Monday, March 31, 2008

Paavo - Partituren magazine interview


April, 2008



Below is a link to an interview where Paavo talks about the Beethoven recording project.
http://www.partituren.org/de/dirigent/index.html


Der Dirigent Paavo Järvi - Weniger ist mehrPaavo Järvi und die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen sind in Berlin, um ihre vierte Beethoven-CD aufzunehmen – wieder im legendären Großen Saal an der Nalepastraße. Die Stimmung ist konzentriert, doch unverkrampft – genau die Mischung, die man den Aufnahmen anhört. In der Mittagspause „entspannt“ sich Järvi beim Interview, dann geht‘s an die Einspielung des zweiten Satzes.

CD REVIEW: Beethoven Symphonies 4 & 7


April 1, 2008


Label: RCA Red Seal , VÖ: 31.08.2007


Sie kennen diese unnütze Frage nach den Büchern und oder Platten, die man auf eine einsame Insel mitnehmen würde. Im vorliegenden Fall müsste sie sich ganz konkret auf eine Gruppe von Werken richten, nämlich auf die Sinfonien Ludwig van Beethovens, und wenn ich der Aufnahme mit der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen unter Leitung von Paavo Järvi dann den Inselstatus zubillige, deutet dies schon darauf hin, dass es sich hierbei in meinen Augen um etwas ganz Besonderes handelt. Das mag zwar immerhin ein Statement mit gewisser Aussagekraft sein, aber dennoch bedarf es wohl noch einer genauen Erklärung, wenn man als Rezensent der x-ten Aufnahme von Beethovens Sinfonien die höchste Repertoirebewertung vergibt. Nun denn: Järvis Einspielung ist für mich in die vorderste Reihe der Beethoven-Einspielungen gerückt, weil sie nicht etwa ein längst abgehaktes Beethovenbild verkörpert, sondern den Werken bislang nicht Gehörtes zu entlockend versteht – auf eine Art und Weise, die schlichtweg fesselnd und faszinierend ist.

Mit der Kombination der Sinfonien Nr. 4 B-Dur op. 60 und Nr. 7 A-Dur op. 92 macht der Dirigent ebenso viel Furore wie mit seiner im vergangenen Jahr gleichfalls bei RCA Red Seal als SACD vorgelegten Einspielung von ‚Eroica’ und achter Sinfonie. Dass Rezensenten mit weniger offenen Ohren und festgefahrenen Hörgewohnheiten den frischen und kraftvollen Duktus dieser Interpretation überhört haben, macht mehr als alles andere deutlich, mit welchen enormen Hör-Klischees Beethovens Sinfonien im Zeitalter ihrer medialen Massenverbreitung beladen sind. Und ein rund 150 Jahre altes Zitat Hans von Bülows – so belesen es auch klingen mag – genügt eben noch lange nicht, um eine moderne und in höchstem Maße ambitionierte Aufnahme adäquat zu beurteilen und die Einflüsse der historisch-orientierten Aufführungspraxis auf den mit penibler Texttreue agierenden Järvi pauschal abzuqualifizieren.

Transparenz und Klangsinnlichkeit

Auch diesmal schaffen es Dirigent und mit staunenswerter Perfektion agierende Musiker, einen unerhörten Beethoven abzuliefern – eine Aufnahme, deren Referenzcharakter für mich außer Frage steht. Das Orchester tritt zwar mit schlankem, vibratolosem Klang, aber mit natürlich anmutender Phrasenbildung und ohne Übertreibung der Artikulation auf, die einzelnen Instrumentengruppen sind von Järvi perfekt gegeneinander ausbalanciert. Resultat dieser grundlegenden Kennzeichen sind eine klare Diktion und eine große Transparenz des Orchestersatzes mit fein abgestuftem Klangbild, was einerseits die in Beethovens Werken steckende instrumentale Virtuosität, andererseits auch die klangsinnlich präsentierten Details der Melodiebögen auf besondere Weise zum Zuge kommen lässt.

Letzteres wird im Adagio der B-Dur-Sinfonie deutlich, wo Järvi die Melodiebögen über der präzise umgesetzten Begleitung schweben lässt und die Wirkung des Satzes aus dem ständigen Kontrast zwischen Kantabilität und ostinat anmutender Rhythmik formt. Die Virtuosität hingegen tritt vor allem im Finale hervor, wo das Passagenwerk der Streicher im Sinne rhythmischer Strukturierung eingesetzt wird, was dem ‚Allegro man non troppo’ eine ungemeine Spannung verleiht. Vorbildlich in Wiedergabe und Spannungsaufbau ist aber auch die ‚Adagio’-Einleitung des Kopfsatzes: Hier erscheinen die Bläser- und Streicherstimmen anfangs in den akkordisch eröffneten Tonraum eingehängt und verleihen der Musik dadurch eine sich ständig wandelnde Plastizität, die dann im nachfolgenden ‚Allegro vivace’ auf die Darstellung von rhythmischen Akzenten und Synkopen übergreift.

Tänzelnde Siebte

Wie Järvi überhaupt die rhythmische Ebene der Kompositionen als Gestaltungselement nutzt, wird im Zusammenhang mit Beethovens Siebter deutlich, denn nach der ‚Poco sostenuto’-Einleitung scheint der Kopfsatz förmlich zu tänzeln. Dieses Element wird mit einem dramatisch aufgebauten Durchführungsverlauf verschränkt, der zu den schönsten Momente der gesamten Einspielung gehört: Wie hier die unterschiedlichen musikalischen Ereignisschichten hörbar bleiben und sich gegenseitig zu kommentieren scheinen, ist schon großartig. Doch Järvi kann den tänzelnden Charakter auch ins angrenzende ‚Allegretto’ übernehmen, lässt ihn sich in großer Entspanntheit über dem ständig wiederholten Bassimpuls entfalten und trägt diese Haltung bis in die fugierten Passagen hinein. Das Scherzo lässt dann ganz unverhohlen den bukolischen Charakter anklingen, der schon hier und dort im Kopfsatz zu vernehmen war. Hier schafft Järvi ein wahrlich wunderbares Trio mit den Holzbläsern über den Bordunklängen der Streicher, das in den Tuttipassagen die ganze Leuchtkraft des Orchesters entfaltet.

Das ‚Allegro con brio’-Finale ist schließlich das i-Tüpfelchen auf der ganzen Geschichte, denn auf die Übernahme eines Marsches in die Sinfonie reagiert Järvi mit einer straffen, aber nicht überhasteten Tempogebung, deren Akzentgebung gleichfalls die tänzerischen Elemente betont, sich in Bezug auf den häufig angestimmten Kehrauscharakter jedoch bewusst zurückhält. An seine Stelle tritt eine faszinierende rhythmische Spannkraft, die Järvi zum Aufbau von Kontrasten benutzt. Das Ergebnis ist herrlich und bestätigt mit allen Details die eingangs formulierte Meinung: dass dieser Beethoven nämlich genau die richtige Wahl für eine einsame Insel ist. Da aber ein solcher Aufenthalt in nächster Zeit nicht absehbar ist, ist Järvis Lesart für mich zumindest ein willkommener Anlass, endlich einmal die CD-Regale zu durchforsten und einige meiner älteren Einspielungen auszumisten.

Midori, Mahler, Mozart among best bets


March 16, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

A calendar of stars and interesting program choices in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 2008-09 season should supply rewarding evenings in Music Hall. But choosing from 24 concerts can be daunting. Here are my picks.
Rach 2 (Sept. 12-13) - André Watts is a living legend who has enjoyed a celebrated career for more than four decades. Add Rachmaninoff's romantic Piano Concerto No. 2, and you have a recipe for an electric combination. Paavo Järvi conducts the season opener of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.
"A German Requiem" (Nov. 7-8) - The May Festival Chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, excels in Brahms' beautiful requiem, which has the serene movement "How Lovely Are Thy Dwelling Places." Two fine soloists, Camilla Tilling and Matthias Goerne, join the chorus.
"The Planets" (Nov. 20-22) - Gustav Holst's "The Planets" is an out-of-this-world masterpiece describing seven planets. Julia Fischer, playing Dvorak's Violin Concerto in A Minor, was Gramophone magazine's 2007 artist of the year.
The Mahler universe (Jan. 16-18) - The last time Järvi led Mahler's Symphony No. 1, "Titan," in 2002, the eight horns stood for the stunning finale. There's also a warhorse (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 2, with Denis Matsuev, piano) and a U.S. premiere by Erkki-Sven Tuur.
Beethoven (Jan. 23-24) - The Romanian virtuoso Radu Lupu, a foremost interpreter of Beethoven, performs the composer's Piano Concerto No. 4.
Sir Roger leads Mozart (Jan. 30-31) - Sir Roger Norrington, known for historically authentic performances, leads two Mozart symphonies and "Masonic Funeral Music." CSO principal horn Elizabeth Freimuth performs the Horn Concerto No. 4.
Yefim Bronfman (March 5-7) - Bronfman is simply one of the best pianists on the planet, and he's playing Brahms' magnificent Piano Concerto No. 2.
A violinist for all seasons (April 2, 4) - Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg is known for pushing classical boundaries. Here, she delivers music in the tango mode by Astor Piazzola, "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires." Frenchman Yan Pascal Tortelier conducts Ravel's "Rapsodie espagnole" and Prokofiev's Suite from "Romeo and Juliet."
Brahms and Berlioz (April 17-18) - Violinist Christian Tetzlaff, Musical America's 2005 instrumentalist of the year, performs Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major, and Järvi leads Berlioz's orchestral music from "Romeo et Juliette."
Midori (April 24-26) - One word says it all. The sensational violinist performs Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E Minor, and Järvi leads Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony.

Watts leads CSO lineup

March 16, 2008

The Cincinanti Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

André Watts, one of the world's greatest living pianists, will open the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 2008-09 season in Music Hall.
The orchestra's 114th season will have other star power, too, such as violinist Midori performing Mendelssohn, pianist Yefim Bronfman in Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 and violinist Christian Tetzlaff performing Brahms' Violin Concerto in D.
For his eighth season as music director, Paavo Järvi is following his mantra of mixing symphonic classics with "a little bit of spice" on each program. Traditional favorites will include Gustav Holst's "The Planets," Handel's "Water Music," Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Saint-Saens' "Organ" Symphony.
For the conductor, programming a season is a puzzle that includes finding subtle connections between pieces, factoring in the guest artists' strengths, working around recording projects and mixing in, not least, his own affinity for the music.
Fans of the new may gravitate to nine works that have never been performed by the Cincinnati Symphony, such as the Percussion Concerto by noted American composer Jennifer Higdon. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg will take a departure from the usual violin concerto fare to play tango king Astor Piazzolla's "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires."
Järvi, who will lead 14 subscription weeks, will open the season Sept. 12 and 13 with Tchaikovsky's "Festival Coronation" March and Rachmaninoff's "Symphonic Dances." Watts, whose career was launched at age 16 when he stepped in for an ill Glenn Gould to perform with the New York Philharmonic, will be soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2.
Ten guest conductors will visit the orchestra's podium. Among them are two from the New York Philharmonic: Alan Gilbert, music director-designate, and Xian Zhang, associate conductor and former faculty member at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
The orchestra will record two albums for Telarc: A disc of Holst and Hindemith, and an album of Bartok and Ligeti, including Bartok's "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Rachmaninoff Returns to Cincinnati


March 29, 2008

http://www.musicincincinnati.com/site/reviews/Rachmaninoff_Returns_to_Cincinnati.html
By Mary Ellyn Hutton

Nikolai LuganskyOne might have been forgiven for believing in time travel Thursday evening at Music Hall. Perhaps it was the white tie and tails, but when pianist Nikolai Lugansky strode out onto the Music Hall stage to perform Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 3 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra one had to suspend disbelief that it was the composer himself returning to show us how his music should be played. (The members of the CSO and music director Paavo Järvi were dressed casually for the early evening concert.) The illusion persisted the moment Russian born Lugansky began to play, spinning the slightly dreamy melody with which the Concerto opened with an eerie kind of presence. As he moved into more treacherous waters (pianists consider this concerto the most technically difficult in the literature) lines emerged with exceptional clarity and elegance. It was powerful and powerfully informed playing that swept the audience to its feet after the piano’s final staccato signature. What struck one most about the performance was its musical integrity. If you think you’ve never heard all the notes in this well endowed work, don’t miss tonight’s repeat at 8 p.m. at Music Hall. But it wasn’t just galvanic technique. That was spectacularly evident throughout, as in the first movement cadenza, which Lugansky built to thunderous heights, spilling over into soft cascades at one point (a moment of respite?) against flutist Jasmine Choi’s lovely solo. The Intermezzo (whose first theme summons “I’ve Got You under My Skin”) was touching in the extreme, coursing under his fingers into a very exciting, Russian-flavored finale. The endurance test there did not faze Lugansky, who was as attentive to beauty of sound (producing some of the pearliest notes you will ever hear high on the piano) as he was to breaching Rachmaninoff’s relentless technical hurdles. Lugansky, 34, was supported and complemented throughout the Concerto by Järvi and the CSO. Soloist and orchestra interacted closely, their textures penetrating and suffusing each other for a musical whole rich in tonal and gestural beauty. (Note: These impressions were confirmed, perhaps even intensified, at Friday morning’s repeat at Music Hall, where copies of Lugansky’s CD of the Rachmaninoff Concertos 1 and 3 sold like hot cakes and a long line formed to get his signature.) The second half of the concert was as exciting as the first. Järvi was his powerful insightful self on the podium and that was more than enough for a thrilling performance of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony. Järvi alluded to the “detective work” involved in analyzing the 10th Symphony in his taped “First Notes” screened just prior to the concert, including a “translation” of the composer’s initials utilized throughout (D, E-flat, C, B “spell” D, S, C, H in German musical notation). From the forlorn opening, where the lower strings cast a spell reminiscent of the opening of Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” through the raucous finale it was a richly drawn tapestry. So compelling was it that there was often total silence in the hall as the audience drank in the music. The coughing and stirring that took place between movements suggested that listeners had been collectively holding their breath in order not to miss anything. Järvi and his players were a team fully united in bringing this vital music to life. As a whole, the performance demonstrated that the CSO woodwinds are as full of character as any wind section in the world, the strings are capable of playing like one instrument over the broadest possible dynamic range and the CSO has some truly star quality brasses. Not to mention the percussionists, whose ability to define color and emotion is prodigious. How many different ways can you strike a tam-tam (large gong)? Richard Jensen showed us: hard in the first movement, like a cloud of ink spreading in water in the third, sharp and painful in the finale. Unforgettable moments were so many as to defy enumeration but here’s a try. In the first movement (Moderato): Principal flutist Randolph Bowman, especially in his lower register where he made the tone opaque and fluttery in contrast to its characteristic sweetness. The entire bassoon section (William Winstead, Hugh Michie and contra-bassoonist Jennifer Monroe) in an early, growly episode. Clarinetists Richard Hawley and Ixi Chen’s mellifluous duet. Piccoloists Joan Voorhees and Kyril Magg at the end, where Shostakovich calls upon their high, aloof coloration for a painfully forlorn effect. In the brutal Allegro (a portrait of Josef Stalin): The strings who landed on their feet – and softly -- in the skittering rebound from one of its many climactic moments. In the third movement (Allegretto): Principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth’s enigmatic, five-note theme which was sounded so softly on its final (12th) repeat as to have been offstage. In the finale (Andante/Allegro): Principal oboist Dwight Parry’s aching solo at the beginning. Hawley who drew a smile from Järvi when he sounded the cock’s crow-like motif signaling the Allegro and Jonathan Gunn’s nimble E-flat clarinet. Järvi opened the concert with a spirited reading of Mozart’s Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro,” a wonderful choice since, as he has pointed out in previous “First Notes,” Mozart can go with anything. This program, to be repeated at 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall, will be performed on the CSO’s upcoming two-week tour of Europe which can be expected to shed significant luster on the Queen City. Järvi and the CSO return to Music Hall April 24 for their last two concerts of the season: with violinist Pinchas Zukerman (April 24-26) and pianist Lars Vogt (May 2 and 3).
For information and tickets, call (513) 381-3300 or visit the CSO web site
http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org/.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Show celebrates Corbett's contributions

March 28, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
BY JANELLE GELFAND


Cincinnati will thank the late Patricia Corbett for being one of the city's most generous arts patrons in a musical celebration to be held Saturday in Music Hall.
An extraordinary array of the arts organizations touched by Corbett's philanthropy will perform a free public concert in her memory. Corbett died Jan. 28.
Performers will include the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the May Festival Chorus, Cincinnati Opera soprano Jane Jennings and tenor Mark Panuccio, the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music's musical theater senior class, members of Northern Kentucky University's Azmari Quartet and groups from the School for Creative & Performing Arts.
Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi, former May Festival music director and Metropolitan Opera conductor Julius Rudel and Cincinnati Ballet music director Carmon DeLeone will share conducting duties. WGUC's Naomi Lewin will host the event. All participants will donate their services.
The idea to hold a free concert and most of the program was initiated by Corbett's son, Thomas R. Corbett, who died March 3 in Dallas.The concert will allow the people of Greater Cincinnati "to celebrate Cincinnati's beloved Patricia Corbett, and the chance to say farewell," says Karen McKim, executive director of the Corbett Foundation. Corbett and her husband, J. Ralph Corbett, who preceded her in death, were champions of the region's performing arts, from Riverbend Music Center to Northern Kentucky University.

CONERT REVIEW: CSO's primed for Europe

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

It's clear from the reaction of
Music Hall's audience Thursday night that Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra are taking a program of showstoppers on their 12-city European tour that begins next week. And from their playing, this orchestra is primed. The Cincinnati Symphony gave a preview of one of the programs it will perform over the next three weeks on European stages, and twice the audience was on its feet cheering. The forces delivered a searing performance Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 in E Minor, which concluded the evening. Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3, with pianist Nikolai Lugansky, can only be described as electrifying.Lugansky, 36, who will share duties with violinist Janine Jansen as tour soloist, is a Russian pianist who already has an impressive discography and a fistful of major prizes. Small wonder he has a reputation for Rachmaninoff. This was one of the finest performances of the Third I've ever heard.Tall and lanky, Lugansky appears more elegant than showy, yet he displayed plenty of fire and dash as he soared through technical feats without breaking a sweat. He projected a singing tone, and the work's dazzling figurations were clear and bright.If one could pick the most sensational display, it was the first movement's cadenza, with its keyboard-spanning leaps and orchestral sonorities. The romantic melodies were beautifully felt and he summoned beautiful color, always with an ear for balance and musicality. He climbed the final summit unflinchingly and with thrilling virtuosity. He is clearly a major force on the piano circuit today.This was an ideal collaboration, with the orchestra providing lush, refined color and Järvi sensitive to the pianist's every move.Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 10 in 1953, inspired by Stalin's death. If it is a blistering portrait of Stalin, it is also partly autobiographical, for the composer inserted his own musical monogram into the music.The first movement, a symphony in itself, was brooding, mournful and also quite beautiful. Besides its compelling momentum, the listener was swept along with a range of emotions, from shattering climaxes to the bleak piccolo theme that ends the movement.The Allegro was a brutal march, clipped and powerful, that ended like a shot. The third movement made a striking contrast, with its fearless horn theme (Elizabeth Freimuth) and its haunting atmosphere.Järvi's conviction never wavered, and the orchestra played superbly. The finale, which erupted into mock-cheerfulness, always had tension simmering beneath.The program opened with a brilliant and witty Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart.The concert repeats at 11 a.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300, www.cincinnatisymphony.org.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Patricia A. Corbett Memorial Concert




We invite you to join Paavo Järvi, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and the May Festival Chorus for a special concert event celebrating the life of arts patron and friend, Patricia Corbett.
Join Cincinnati's performing arts community for a free concert celebrating the life of philanthropist Patricia A. Corbett. Saturday, March 29 at 11:00 a.m. in Music Hall. No tickets are required. Mrs. Corbett and her late husband J. Ralph Corbett were champions for performing arts in Cincinnati and among the city's most generous arts supporters. Mrs. Corbett died January 28, 2008.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CSO with Paavo and Lugansky


Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The Cincinnati Enquirer

By Janelle Gelfand


Meet the Musicians
Here's the latest installment in a series to meet various players in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. I'll be on the road with these folks next week. Watch for more news about the tour, coming soon.This Thursday, hear a preview of music they'll perform on tour - and get a free buffet dinner, too. Here's info on this weekend's concert: Paavo Järvi conducts Mozart's Overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. Russian pianist Nikolai Lugansky joins in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: $12 to $79.25; $10 students.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paavo and DKAM on BMG


March 19th, 2008
http://www.sonybmgmasterworks.com/news/index.html#200929


Paavo Järvi And The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

The critics agree: Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s new Beethoven cycle is an essential edition to the catalog. Reviewers from around the world have judged these performances revelatory, with many honoring the first release (Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and as the Best of the Year. The second recording in the Hybrid Super Audio CD series – now in stores – pairs enthralling performances of Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7. As Alex Ross wrote in his widely-read blog, “…Paavo Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, whose all-Beethoven concert at Mostly Mozart was an undisputed knockout, have launched a Beethoven cycle for RCA. The first disc, pairing the Third and the Eighth, preserves most of the virtues of the live experience: precise attacks, danceable rhythms, vivid phrasing, a grainy, gutsy sound quality from the musicians, no-nonsense tempos from Järvi… it’s earthy, propulsive music making, Beethoven as pure physical specimen… Missing, of course, is the joy of witnessing performances such as this in a responsive hall and with a responsive crowd.
The esteemed orchestra and its Grammy-award winning conductor will complete their Beethoven symphonic cycle in 2009. They recently travelled to Japan to perform all nine symphonies; Yomiuri hailed the concert as "reviving the original excitement in Beethoven's music".

CSO in national radio spotlight

March 18, 2008
The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will make its debut on SymphonyCast, a national public radio program showcasing the world’s great orchestras on April 8 and July 1. The program airs locally at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on WGUC (90.9).
Robin Gehl, WGUC’s vice president for programming, says she hopes this will be the start of regular appearances by the Cincinnati Symphony on the national show.
“When we added SymphonyCast to the WGUC lineup last year, we were anxious to be able to share the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with the rest of the country and the world, and now we have that chance,” she says.

The April 8 program will feature a concert recorded by Cincinnati Public Radio (owner of WGUC) in Music Hall on Sept. 21, with Paavo Järvi conducting and Sharon Bezaly, flutist. The program includes Beethoven’s “Fidelio” Overture, Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major and Andante for Flute and Orchestra in C Major and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.
The July 1 program will feature a concert recorded in October with Järvi conducting and violinist Vadim Repin as soloist. The program includes Mahler’s “Todtenfeier” and the “Adagio” from Symphony No. 10, Mahler’s “What the Wild Flowers Tell Me” arranged by Britten, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major.
Janelle Gelfand

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bringing Schubert and Britten to Vienna






The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performs in Vienna, April 6 and it is a safe bet that the Viennese will be impressed. Very impressed, judging from Friday night’s “preview” concert at Music Hall, which included Schubert’s Symphony No. 9. The last time Järvi conducted Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony was with the composer’s hometown band, the Vienna Philharmonic. He took a lot away from that experience, he says. He’s going to give it back now – and then some -- but it won’t just be the product of his work with the proprietary orchestra. As he has done with his cycle of Beethoven symphonies with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Järvi has given it his own stamp. Schubert’s “heavenly length” (Robert Schumann’s assessment) has never seemed so short or, for this listener, so heavenly. Joining the CSO Friday, as she will on the CSO’s European tour (April 4-18), was Dutch violinist Janine Jansen in Benjamin Britten’s 1939 Violin Concerto. Järvi opened with a complementary work, Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s 1977 “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten.” (Part wrote it the year after Britten died, having deeply respected but never been able to meet him.) One of the first works in Pärt’s popular “tintinnabuli” (bell-like) style, it remains a favorite. It opened almost imperceptibly, as clouds of strings descended in layers to full volume against a repeated note on tubular bell. Järvi let the bell tone decay fully before dropping his arms to signal applause at the end. Jansen, 30, an emerging superstar, made her U.S. debut with Järvi and the CSO in November, 2005 in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. The choice of Britten’s Concerto for the upcoming tour was an excellent one, since the work is just coming into its own and has not become hackneyed by over-performance. Besides that, Jansen simply plays it splendidly. Statuesque in black lace and spike heels, she spun a gorgeous legato line to open the work, shaping its dynamics curvaceously over a gently tapped, ostinato figure by the timpani. The effect was magical when Jansen took over the accompanimental role herself, alternating the vaguely Spanish ostinato rhythm with guitar-like pizzicato chords over the soft melody in the CSO strings. Her passage into the rollicking Vivace was like the spin of a top (compare the second movement of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1). It’s a delightful movement (Jascha Heifetz supposedly considered Britten’s Concerto unplayable) with lots of bustle, whistling harmonics and effects like high, twittering sixteenth notes echoed by a pair of piccolos. Jansen handled the cadenza – a daunting one with fingered harmonics in double stops, left hand pizzicato and much leaping up and down the fiddle – with arresting ease. The sober finale, a passacaglia (variations on a theme first heard in the trombones), carried the work’s emotional weight, the violin growing almost agonizing in its intensity before fading out at last on an unresolved trill. In a spectacular rapid passage high on the violin’s highest (E) string, Jansen allied pinpoint accuracy with pure tonal beauty. Järvi and the CSO matched her eloquence and expressivity from the first brushed cymbal to the last dying chord. The Schubert symphony, last heard at the CSO in 2005 under a guest conductor, sounded transformed under Järvi’s baton. Tempos were brisk and dance-like, even the opening Andante which led into a very crisp Allegro. Pacing and detail were exquisite, Järvi giving the thrice-repeated refrain that closes the exposition successively higher dynamic gradation, shaping the passage with sweeping gestures of his own. Principal oboist Dwight Parry shone in the perky melody that opened the Andante. Its march-like mien led into one of those to-die-for melodies characteristic of Schubert. The “dissonant” buildup that followed was galvanizingly intense, making the soft pizzicato chords and lilting cello theme that ensued that much softer by comparison. Järvi pumped a bit of the waltz into the Scherzo (even giving the third beat a little hesitation at one point). He prepared the Trio (another of those drop-dead melodies) with precision and emphasis. There were delicious details everywhere, such as the tiny double bass crescendo leading into the repeat of the Trio theme. The finale (Allegro Vivace) opened with a concerted shout to the heavens. The strings’ insistent triplet figures set up a churning energy suggestive of a locomotive rounding the bend, passing out of sight, then returning again. For his Ninth Symphony, Schubert borrowed from Beethoven’s Ninth, with a quotation from the “Ode to Joy” as the finale’s contrasting theme. Järvi showed no mercy on the strings in their scurrying arpeggio passages leading to the majestic conclusion. The obviously pleased crowd (and the CSO) gave Järvi a solo bow and he led the orchestra in one of his trademark encores (bound to get lots of mileage on the tour), a very schmaltzy Hungarian Dance No. 2 by Brahms. As Friday’s concert demonstrated once again, the CSO works hand-in-glove with Järvi and their level of accomplishment has grown very deep and very natural. His ability to summon nuances, lines and colors from his ninety-some players and shape them into a distinctive, unified voice is what a great musical relationship is made of. Cincinnati has one in Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The concert repeats at 8 p.m. March 15 and 3 p.m. March 16 at Music Hall.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: Symphony playing “heavenly” as it readies for tour


Saturday, March 15, 2008
The Cincinanti Enquirer

By Janelle Gelfand

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's program Friday night in Music Hall was equal parts brilliance and refinement, and the perfect showcase for the orchestra's European tour next month. Paavo Järvi led one of two tour programs that the Cincinnati Symphony will be playing in Europe's musical capitals, and it was clear this ensemble is primed to go on the road. In Schubert's magnificent Symphony No. 9 in C Major, "The Great," the orchestra has never sounded so polished and fresh, or played with such natural spontaneity. Violinist Janine Jansen, a 30-year-old Dutch virtuoso, was soloist in Benjamin Britten's Concerto No. 1, delivering her own remarkable performance of this under-appreciated work. The well-crafted program opened with Arvo Pärt's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten."Schubert's "Great" Symphony is known as "a symphony of heavenly length." Yet this reading, from first note to last, never lacked for inspiration. Järvi took his cue, perhaps, from period instrument performances, for bows were short and timpani attacks were crisp. Yet it also was a performance that sang, befitting this composer of 600 art songs.From the start, one was struck by the clarity, transparency and buoyancy of Järvi's view. The colorful phrasing in the winds, the noble themes in the trombones and the bite in the strings gave it all a breathtaking power. The conductor energized his players with sudden burst of inspiration as he swept them up animatedly, and they responded with superb playing. Tempos were quick, and expressive details, especially in the scherzo, were vivid. Elizabeth Freimuth soared in her opening horn call, and principal oboist Dwight Parry phrased with imagination in his second movement solo. In the evening's first half, Jansen's performance of Britten was equally mesmerizing. The violinist is one of a new generation of stellar artists, whose ease, musicality and freshness seem to anticipate only great things to come. Britten’s Concerto No. 1 of 1939 is rich with Spanish color but the finale reflects the era in which it was written, merging both tragedy and joy. Jansen's lyrical playing emphasized the work's bittersweet quality, as she soared with stunning color into the stratosphere, and dug energetically into the work's intense figures. As the violinist lingered on a phrase here and there, one could only revel in the beauty of her sound. She tackled the scherzo with hair flying, turning to communicate with the orchestra as if she were playing chamber music. For the cadenza she called upon an arsenal of stunning technical effects, including left hand pizzicato. The finale, a passacaglia, was memorable for Jansen's deeply emotional playing. Järvi and the orchestra were seamless partners, and the effect was haunting. The evening opened with Pärt's elegy for Britten. Written for strings and bells, it's an example in the Estonian composer's “tintinnabuli” style. Somber chimes combined with the extraordinary sonority of strings moving in imitation at different tempos. The effect was both hypnotic and deeply touching. This concert is too good to miss. The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today and 3 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. 513-381-3300.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Preview CSO's Europe tour

March 13, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand
Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra are gearing up for a European tour - 12 cities, five countries - next month.
Get a preview of the music
with tour soloist Janine Jansen. The Dutch violinist performs Britten's Violin Concerto No. 1. Järvi leads Schubert's Symphony No. 9, "Great," plus Arvo Pärt's "Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten."
8 p.m. today and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. Tickets: $12-$79.25; $10 students. Sunday, tickets for ages 6-18 are $5. 513-381-3300;
http://www.cincinnatisymphony.org/

CONCERT REVIEW: Paavo with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France

February 22, 2008

Salle Pleyel, Paris

Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France, Paavo Järvi

Mozart : concerto pour violon n°5 Hélène Collerette-Violin
Bruckner : symphonie n°9

Je n’ai malheureusement profité du concerto que par intermittence, la fatigue de la semaine étant nettement plus forte que ma volonté de rester réveillé. Hélène Collerette est l’une des premiers violons solos du Philharmonique. Elle a un joli sens de la ligne musicale et offre un son d’une grande plénitude. Malheureusement, elle a cette manie agaçante de commencer le concerto en jouant avec l’orchestre, ce qui crée un mélange des genres que je n’aime pas. En bis, idée originale qui nous évite le sempiternel Bach : une transcription de l’air de Pamina de la Flûte enchantée pour deux violons, l’accompagnement étant assuré par le premier violon solo de service ce soir, Svetlin Roussev.
Aucun risque de succomber au sommeil, en revanche, durant la symphonie tant l’exécution en fut électrique. La prodigieuse neuvième de Bruckner est l’une de mes œuvres fétiches. L’enregistrement mythique de Giulini (avec les Wiener Philharmoniker) fait partie des trois ou quatre CD que j’emporterais sans hésiter sur une île déserte (en vérifiant préalablement qu’il n’est pas trop usé par des écoutes trop nombreuses). C’est toujours dangereux, bien sûr, d’aller entendre en concert une œuvre que l’on a trop écoutée. Mais mon admiration pour Järvi me fournissait une raison d’espérer une belle expérience… et je n’ai pas été déçu.
Dans les deux premiers mouvements, en particulier, Järvi tire de l’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio-France une performance miraculeuse d’équilibre et de tension. Le discours, guidé par un extraordinaire sens du dessein, est tour à tour captivant et bouleversant. Les cuivres sont à mourir ; les cordes, d’une homogénéité presque parfaite. L’acoustique de Pleyel révèle parfaitement le magnifique et subtil équilibre entre les pupitres (même si l’harmonie semble un tout petit peu trop en retrait par moments). Les dénouements prennent à la gorge.
La fatigue commence malheureusement à se faire sentir dans le troisième mouvement, un tout petit moins réussi que les deux premiers. Les dernières mesures sont presque hypnotiques tellement elles sont bien menées. Malheureusement, le public commence à applaudir beaucoup trop tôt, alors que la dernière note n’a même pas commencé à mourir : phénoménal gâchis. Acclamations méritées pour un Orchestre en état de grâce et pour un Järvi qu’il me tarde de voir plus souvent à Paris lorsqu’il prendra la tête de l’Orchestre de Paris.

Translation through Babel Fish:

I unfortunately benefited from the concerto only intermittently, the tiredness of the week being definitely stronger than my will to remain awake. Helene Collerette is one of the first solo violins of the Philharmonic. She has a pretty direction of the musical line and offers a sound of a great plenitude. Unfortunately, it has this aggravating mania to begin the concerto while playing with the orchestra, which creates a mixture of the kinds that I do not like. In (a), original idea which avoids us sempiternal Bach: a transcription of the air of Pamina of the Magic Flute for two violins, accompaniment being ensured by the first solo violin of service this evening, Svetlin Roussev. No risk to succumb to the sleep, on the other hand, during the symphony so much the execution was electric. The extraordinary ninth of Bruckner is one of my fetish works. The mythical recording of Giulini (with Wiener Philharmoniker) formed part of the three or four CD which I would carry without hesitating over a deserted island (by checking beforehand that it is not too worn by too many listenings). It is always dangerous, of course, to go to hear in concert a work which one listened to too much. But my admiration for Järvi provided me a reason to hope for a beautiful experiment... and I was not disappointed. In the first two movements, in particular, Järvi draws from the Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio-France a miraculous performance of balance and tension. The speech, guided by an extraordinary direction of the intention, is captivating in turn and upsetting. Brass are to die for; strings, of an almost perfect homogeneity. Acoustics of Pleyel reveals perfectly the splendid one and subtle balance between the desks (even if the harmony seems a little too much in withdrawal per moments). The outcome takes to the throat. Tiredness unfortunately starts to be felt in the third movement, a little less successful than the two first. Last measurements are almost hypnotic so much they are well carried out. Unfortunately, the public starts to applaud too much early, whereas the last note did not even start to die: phenomenal waste. Acclamations deserved for an Orchestra in a state of grace and for Järvi whom I can't wait to more often see in Paris when he takes the head of the Orchestra de Paris.
Rédigé par: Laurent

CD REVIEW: Prokofiev Symphony No 5, Lt. Kije Suite

March 9, 2008

Conductor hits his stride with Prokofiev recording
By
Edward Reichel
Deseret Morning News


PAAVO JARVI, CONDUCTOR, CINCINNATI SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA; Prokofiev: "Lieutenant Kije" Suite, Symphony No. 5 (Telarc) ***
Paavo Jarvi has made quite a few recordings with the Cincinnati Symphony since becoming its music director.
The quality of the performances on these CDs has been inconsistent and hasn't accurately reflected on Jarvi's talents as a conductor. Fortunately, artistic quality has improved radically. Jarvi has found his stride as a recording artist, and now his releases are something to anticipate.
With so many record labels and recordings of the same works on the market, that's important. And while the market hasn't been inundated with recordings of Prokofiev's "Liuetenant Kije" Suite or his Fifth Symphony, there are still plenty of choices. And Jarvi's recent release has quite a lot to recommend it.
Prokofiev's Fifth is probably his best symphony. It's a large, ambitious work, grand in scale and one that can easily stand on its own merits next to almost any of Dmitri Shostakovich's symphonic works. The Fifth is quite lyrical, and Jarvi captures this wonderfully, coaxing a richly expressive reading from his orchestra. It's a lucid and compellingly eloquent performance.
The music Prokofiev wrote for "Lieutenant Kije" is among his most colorful and dynamic, owing no doubt to the fact it was written as a film score. Jarvi captures the music's vibrancy, poignancy, lyricism and humor wonderfully. This is a captivating and entertaining reading of one of Prokofiev's most thrilling scores.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paavo Järvi’s Reasons for Recording the Beethoven Symphonies


March 1, 2008

Fanfare magazine


BY JAMES REEL
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 8 [Hybrid SACDAudio CD; Hybrid SACDSony ClassicsBuy now from Amazon
One might suppose that the world doesn’t need another Beethoven symphony cycle. There’s no shortage of truly splendid series on CD, from, say, the 1939 Toscanini/NBC cycle recently reissued by Music & Arts to the currently in-progress Vänskä/Minneapolis set on BIS. Yet, in an era when major labels are stingy with classical new releases, Sony/BMG has launched a Beethoven cycle with Paavo Järvi and the German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen. As you’ll see in my review of the first installment, which follows this feature, Järvi’s already promises to stand among the finest Beethoven symphony performances on disc. Still, we’re talking about more than 70 years of recorded competition out there. Late last year, I called Järvi and asked him why he believed his Beethoven cycle would have a place in the market.
“First,” he answered, “if one could only read Beethoven in one ‘right’ way, there would be no point in exploring him further. Obviously, that’s not the case. Beyond that, for me the Beethoven symphony cycle had a very natural motivation: I found the right partner for the cycle. With any music, or with any creative endeavor, the most difficult and key thing is to find the right partner. In this particular case, after having performed Beethoven’s symphonies for two years (including a rapturously received cycle on tour in Japan), we understand each other and agree with what we want to do together, so it’s very much a collective team effort. If anything, the Beethoven symphonies are the ones you don’t want to compromise with. Some people wait all their lives to record them because they don’t want to compromise. But I found this was the right place, the right people, and the right time in my life.”
Until Järvi began recording with it four years ago, hardly anybody in North America realized that there was a worthy chamber orchestra—let alone a world-class one—in Bremen. The German Chamber Philharmonic was founded in 1980, and based itself in Bremen starting in 1992. It’s a self-governed, democratic ensemble in which the musicians themselves assume the financial risks and make all the managerial decisions. Järvi became the orchestra’s artistic director in 1994 (concurrently with his post in Cincinnati; he has also directed the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2006). Järvi refers to himself as artistic advisor : “I’m part of the team, but not the administrator I would be in America. Some of the people who listen to our CDs might recognize the intense involvement of the musicians. This is not just from an obvious commitment to the music they play; this orchestra is theirs ; they have direct ownership, and it is very much their baby. This kind of mentality encourages and brings out something that is unique. I really feel they have a sense of ownership that I have seen in very few other orchestras in the world. It started from youth orchestra roots, like the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; the players decided to play together after their time in the youth orchestra was finished. Similarly, the ‘graduates’ of this youth orchestra formed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the Ensemble Modern. So the energy and involvement that you hear with these orchestras has a great youth orchestra link. They have the vitality of a youth orchestra, an incredible enthusiasm and love of what they do, and a sense of ownership, which is not usual for an orchestra these days.”
Asked about the possible differences between preparing a Beethoven symphony with the German Chamber Philharmonic and a larger American orchestra, Järvi began to answer the question but quickly veered off into more general stylistic concerns. “First of all,” he said, “it’s a matter of collective anticipation, and how that affects the style of playing. There are so many ways of doing it. People have grown up with this music, and it’s difficult to find one way of doing things because there were different styles in the different places and the different times people grew up. Over the last 15 to 20 years, with historically informed performance practices and period instruments and different editions being published—because of all this, the gap between the traditional and the ‘new’ way of looking at these pieces has widened even further. I would not say that one is correct and one is not correct. To me, the person who knew much more about Beethoven’s symphonies than anyone else is still Furtwängler, one of my biggest idols musically. People often confuse matters of style with matters of substance. The style can never take precedence over the substance. There are certain issues that amplify and clarify the text if there’s a uniform understanding of how to play stylistically, but it’s also a question of agreement and complete unity. If you look at the performances of Harnoncourt and Gardiner, they are supposedly coming from the same side of an argument, but they have completely different beliefs of what is right and what is wrong.”
Both Järvi and the Bremen musicians are cognizant of certain period-performance practices relating to the Beethoven symphonies, and for these recordings they are employing the Bärenreiter New Urtext edition. “On careful listening you can hear some of the differences in this edition,” Järvi said, “but the larger picture remains the same. The differences in the edition only help to clarify some textual issues, some articulation issues. But even with the new editions there are big questions, and one must make decisions about those questions. But this is nothing new; attention to that very fine detail is evident through performance history, and in some ways this is part of the problem. In some cases, we don’t know exactly what was actually written by Beethoven and what is assumed to be correct according to editors. The other thing is, if you look at a lot of these new editions you realize that a lot of the things they do are not so new. Often, the exact same markings are also written in the editions that are traditionally used; it’s just that we take those markings more seriously now. For example, I’m completely convinced that every metronome marking in Beethoven’s symphonies is correct. It’s a convenient issue to debate because it is sometimes easier to say that Beethoven’s metronome was faulty rather than actually try to play at this tempo and try to see the real reasons why Beethoven chose this tempo. The reason that the tempos are uncomfortably fast now is that we play the symphonies with an orchestra that is twice as big as Beethoven had. But if you have 35 people like Beethoven had, if you put an orchestra of the right size on stage, the tempo seems to be natural. That’s an advantage we have with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.”
How does Järvi balance fidelity to the text with the desire or necessity for an individual interpretation? “I think interpretation starts from the text,” he said. “Everything we do in this recording comes from the text first. It’s in there. That’s the starting point. After a while, it becomes yours, it becomes very familiar, something you’ve tried out in different circumstances, at home, on concert tours, you’ve had a chance to doubt your decisions and rethink your decisions. After a while you have kind of slowly earned the ownership, and it becomes very individual, because it’s your personal experience with the piece. But the starting point has to be the text; even then, the text can only give you so much, and you have to make certain decisions. Stravinsky said, ‘Don’t interpret my music, just play the notes.’ But listen to his recordings, and he does different things in different performances. So one must form an opinion, which comes number one from the text, and then from the experience of playing the piece over and over and seeing what works practically.”
One can’t really record the Beethoven cycle without taking a position in the old discussion about whether the symphonies are primarily Classical or Romantic works. “It’s an interesting question because they do fall in between the obvious ideas about stylistic eras,” Järvi said. “At the core, they are Classical. The “Eroica” was revolutionary and shocking during the time of its premiere and still is today, but if one follows the instructions and looks at the metronome markings and takes what he writes seriously, it has a much more Classical feel to it. Having said so, it does work in an expansive, Romanticized way. That could be very gratifying, but I’m not sure that’s what Beethoven had in mind. But who said we are not allowed to use our own imagination and see how the piece develops? I’m much less interested in what’s right and what’s wrong as time goes by and more interested in what kind of experience and human condition does this piece describe? I’d rather start exactly from Beethoven’s markings and say, ‘Look, that’s pushing it a bit.’ Better to do that than put an interpretation as the beginning of your journey. I don’t think that one should assume we know anything about Beethoven’s symphonies just because they are so familiar. Many things are hidden in them. The Beethoven symphonies are still developing, because the music lives in a different environment now. The Beethoven symphonies are not the same to a person who just survived the Second World War as they are to a person who is living in 2007. The environment is different and people are different and people hear things differently. The big pieces are always in constant development. You cannot understand these works in the same way as Bernstein in his time or Mahler in his time. They are something else now; we approach them from the point of view of people living today. That’s why metronome and other markings are so important. With the environment changing, the one thing you really have to go back to is what the composer writes, not what your teacher says or what’s in some recording you heard. It’s healthy to clean up some of the dust.”
According to Järvi, the “Eroica” is one of Beethoven’s greatest challenges from an interpretive standpoint. “The Third Symphony requires Classical clarity,” he said. “On the other hand, it has a very strong story, and to be able to convey that kind of Romantic aspect of a Classical symphony without making it seem ponderous and pompous and heavy, and at the same time not making it seem light and overly easy—it’s difficult to balance, leaning toward the Classical symphony and yet having that forward-looking Romantic expression. Often I have gone too far one way or the other.”
One of the selling points of this series, aside from the performance quality, is its high-resolution Super Audio Compact Disc format. “Honestly, I have not been a big audiophile myself,” said this conductor who has made several fine audiophile recordings for Telarc and PentaTone before this RCA series. “But after hearing enough SACDs and making them in Europe and Cincinnati, I am completely convinced that it allows you to hear things in a way that other formats won’t allow you. There’s a richer, much more realistic definition to the sound. When I was editing the first Beethoven symphonies in Holland, all of a sudden they turned off the SACD and we listened as a normal person would, say in my car, and going back was almost impossible. It felt antiquated.”
What pleases Järvi even more than the sonics is the response to the performances from German reviewers, who saw fit to award the first disc the German Record Critics Prize. “I am very happy that they were so kind to this release,” he said. “With a Beethoven symphony cycle, in Germany they can be quite picky about what’s authentic and what’s not. Their response has been very gratifying, because this cycle to me is a snapshot of my relationship with that orchestra.”
BEETHOVEN Symphonies: No. 3, “Eroica”; No. 8 • Paavo Järvi, cond; German CP, Bremen • RCA 713066 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 69:32)
The most important Beethoven symphony cycles on SACD are DG’s two-channel reissue of the early-1960s Karajan set, which I reviewed in Fanfare 27: 5 (“Karajan’s first DG Beethoven cycle has been a standard by which others are judged for 40 years, and this new SACD remastering ensures that it will remain so for the next generation”); Haitink on LSO Live (received orgasmically in England, more mutedly on this side of the pond); and Vänskä on BIS (not yet complete, but so far it’s a stunning achievement). Now here comes Paavo Järvi with his Bremen chamber orchestra, and his first installment blows Haitink out of the water and fully rises to the high standards of Vänskä’s identical coupling of the Third and Eighth symphonies, which I reviewed in 30:2.
The main difference between Järvi and Vänskä has to do not with interpretive choices so much as the inevitable contrasts in texture between Järvi’s small orchestra and Vänskä’s large one (the Minnesota Orchestra). Even so, Järvi’s strings are definitely up front, and despite their comparatively small numbers they do dominate the tuttis, although the winds have plenty of presence in their solo and ensemble passages.
Järvi’s “Eroica” is full of punch and brio and fine detail. Just listen to the pulse of the stuttering passage about half a minute into the first movement, the carefully crafted articulation and dynamic control, the supple phrasing, with a strong bass line throughout. The quality of playing of the orchestra is superb. The violins are nimble; all the strings largely eschew vibrato, to suspenseful effect in the first movements and with eerie results in the funeral march. The Scherzo is rollicking but never out of control, and the final movement is notable for the clarity of the various voices.
Järvi launches the Eighth swiftly, but he also keeps the music light, graceful, and almost dancelike while applying full force to the knockabout passages. The whole symphony goes by in this manner, and the final movement’s scurrying material is played remarkably quickly, and remarkably cleanly. Here, Järvi is clearly superior to the less witty Vänskä.
Compared to Vänskä, Järvi’s signature has fewer flourishes but is no less bold. Järvi’s attention to precision and detail, and his intelligent forcefulness, alongside a reluctance to over-personalize the interpretation, call to mind Szell/Cleveland in the “Eroica” (also available in an SACD reincarnation, two-channel only).
Regarding the sonics, there’s a sense of space behind the orchestra, rather than in front of it, giving the ensemble a particular resonance without making it seem distant.
If you’re looking for a single Beethoven cycle in surround sound, should you invest in Vänskä or Järvi? Judging from this first installment, Järvi’s traversal has much in common with Vänskä’s, although the latter conductor tends to italicize his points just a bit more. Each of these in-progress cycles is superb, and your choice may come down to whether you want your Beethoven to sound full or lean.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: Lots of new at the CSO


March 8, 2008

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
NOTE: The March 8 repeat of this concert has been canceled due to blizzard conditions. It is the first subscription concert cancellation in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 113-year history.
What no violas? That was about all that was missing in German composer Jörg Widmann’s “Antiphon” for Orchestral Groups, given its U.S. premiere by Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Friday morning at Music Hall. Twenty-five minutes in length, the powerful work was no mere curtain raiser. Commissioned by the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, which premiered it Feb. 27 under Jarvi’s direction, it filled the stage and the hall with a panoply of instrumental voices arranged into mini-choirs.
Jörg WidmannThough no one would confuse it with the antiphonal works of Italian baroque composer Giovanni Gabrieli (Widmann’s inspiration for the work, he said) it carried its own strong message, a commentary perhaps on today’s globalized, polyglot world. The concert -- which drew a remarkably large audience considering the snow piling up outside and a blizzard warning in effect until Saturday afternoon -- also featured the CSO debut of Japanese violinist Sayaka Shoji and the first performance since 1934 of Sibelius’ Third Symphony. Shoji, 24, was the youngest person (age 16) and the first Japanese to win the Paganini Violin Competition. She has been making global strides since then, and her performance of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto showed that she not only has a voice of her own, but something to say. As for the Sibelius Third Symphony, what he said in 1907 is perhaps just now beginning to be understood and appreciated. The CSO was split and rearranged into sections for Widmann’s “Antiphon,” four violins in their usual position on the left facing six cellos on the right. Behind them in rows came the woodwinds, arranged by sections with four double basses forming the back row on each side. Trumpets, horns and trombones, also in fours, plus tuba, occupied the middle of the stage. Four percussionists with plenty of instruments to play were aligned across the back. Järvi conducted without a baton. Perhaps reminiscent of Gabrieli’s brassy Venetian models, the work gives a strong role to the trumpets, who sounded a bright opening fanfare that ended on a stinging dissonance followed by a huge outburst of timpani. (The character of the trumpets remained clamorous and pre-emptive until just before the end, when their mutes came on.) The musical material is crosscut, with choirs interrupting each other constantly, creating slashing colors and lines that sometimes connect in pointillistic fashion. Percussion played a large role, especially metal percussion, usually applied with crashing effect. It was a world of sounds more or less communicating with or protesting against each other. (At one point the double basses shuddered against the bass trombone for a dismal effect.) A four-note motive finally began to emerge, only to be swallowed up in a clatter of trumpets and percussion before re-emerging in the lower voices. Energy dissipated toward the end, leaving a bleak impression with string harmonics and a brief shiver of winds. Widmann, 34, came to the stage to share the applause with Järvi and the CSO (taking time to shake the hands of the trumpet players). Tchaikovsky’s hyper-romantic Violin Concerto was like a taste of honey after the Widmann. A native of Tokyo now resident in Paris, Shoji seemed a bit slow warming to it (perhaps a touch of nervousness?). Her entrance was almost casual as she introduced the main theme of the opening movement. By the time she reached the cadenza, however, the spark was lit and her technique shone brightly. The movement’s most captivating moment came after that as she climbed into the violin’s highest register and let it sing serenely but softly, spinning out an exquisite elaboration of the theme. The Canzonetta slow movement, where she engaged in some tender dialogues with flutist Jasmine Choi and clarinetist Jonathan Gunn, was meltingly beautiful. Everything came together in the finale, where she demonstrated faultless spiccato bowing, a gutsy tone on the big gypsy theme and a tender one in softer, more lyrical passages. Järvi led the CSO with color and precision, often highlighting piquant inner voices. Friday’s Sibelius Third was only the second in the CSO’s 113-year history. The only previous performance was its CSO premiere in 1934 under Eugene Goossens. No doubt it was received well then, its eclipse -- and indeed the composer’s -- having been determined more by musical fashion than merit. Fortunately, it is no longer a guilty pleasure to love Sibelius’ music, which was largely discounted during the height of 20th-century modernism. The Third, which Sibelius labored over for three years, marks a stylistic shift from his earlier, late-romantic symphonies and pleased few of his fans at the time it was written either. In hindsight, it shows him going his own way, rejecting both Mahlerian expansiveness and the coming harmonic revolution. (There were other protesters, too, like Stravinsky.) Today, his originality within the context of the classic symphonic tradition – the use of motivic development and adherence to absolute music -- is better recognized and appreciated. Besides that, the Third Symphony just sounds like Sibelius. It is his voice and no other, a quality Järvi scrupulously observed by evoking a big sound from the strings, something Sibelius wished to preserve though he scored it for modest winds and brasses and no percussion other than timpani. The jaunty, folk-like first movement transpired with zest in Järvi’s hands, and he brought out all of its perky, almost melodies. The horns were refulgent when called upon, and the enigmatic ending (a characteristic of the composer) sealed it with an “Amen”-like benediction. Sibelius’ most famous work was “Valse Triste,” the spirit of which can be found in the Third Symphony’s muted, melancholy second movement. The pulse shifts from three to two beats per measure and back, giving it a quirky feel, and there are some ravishing moments for divided cellos. It, too, ends somewhat enigmatically as if repeatedly asking a question (soft squiggles in the winds). The answer is an echo of the movement’s opening and soft, broken chords at the end. The last movement serves as both scherzo and finale, the former questing and wandering as if asking “where are we?” Järvi gave it personality as it led into the affirmative conclusion, first stated by a chorale-like motif in the violas. Momentum built as the theme moved up through the orchestra toward the final, joyous C Major chord (a rush that reminds me of the ending of the first movement of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5). With the Third, Järvi and the CSO will have traversed all of the Sibelius symphonies except No. 1, which can be expected as early as next season (to be announced March 16). At intermission, it was announced that the CSO Chamber Players concert scheduled for Friday evening had been canceled and that Saturday morning’s CSO “Lollipop” Family Concert had been re-scheduled for May 10.

Friday, March 07, 2008

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO glows during snows


March 7, 2008

The Cincinnati Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

The worst snowstorm of the season didn’t keep throngs of intrepid music lovers away from the
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's concert this morning in Music Hall.
The Cincinnati Symphony has not canceled a subscription concert in 113 years. So while snow fell outside at the rate of about an inch per hour, the orchestra put on a glowing performance of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and an American premiere by Jörg Widmann.
Music director Paavo Järvi was back in town for the program that included the stunning debut of violinist Sayaka Shoji in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major.
The 24-year-old Tokyo native is tiny in stature, but the sound she produced on her “Joachim” Stradivarius was startling for its big, glossy quality. She didn’t draw attention to her ability to perform fireworks, which she easily tossed off in the finale. What stood out was the sheer perfection of her playing.
The violinist took a relaxed tempo in the first movement, emphasizing its lyricism. The slow movement, with its haunting, Russian-flavored theme, was moving for Shoji’s beautiful phrasing as well as for the throaty sound she drew on her instrument. She tore into the finale, in a triumph of technique, warmth and spontaneity. Järvi and the orchestra were ideal partners in this collaboration.Järvi opened with the premiere of Widmann’s “Antiphon,” a piece perhaps more interesting for its process than its content. The musicians were arranged in different choirs, meant to evoke Giovanni Gabrieli’s antiphonal choirs in Venice. Snippets of motives and percussive crashes were tossed back and forth between players, and pianissimo moments alternated with shrieks. Although inventive, it was fragmented and mechanical until the music finally evolved into fullblown polyphony. It was like a chef who deconstructs the meal before you eat it.The Munich-born composer was present to take a bow.Järvi concluded the concert with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 3, not performed by the orchestra since 1934 under Eugene Goossens.The Third is an unusually cheerful symphony by the Finnish composer whose music is often described as “brooding.” The “north woods” atmosphere is still evident, but the joy of this piece is its folklike tunes and classical simplicity. Just 30 minutes long, it is a gem of a symphony.Järvi made a fine case for it, illuminating its soaring themes in horns and winds, balancing majestic sonorities against the more intimate, classical moments. The finale, with its hymn for cellos and violas, was a radiant summation. Today’s Lollipop concert is postponed to May 10. The CSO repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: 513-381-3300.

Japanese star debuts with CSO



March 7, 2008
The Cincinanti Enquirer
By Janelle Gelfand

Paavo Järvi introduces a new talent to the region in Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend.

Japanese violinist Sayaka Shoji makes her debut in Tchaikovsky's romantic Violin Concerto in D Major, 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall.

Already a big star in Japan, she is the youngest winner of the famed Paganini Competition (in 1999 at age 16) and holds a coveted recording contract on Deutsche Grammophon.


Järvi also leads the U.S. premiere of Jörg Widmann's "Antiphon," as well as Sibelius' Symphony No. 3.

Tickets: $12-$79.25; $10 students. 513-381-3300; www.cincinnatisymphony.org.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


March 4, 2008

Jörg Widmann's Antiphon Sees North American Premiere with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra

Following last month's world premiere by Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Jörg Widmann's Antiphon sees its North American premiere on Friday, March 7 under Maestro Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Modeled after the principles of Venetian polychorality, the work is characterized by each instrumental choir alternating constantly and rapidly throughout. Widmann elaborates:
I abandoned entirely my preference for the smallest of transitions and imperceptible merging of sounds in favor of a clearly separating 'splitting sound', of a radical cutting technique. The basic material is rather simple and strictly limited: a fast fanfare rhythm, a slowly repeated ritual-like stretched percussion pulse, and a melodic shape that, on each new note, wanders to another instrument group. Monophony gradually becomes a two part, then three-part structure and finally polyphony which jumps in sections from instrument group to instrument group. Everything is subjugated to the idea of alternate singing, of the antiphon.
The Cincinnati Symphony follows the premiere performance with a performance on March 8.

Frankfurt concerts: Paavo Jarvi and Leonidas Kavakos




Brettspiele nach lässigen Regelwerken
February, 2008


VON HANS-JÜRGEN LINKE
Die Orchestermusiker müssen auf der Bühne ungewohnte Plätze aufsuchen. Zum Beispiel sitzen Kontrabassisten in je zwei Vierergruppen links und rechts außen, bilden eine Klammer um die Holzbläser und so fort, man muss gar nicht ins Detail gehen, nur so viel: Jörg Widmann hat sich für seine Komposition "Antiphon" - eine Auftragskomposition des Hessischen Rundfunks - einen eigenen Klangraum aus Musikergruppen arrangiert, und Dirigent Paavo Järvi muss von seinen Gewohnheiten beim Einsatzgeben Abstand gewinnen. Dem Titel entspricht nicht nur die vielchörige Anordnung der Musiker, sondern auch seine Bauweise. Widmann lässt die den Gruppen zugeteilten Klangelemente nach- und nebeneinander erklingen, verzichtet auf interne Entwicklung und Spielfluss und schiebt Material wie in einem planvollen akustischen Brettspiel durch den Raum. Interaktion zwischen den Instrumentalgruppen besteht in der Bildung von Gegensatzpaaren.Der Effekt ist erstaunlich. Das Stück wirkt einerseits aufgeräumt und überschaubar, andererseits in jedem Augenblick unvorhersehbar. "Antiphon" ist ein Verwirrspiel nach klaren Regeln - und die ganze Zeit über ein kontrastreiches, scharf geschnittenes Gebilde aus vitalen Klangformen. Die Musiker des HR-Sinfonieorchesters taten ihre Arbeit unter den geometrisch inspirierten Gesten Paavo Järvis ohne Weichzeichner.

Carl Nielsens Violinkonzert, das zweite Stück des HR-Sinfoniekonzerts in der Alten Oper, ist viersätzig, macht aber eher den Eindruck von zwei abgeschlossenen zweisätzigen Stücken. Der Solist Leonidas Kavakos gab dem Werk einen ungemein elastischen, eher subtil und artistisch als virtuos gestalteten Ton und behielt in dem widersprüchlich gebauten Werk eine Reserve, die seinem Ausdruck stets etwas Überlegtes gab. Auch die nachdrücklich virtuos geschriebenen und ausgeführten Passagen behielten einen Hauch von Lässigkeit, die sich als Mittel erwies, Nielsens Konzert wie unter eine Lupe zu legen. Die Begeisterung für Kavakos' Interpretation war so nachdrücklich, dass er nicht ohne Zugabe in die Pause durfte, wofür er "Recuerdos de la Alhambra" des spanischen Gitarristen und Komponisten Francisco Tarrega wählte, ein leises, Werkchen mit kompliziertesten Doppelgriffen, das ihm noch einmal Gelegenheit zu seiner speziellen Verbindung von Virtuosität und Lässigkeit gab. Bevor sich dann das HR Sinfonieorchester nach der Pause mit Bruckners Unvollendeter ins Hochgebirge begab.In hr2-Kultur am Dienstag, 11. März, 20.05 Uhr.