The upcoming 2013/14 season marks the end of Paavo Järvi’s successful seven-year engagement as Music Director of the hr-Sinfonieorchester (Frankfurt
Radio Symphony Orchestra). Fortunately he will continue to be closely
associated with the orchestra as ‘Conductor Laureate’.
The Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi has been the Artistic Director of
„Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen“ since 2004. In 2010 he was
named Musical Director of the Orchestre de Paris, and in June 2012 he
was also appointed Principal Conductor of the NHK Symphony Orchestra
starting in the 2015/16 season.
Prior to his departure from Frankfurt and the hr-Sinfonieorchester I
had the chance to talk to him about his time working with my favorite
orchestra and some other topics like twittering from concerts.
Maestro Järvi, what is so appealing about being chief conductor of so many orchestras?
I don’t have any conflict with this. I have a very clear path and a very
clearly thought-out plan with each orchestra. And each orchestra is
very different. For example, when in Frankfurt, we are concentrating on
large Germanic repertoire: Mahler, Bruckner, we did Hans Rott here,
we’re doing Franz Schmidt. We also did Nielsen Symphonies and some New
Music. At Kammerphilharmonie in Bremen it’s all classical, and it’s all
early romantic classical repertoire – Beethoven, Schumann. But it’s a
different type of music making. The Kammerphilharmonie is a small
orchestra with an entirely different mentality. And in France, of
course, we concentrate mostly on music of colour, so to speak: Slavic
music, Russian music, French music. For example, last week we did a
recording of Poulenc, previously Fauré, before that Bizet. We have done a
lot of music that belongs to the core of French orchestra repertoire,
for example, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Debussy, Ravel and so on. So, there
is no conflict. It just makes my life a little bit more difficult – but
But you are with another orchestra every few weeks. Isn’t it difficult to adjust?
No, no. I’m so used to it. I can adjust from one to another. The most
important thing for me is the repertoire. I’m a musician for only one
reason: because I like and love the symphonic repertoire. If I was music
director only in one orchestra, I would be here, let’s say, 14 or 15
weeks like I was here in Frankfurt now. In this 15 weeks you do 15
programmes, and to me that’s not enough. I need more variety. I need to
have more interesting angles of repertoire. Besides, one of the things I
don’t like very much is guest conducting. I don’t like being guest in
an orchestra in a city where you come for four days and then you leave. I
do not get very good results from the orchestras. Orchestras always
know that the guest conductor has limited time and limited influence. To
me that’s artistically not very interesting. I do very few guest
And when you are here in Frankfurt, for example, for how long you will work with the orchestra?
Well, we have rehearsals from Monday until Friday with concerts on
Friday and Saturday. It’s standard everywhere. But I know this orchestra
very well. Therefore I start from a much higher level. They know that I
don’t leave next week. They know that I will be here, and they know
what I expect. They know me like I know them. We have a relationship. We
have been on tour together. We did many concerts together. We know each
other. We start from a much higher level.
How big is your influence on the repertoire? Do you arrange
with Andrea Zietzschmann [Head of hr Music Department and Manager of
hr-Sinfonieorchester] about the programmes? What is your part in putting
the programmes together?
Of course, I decide on the repertoire that I conduct. But the wonderful
thing with Andrea Zietzschmann is that we discuss everything. Therefore,
we had a very interesting longterm plan. My programmes were the ones
that were first settled, and then the rest of the season was built
around them. As music director you have the right to choose your
programmes and your soloists, you have the first choice of tours – so, I
prefer to be music director.
What’s the difference between working with the hr-Sinfonieorchester and an American or French orchestra?
There are differences in many ways. For example, the
hr-Sinfonieorchester is a very versatile orchestra. They play Baroque
very well, they play New Music very well, they play romantic music.
There’s a lot of flexibility. They are a recording orchestra which means
that when the microphone, the red light, goes on there is a level of
concentration which is very hard to find in other orchestras.
In other German orchestras as well?
If you have a philharmonic orchestra, they don’t have the same
versatility. They don’t do so many different programmes. They also don’t
record so much. Well, every orchestra has it’s own personality. If you
talk about American orchestras, that’s an entirely different world
because they have very conservative programming, very strong, good
musicians but not as much experience with New Music, not as much
experience with live recordings like we do. So, every orchestra has a
Are you especially talented to conduct so many different orchestras?
As I said, you need to adjust to the situation that you are in. Certain
things that work in America don’t work in Germany. A certain approach
that works in France doesn’t work in England. Intuitively, you have to
feel what the orchestra needs and how to talk to the orchestra. How far
can you push the orchestra? How quickly can you rehearse? How intensive
can the rehearsal be? It all depends on the personality of the
orchestra. It’s not so much a matter of talent, it’s more a question of
being sensitive to the environment that you are in at the moment.
What about the audiences? Does the subscriber audience here
in Frankfurt differ from the audience at the Rheingau Music Festival or
Well, the public is different everywhere as well. The wonderful thing in
Germany, especially here in Frankfurt, is that the people that come
like the pieces. Many of them are subscribers, they are longterm music
lovers. Maybe the applause is not very enthusiastic but it’s very long
and very steady and very respectful. In France, for example, you have
this immediate sort of big stormy ovation but when you’re offstage it
stops. So, they are very temperamental but with a shorter attention
span. And in Bremen, for example, I wouldn’t even call it public, it’s
more like a fanclub. They just love the orchestra so much. They are
always sold out. They would applaude for hours if they could. It’s an
entirely different relationship because they are very proud of the
Kammerphilharmonie in Bremen. They are very loved in the city. So, the
audience is almost kind of a family. It’s different everywhere.
Can you name the highlights of your time as chief conductor of the hr-Sinfonieorchester?
Well, it’s hard to name single events, there were so many highlights: London Proms a couple of years ago, it’s also on YouTube
if you want to see it, the last Asian tour was wonderful, Korea was
fantastic. Suntory Hall (Tokio), just recently. One of the funny things I
enjoyed and I will always remember is the concert with Paul van Dyk,
the DJ, in the Music Discovery Project. This opening concert
with Lang Lang was absolutely wonderful. There have been a lot of
interesting, good concerts. Musikverein in Vienna – the Bruckner V at
Musikverein that was a special concert. We have been at Concertgebouw a
few times with this orchestra. So, there have been a lot of highlights.
The German radio station Deutschlandradio recently called you one of the most successful conductors. What do you think about that?
I don’t know what that means: successful. I enjoy what I am doing. I
mean, how do you judge success? If you are happy with what you are
doing, and if you have enough freedom to choose the programmes and the
musicians you work with, and if you get good enough results, that’s the
main thing. For me, that’s a success, that’s what I need. All the other
stuff doesn’t really matter.
In April, you will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. Is this the first time you work with them?
No, it’s the third time.
Is it something special to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic? Does it mean you have made it?
Of course, every time you conduct Berlin Philharmonic it’s special. On
the other hand, every orchestra in every concert has to be special, you
know. When I conduct my orchestra in Paris it’s special, here in
Frankfurt it’s special. Of course, one cannot deny the special status of
Berlin Philharmonic but on the other hand: concerts are concerts. You
have to conduct well and you have to make music as well as you can.
Does it make a difference for you if you are conducting a
concert at the Alte Oper Frankfurt or a concert at the Berlin
Philharmonic, knowing the latter can be attended worldwide by a lot of
people via Digital Concert Hall?
You don’t think about these things when you conduct. When you conduct you conduct. In Frankfurt, we also have transmissions via Arte Live Web and a lot of people around the world see it as well. But I don’t think about it when I conduct. You concentrate on the music.
Maestro Järvi, you are an active social network user, at least you’re making use of Twitter.
Does this lead to a stronger connection with your audience? Do you talk
with your audience on Twitter or do they make suggestions? Do you use
No, Twitter is just fun. You put in some funny things and some pictures.
I don’t do any of this too pragmatically to kind of connect with the
audience. It’s a kind of a curiosity of the 21st century to
be able to connect with the audience or even with friends. I don’t
necessarily try to sell anything on Twitter or somehow do anything
special. It’s just a way to share information and sometimes – most of
the time – a way to share something funny.
Do you think social media can provide an understanding for
classical music? Or do you think that the future of classical concerts
lies in the Digital Concert Hall?
I think that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, have and
will become even more important, not only for classical music but for
anybody because this will be the main form of actual sharing of any
information. I have an official Facebook Page
and a lot of people seem to find it. I don’t do anything special with
it but it is a kind of a curious way to put out information. I find it
fascinating that people can follow you. Or you can follow some other
people. It is potentially very powerful. But in order for this to be
very successful one has to work hard, and I don’t work hard on Facebook.
Last September, we organized a tweetup during a public rehearsal of hr-Sinfonieorchester. Did you hear about it?
What do you think about projects like this?
I think it’s fine. Any experiment is ok. I wouldn’t tweet during the
concerts. For me, the concert is the music, nothing else. But if you
want to, that’s fine.
In the US, the discussion about offering special “tweet
seats” for concert- or theatre-goers arose just recently. What do you
think about it?
I personally don’t see the point of it. If you go and see a
concert then you have to enjoy the concert and experience the moment.
Tweeting about it you can do after the concert. But if that’s what you
want, you know, I’m not judging anybody. I think that many people have
an entirely different understanding of music, a different need to share
it. I think, it’s OK.
Thank you very much, Maestro Järvi!http://orchestrasfan.de/interview-with-conductor-paavo-jaervi/