Mary Ellyn HuttonJan 9, 2013
Standing before the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this week, former Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Paavo Järvi, now music director laureate, felt as if he had never left.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” he said after rehearsing the orchestra earlier this week. “It’s one of those wonderful things where you just feel somehow connected. We have been doing so many things together for so many years, tours and so on, that after a minute or two, it all starts coming back.”
Järvi, CSO music director from 2001-2011, conducts the orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. He will lead a community concert in Hamilton High School Auditorium in Hamilton at 7:30 p.m. Friday. It will be his first return visit to the CSO since stepping down in May, 2011. On the program are Brahms’ Second Symphony and the Overture to “Genoveva” by Robert Schumann. Guest artist for the Music Hall concerts is pianist Stewart Goodyear in the 1987 Piano Concerto by Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski (Goodyear will not perform in Hamilton).
Though based in Paris now, where he is music director of the Orchestre de Paris, Järvi actually returns to Cincinnati quite often to see his young daughters Lea and Ingrid, children by his former wife, violinist Tatiana Berman. “I come back incognito, or sometimes not so incognito,” he said, plus “we Skype every day. They send little messages to me and little private videos, so we are always in touch.”
He has been delighted, he said, to see the renewal taking place in Cincinnati. “This time I’m going to really take a look around the downtown and Over-the-Rhine, because I know that things have changed here. This is just what I was hoping would happen. The prospect seemed rather bleak ten years ago. Seeing this whole area around Music Hall blossom is amazing.
“I saw on Facebook pictures somebody posted from their windows of the volley ball tournament. (The Association of Volleyball Professionals Beach Volleyball tournament took place on Elm Street between Music Hall and Washington Park in early September. See http://www.blogotr.com/otr/the-avp-cincinnati-open-at-washington-park/.) I mean, who would have thought ten years ago?”
Järvi, who turned 50 in December, is also artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and chief conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. His tenure in Frankfurt ends this season, but in 2015 he will become music director of Tokyo’s NHK Symphony. His relationships with his European orchestras have been fruitful, with complete cycles of Beethoven and Schumann with the DKB, Bruckner in Frankfurt and Carl Nielsen with the Orchestre de Paris. He and the DKB will add Beethoven’s opera “Fidelio”to their catalog next season, and will begin a Brahms cycle.
There has been sterling recognition to match. Järvi was named ECHO Klassik Conductor of the Year in 2010 for Symphonies No. 2 and 6 of the DKB Beethoven cycle and the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis in 2007 for Nos. 3 and 8. In 2011, he was named Chevalier de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by French minister of culture Frédéric Mitterrand for his outstanding contribution to French Music, and in 2012, he won the Hindemith Prize, awarded by the city of Hanau, Germany, for advancing the music of Paul Hindemith. Coincident with his 50th birthday (December 30), Estonian Public Broadcasting named him 2012 Musician of the Year.
These achievements have much to do with Järvi’s preference for forming relationships with orchestras as opposed to guest conducting, which he freely admits he “doesn’t like very much. It can, of course, be very exciting," he said, "but most of the time it is exactly a guest situation. If you go to an orchestra, it doesn’t matter how good the orchestra is, the orchestra knows that you are leaving in three days, and the commitment is not the same. Also, your mandate is not the same. I mean, if you go to somebody’s house for dinner, you’re not going to re-arrange the furniture. It doesn’t matter how much you want it to be different, you’re not going to do it, because it’s not your house. You are just coming for dinner.”
“Love stories do happen,” he said, and one of them was with the CSO, which he first conducted in February, 1999. “You can completely fall in love and then everything works, but that happens very, very, very rarely. It happened here.”
Järvi has no desire to score in the top 10 of world’s busiest conductors, he said. (A web site that purports to track such things, www.bachtrack.com, listed him as 8th busiest in 2010 and 4th busiest in 2011.) “This is something I am never inspired to do.” As it is, with his new Japanese post, he is booked into 2018. He will return to Cincinnati and, in fact, has a date with the CSO next season, which he calls “very exciting.” (The CSO season will be announced later this month.)
A commitment that Järvi is particularly devoted to is the Järvi Festival in Pärnu, Estonia. Founded in 2011, it is held in conjunction with the annual Järvi Summer Academy, a workshop for young conductors from all over the world led by his father Neeme Järvi. “There are many master classes that teach conducting,” he said. “Ours is a little bit special, I think. My father is a very good teacher and somebody with a lot of experience. Usually, master classes are taught by professors who have a distinguished history of teaching, but to have that life experience is something that can benefit a young conductor in a very different way.” (For information about the Järvi Academy, seewww.jarviacademy.ee.) A goal of the Järvis is to inspire a new generation of Estonian conductors, he said.“Estonia is a very small country (1.34 million in 2011). I was the young conductor for a long time. There need to be twenty-year-olds who will take over, who will keep doing what we have started.”
Another objective of the Järvi Festival is “to create an orchestra that is really exceptional. We have very good young musicians in Estonia. And we have many very good musicians who are Estonian who are playing in orchestras everywhere in the world. A lot of those people have no contact any more with Estonia, and they want to come back and spend, say, a month in the summer to have this re-connection.” There are non-Estonians in the orchestra, too, he said, “if we don’t have somebody of the right level.” For instance, the festival orchestra’s principal viola is from the Berlin Philharmonic and a principal horn player is from the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra. The festival is attractive, also, because of its location in Pärnu, a picture-perfect town on the Baltic Sea where Järvi spent summers as a child.
Planning for the 2013 Järvi Festival is underway and will be published soon, he said. (For information, see jarvifestival.ee.)
Järvi was in Pärnu for his 50th birthday and led a concert with the Estonian National Orchestra at Pärnu’s gem-like, glass-walled concert hall Dec. 30. He and the orchestra were in the capital city Tallinn Jan. 1 for a festive New Year’s Day concert that was web cast by Estonian television. “We had two birthday parties, one a kind of private party for my friends, and after the concert on the 1st I invited the whole orchestra.”
Järvi is wearing his 50 years lightly. Asked how it feels to be a half-century old, he said, “I feel younger than I was a year ago. But since it just happened, maybe it has an incubation period. Maybe I’ll feel 50 all of a sudden in February. What I can say is that somehow things have settled. Certain things have become clearer to me, certain aspects of what’s important, what’s less important. It helps to make priorities clearer.”
Paavo Järvi conducts the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Guest artist is pianist Stewart Goodyear in the Piano Concerto by Witold Lutoslawski. Also on the program are the Overture to “Genoveva”by Robert Schumann and Brahms’ Second Symphony. Tickets begin at $10, available by calling (513) 381-3300, or order online at www.cincinnatisymphony.org.
Note: Järvi will lead the CSO in a community concert, to include the Brahms Symphony and Schumann Overture (Goodyear will not perform), at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Hamilton High School auditorium, 1165 Eaton Ave. in Hamilton. Tickets are $20, $10 for students. Call (866) 967-8167, or visit showtix4u.com. A portion of the proceeds from this concert will benefit the instrumental music program at Hamilton High School.