by Janelle Gelfand
Paavo Järvi gestures Saturday during his final concert as music director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. / The Enquirer/Joseph Fuqua IIFor the musicians who have played with Paavo Järvi for a decade, and those who have heard his exciting performances, his last concert as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night was both celebratory and bittersweet.
"What Paavo has done for this city is remarkable. He has put us on the map," said Bill Friedlander, a longtime symphony supporter who, with his wife Susan, helped to fund the CSO's Japan tour in 2009. "The man has been amazing. He's been a real plus for our city."
A large "Bravo Paavo" banner was draped over a railing over Music Hall's foyer, which held a crush of music lovers of all ages. Inside, the hall was packed up to the rafters for the sold-out performance. It marked the end of an era.
William Platt, who retired last season after four decades as principal percussionist, will remember the "great performances, great tours and great recordings." His favorite performance was playing the snare drum part in Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5 under Järvi.
"The greatest part of our profession is the people one gets to meet and work with, many of whom become lifelong friends," he said. "I'm indeed fortunate to consider Paavo my friend and I'll miss him dearly."
When Järvi entered the stage on Saturday to conduct a program of Erkki-Sven Tüür and Mahler's Symphony No. 5, the audience gave him an instantaneous, thunderous standing ovation.
Mark Weaver, 51, of Hyde Park, a member of the May Festival Chorus, wouldn't have missed the concert, despite a seven-hour rehearsal there for the May Festival, which opens Friday.
The chorus has sung with Järvi many times.
"I remember him first coming to town, and he was a rock star," he said. He's very soft-spoken the way he does things, but the music he leads is very exciting. You can tell from tonight's turnout, he's really turned things around for the symphony. They'll have some large shoes to fill."
Kelci Hill, 18, and her sister, Kori, 20, both violinists who live in College Hill, spoke about Järvi's energy, too. They have performed in the lobby before concerts.
"I feel sad," Kelci said. "He's a really great conductor, but he's moving on to bigger and better things. All I can do is wish him good luck."
On the second floor of the balcony, where a farewell party would take place later that evening, Crystal Thies, 39, and Rich Seil, 43, of Ludlow, Ky., were gazing up at the new portrait of the maestro by artist Carin Hebenstreit. The oil painting was dedicated in February, and hangs with those of other maestros.
"I moved here right before he started. I'm a native of Cleveland, so we come from a very good symphony background, and we really enjoy what Paavo has done for the Cincinnati Symphony," Thies said. Seil, who is a Suzuki piano coordinator at Wyoming Fine Arts Center, agreed.
"He's a really interesting interpreter. He's very dynamic and he always brings out something interesting. The orchestra has been very lively since he's been here," he said.
Several musicians, entering the stage door to perform their last concert with Järvi, stopped to reflect on what he had done for the orchestra.
Tuba player Carson McTeer was impressed that Järvi always knew every part - even if the tuba only had five notes.
"He always found a way to inspire me," he said.
Trumpeter Doug Lindsay said for him the night was "the end of 10 of the most intense years of my life with this orchestra. You feel like it's the end of a real opus."
Sally Lund, 71, of Walnut Hills wouldn't have missed a week in her seat in the balcony.
"I was here last night and tonight because I can't let go of him," she said. "I'm going to miss the energy he has given all of us, and the special love of music we're not used to. I wish him well and I wish he weren't leaving, but I understand."
Longtime supporter Jane Ellis, who has attended the Cincinnati Symphony since the Eugene Goossens era in the 1940s, was sad, "but I know it's his decision. Please come back soon," she said.