Paavo Järvi, former music director of the CSO, returns to Music Hall this week.
Paavo Järvi’s life has not changed much since he finished his tenure as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in May 2011 – with the exception of one thing.
“I don’t get to see the Cincinnati Symphony musicians much,” Järvi said. “All that time that was built into being in Cincinnati was automatically transferred to other projects which I needed time for. So basically, the intensity of work never changed. It just opened up slightly different geography.”
Järvi, now music director laureate, returns to Music Hall on Thursday to lead the orchestra in music by Schumann, Lutoslawski and Brahms.
He’s just had a momentous week, having celebrated his 50th birthday last Sunday conducting a concert in Estonia. He was also honored as “Musician of the Year” by Estonian Public Broadcasting in a concert broadcast live from Tallinn on radio and web on New Year’s Day.
“It’s a special thing for me, because you get all kinds of recognition from all different places, but when it comes from home, it’s especially meaningful,” said the Estonian-born conductor Thursday from Palm Beach, Fla.
He was enjoying a few days in Florida with his two young daughters, who live in Cincinnati, and whom he visits often, he said. However, this visit will be the first time he will see the new Washington Park across from Music Hall.
“This is one of the reasons why I can’t wait to come back to Cincinnati, to see how everything has changed around Music Hall,” he said.
Järvi is in his third season as music director of the Orchestre de Paris, where his contract is extended to 2015-16. He is also music director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. In the 2015-16 season, he will become chief conductor of the NHK Symphony in Japan.
He has given up most guest-conducting stints, “a New Year’s resolution that I have tried to stick to, and it doesn’t always work,” he said.
In Paris, the French daily Le Monde recently wrote that the honeymoon has not ended after three years. Järvi awaits the completion there of a new performing arts center, noting, “These major multimillion-Euro projects only get more expensive with each year of delay.”
With his German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen, he has recorded the complete Beethoven symphonies and just finished a Schumann cycle, including the four symphonies and overtures. Both sets are on DVD, with accompanying films about the recording sessions. His next project will be a cycle of Brahms, another favorite composer.
Revisiting Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 in Cincinnati will be a bit different this time around, he said.
“My view of Brahms has changed,” he said. “We are so in awe of the perfection, we cannot help but want to show the intricate counterpoint, every motive, everything he has written, that we sometimes forget that these are just the tools, the building blocks that communicate something bigger. ... It needs to make you cry, make you laugh, make you feel something. Nobody cares about the mechanics of how a cathedral is put together. But you look at how magnificent it is, and how it can move you.
“The verbal explanation will always be inadequate in music, but that’s the direction I find I’m going.”