing subtle here) building it to a blazing, brassy conclusion. The quirky “Turandot Scherzo” began, again, with a beautiful solo by Bowman, and that wasn’t the only reminiscence of Ravel’s “Bolero.” The two-part theme passed from one instrumental combination to another (the trombones’ turn was my favorite) gathering momentum until it snapped like a rubber band. The jazzy variations that followed included timpani and tubular bell exchanging portions of the theme and a final, exhausted fadeout.
The slow movement (Andantino) was almost Brahmsian, opening with a wistful melody by clarinet and bassoon (principals Richard Hawley and William Winstead). Flutist Bowman showed it was his night again with his lovely, extended filigree over the slow-moving theme as it passed through the orchestra. The finale of “Metamorphosis,” another March, showcased the horns in a triumphant dotted salute that led to an explosive conclusion.
The concert repeats at 3 p.m. Nov. 16 at Music Hall.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Das Sinfonieorchester des Hessischen Rundfunks (HR) lässt im kommenden Februar zwei Musikwelten aufeinanderprallen. Beim «Music Discovery Project» werden der international gefragte Berliner DJ Paul van Dyk und der weltbekannte Dirigent Paavo Järvi zusammen mit dem HR-Sinfonieorchester und einer neunköpfigen Band Gustav Holsts Orchestersuite «Die Planeten» intonieren. Die Komposition wird in der Frankfurter Jahrhunderthalle zunächst im Original zu hören sein und anschließend von allen gemeinsam neu interpretiert.
Das jährliche «Music Discovery Project» ist ein Projekt des Sinfonieorchesters und ein besonderes Anliegen seines Chefdirigenten Järvi. In den vergangenen beiden Jahren waren der Techno-Musiker Tom Wax sowie der Musikproduzent Mousse T. zu Gast.
Here’s an interesting piece from On an Overgrown Path, written last year to mark the 80th anniversary of the death of Wilhelm Stenhammar, the Swedish late Romantic who always comes to mind as the one composer of all the under appreciated writers who really deserves wider recognition over here.
There’s nothing about Stenhammar’s style that is inconsistent with the music most of today’s concertgoers most like to hear: It’s big, bold, expressive, full of lovely melody and beautiful colors. I’m listening right now to Love Derwinger’s 1992 recording of Stenhammar’s Op. 1, a huge piano concerto in B-flat minor that is much worthier than some of the other forgotten concerti that get unearthed and recorded these days. Earlier this week, I heard the McDowell Second Concerto, for instance, and it’s attention-getting, but not very interesting.
Stenhammar’s concerto derives from the same Brahms wing of Romantic concerto writing, but his melodies have more character and his sound-world has more personality. And this piece was written when the composer was barely out of his teens. Also on this disc, which features Sweden’s Malmo Symphony under Paavo Jarvi, violinist Ulf Wallin plays the Two Sentimental Romances, Op. 28. These are conservative but gorgeous works, and there’s no reason to keep preferring the Beethoven or Tchaikovsky violin morsels as an added concert attraction to Stenhammar instead.
One of the reasons Stenhammar isn’t better known to the world at large is probably that he ran into a terrible creative block during the last 10 years of his somewhat abbreviated life (born in 1871, he died at 56 in 1927). He seems to have reached a creative crossroads in which he was unsure what direction he wished to go, and he couldn’t get things done the way he used to.
But my research on that point is anything but thorough, and someone out there who knows more of Stenhammar’s story might be able to shed more light on him. In the meantime, we should definitely hear more Stenhammar in the concert halls, and perhaps a future day might make him more of a staple. At the very least, it would be nice to run into one of the symphonies, some the songs (Anne Sofie von Otter has recorded several), or even one of the string quartets every now and again.
This is attractive, well-written music that would have no difficulty reaching today’s concertgoers.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be featured on "SymphonyCast," a radio program showcasing the world's great orchestras. The show will air locally at 8 p.m. Tuesday on WGUC-FM (90.9).
The symphony's program was recorded in March in Music Hall. Paavo Järvi conducts Arvo Pärt's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten;" Schubert's Symphony No. 9, "The Great;" and Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto, featuring violinist Janine Jansen.
The program was performed shortly before the orchestra's European tour in April.
This will be the third time in 2008 the orchestra has been featured nationally on "SymphonyCast." The show, produced by American Public Media and hosted by Brian Newhouse, is heard on more than 90 public radio stations across the country, with an audience of more than 227,000 listeners each week.
"I am pleased that the CSO can help support band and orchestra programs because music education is very important to me and to the orchestra," said Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Paavo Järvi.
"I am always very energized by these performances in the community and the warm response for this world-class orchestra."
Proceeds from the Nov. 12 concert will help fund the Mason High School Symphony and Concert Orchestras' trip to the National Orchestra Cup on April 5, at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Only 12 high school orchestras from across the nation are selected annually for this honor.
"We are very excited that the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is performing a concert at our school. The opportunity for our students to hear a professional orchestra performance in an intimate setting is an experience they will never forget. We are thrilled that the CSO is reaching out to our community with this concert," said Stephanie Jones, orchestra director, Mason High School and Mason Middle School.
"CSO In Your School" is a new outreach program offered because of the symphony's commitment to the community and to music education. The symphony partners with a local school and performs a fundraising concert in support of its instrumental music programs.
The symphony seeks community partner schools with a worthy fundraising project, suitable performance space and parent/support organizations who can help subsidize the basic concert costs through sponsorship.
Patron tickets include preferred seating and admission to a special post-concert reception with Paavo Järvi.
Mason Middle School is located at 6370 Mason-Montgomery Road.
Monday, November 10, 2008
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi has a flair for meaningful programming. This was demonstrated once again in the pairing of Brahms’ “A German Requiem” and Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem Nov. 7 at Music Hall. Joining Järvi and the CSO were the 130-voice May Festival Chorus and two superlative soloists, baritone Matthias Goerne and soprano Heidi Grant Murphy.
On a purely surface level, both works are called “Requiem” and fit the season of remembrance, the concert falling between Halloween/All Saints’ Day and Veterans’ Day. Both are personal, non-liturgical works written in response to loss, rather than settings of the Roman Catholic Mass for the Dead. (Brahms had recently lost both his mother and his mentor Robert Schumann. Britten was mourning the death of both parents.) Both pieces make the case for universal peace and reconciliation.
In other respects, they differ markedly. Brahms’ hour-long Requiem (the longest piece he ever wrote) is a choral work, a setting of selected verses from the Bible. Britten’s 20-minute Sinfonia is a three-movement symphony, a purely instrumental work, with titles borrowed from the Requiem (“Lacrymosa,” “Dies Irae,” “Requiem aeternam”). Composed three-quarters of a century apart (1865 and 1940), the two compositions are separated by lots of history and personal experience.
History and personal experience account for the biggest difference between them. Brahms was revered and secure in his homeland. Britten was an expatriate from his native Britain, a pacifist seeking refuge from World War II. Besides expressing familial grief, his Sinfonia da Requiem is a powerful anti-war statement, one he would ratify later in his 1961 War Requiem (comparisons with Shostakovich and Prokofiev come to mind). Järvi, however, chose not to emphasize this aspect, perhaps to forge a closer kinship with the Brahms.
That said, the opening of "Lacrymosa” may have taken some audience members by surprise, with its timpani/bass drum hammer blows. One might have briefly registered Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” but this was succeeded by a funeral march. It was an affecting movement, with a drooping four-note theme that fell back on itself, a steady tread and a keening solo for alto saxophone (James Bunte). It has often been likened to Mahler.
The “Dies Irae” began with eerie, Morse-code like figures in the flutes, who with the rest of the winds and brasses, were called upon to utilize considerable flutter-tonguing throughout the movement. The strings took off in rapid perpetual motion, setting up a rat-a-tat-tat-like atmosphere that had a distinct military flavor. There was lots of percussion (including xylophone, snare drum and whip), plus repeated, descending figures passages and a shriek of E-flat clarinet early on. The effect was of an out-of-control machine. Still, it didn't quite reach the con fuoco level ("with fire") called for in the score. The concluding "Requiem aeternam" was thoroughly convincing, however, an eloquent plea for peace opening with a gentle flute melody-- almost a lullaby, darkened with the addition of bass flute. This grew more impassioned, almost lush and Ravelian, before dying away softly at the end.
Brahms' Requiem is not often heard on CSO concerts since the choral/orchestral literature has been effectively ceded to the May Festival. This is a pity since it is a long time from May to May, and there are only four May Festival concerts (plus an intimate choral program at the Cathedral Basilica in Covington, Kentucky). It was doubly rewarding then to see the pattern is broken -- the last CSO performance of Brahms' Requiem was in 1986 -- especially with Estonian born Järvi, who comes from a chorus-filled country rich in vocal tradition.
Järvi approached the Brahms with deep feeling and exquisite attention to detail. The opening “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen” (“Blessed are they that have sorrow”) was gentle and touching, the amber-colored lower strings arrayed against the hushed voices of the chorus for an extraordinary sound. He took a moderate tempo in “Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras” (“For all flesh is as grass”), leaning gently on the timpani accents and letting timpanist Patrick Schleker prepare the climactic moments with genuine drama (you could feel vibrations from the organ where I was sitting in the balcony). The concluding “ewig Freude” (eternal joy”) surged through the ensemble to the final triumphant chord.
Goerne’s mahogany voice lent added import to the baritone’s cautionary “Herr, lehre doch mich dass ein Ende mit mir haben muss” (“Lord, let me know that I must have an end”). Järvi crafted a magnificent rendering of the closing fugue that signifies “righteous souls in the hand of God”over a long-held pedal note. Even the piccolo could be heard, and the sustained final chord filled every corner of Music Hall.
“How Lovely Are Thy Dwelling Places” (“Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen”) featured the chorus at its best, exuding grace and beauty. In a delectable instrumental detail, the horn's descending arpeggio leading into the repeat of the opening melody emerged clearly.
Murphy’s sweet, focused sound in the treacherously high-lying “Ihr habt nun Träurigkeit” (“You Now Have Sorrow”) recalled Kathleen Battle (who, incidentally, inaugurated her professional career in Brahms' Requiem led by CSO music director Thomas Schippers in 1972 in Spoleto, Italy). The chorus' tribute to a mother's love was soft-breathed and tender, and ensemble clarity was such that Murphy's voice segued perfectly into the clarinet's identical note at the end.
The Day of Judgment broke with controlled fury on the heels of Goerne’s “Siehe, ich sage euch ein Geheimnis” (“Behold I tell you a mystery”), while the chorus’ full-throated “Tod, Wo ist dein Stachel?” (“Death where is your sting?”) rang with triumph. The fugue that followed recalled the final choruses of Handel’s “Messiah," literally surging upward through the orchestra to another thrilling conclusion (miraculously, a flute line emerged clearly through the texture at one point).
The final movement, “Selig sind die Toten” ("Blessed are the Dead") capped the seven-movement work with a return of the opening music. The effect was achingly beautiful as the theme reached each new tonal plateau. Järvi sought gorgeous detail here also, as in the intimate, chorale-like statement by the brass choir and the men’s voices. The audience was perfectly still at the end , letting the silence continue for long seconds until Järvi slowly dropped his hands and the ovation began.
All in all, it was a performance that tugged at the heart and never let go.
Repeat is 8 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 8) at Music Hall.