Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Kein Mann für einen Abend

niusic.de
Malte Hemmerich
4.06.2019


Der Dirigent Paavo Järvi erzählt, was er am Klang des Tonhalle Orchesters Zürich verbessern will, wie er mit Orchestern arbeitet – und warum andere Musiker auf ihn neidisch sein können.
Paavo Järvi kommt aus einer Musikerfamilie und ist auf gutem Wege, seinen umtriebigen Vater als fleißigsten Dirigenten aller Zeiten abzulösen. Jetzt ist er auch noch Chef des Tonhalle Orchesters Zürich geworden. Nach Proben in der Elbphilharmonie hat er tatsächlich einen halben Tag Zeit für sich. Eigentlich Luxus für den Dirigenten. Doch statt dann wie normalerweise seine Kräfte zu regenerieren und viel zu schlafen, hat er sich Zeit für ein Interview genommen.
niusic: Herr Järvi, Sie sagten mal in einem Interview, dass Dirigentsein ein lächerlicher Job sei. Was war heute denn lächerlich oder seltsam?
Järvi: Tatsächlich war heute bisher ein guter Tag, denn ich musste nicht um sechs Uhr aufstehen und fliegen. Also diese Lächerlichkeit, das ist keine Frage der Arbeit selbst, sondern des Reisens. Gestern zum Beispiel hatte ich eine Probe in der Elbphilharmonie und war morgens noch in Paris. So etwas meine ich. Das ist anstrengend.

niusic: Tauscht man sich über diese Probleme auch mit den ebenfalls vielbeschäftigten Kollegen aus, wie Gergiev, Barenboim und Co?
Järvi: Klar, ich bin befreundet mit vielen berühmten Kollegen und wir sprechen so oft es geht. Manchmal sind wir in derselben Stadt, oft bei Asientourneen, wenn Orchester sich die Klinke in die Hand geben. Abgesehen davon liebe ich es, ins Konzert zu gehen und die Kollegen zu hören. Heute Abend zum Beispiel Daniel Barenboim hier in Hamburg. Immer, wenn ich Zeit habe, setze ich mich ins Publikum ...

niusic: Um den Anschluss an die Realität nicht zu verlieren?
Järvi:Ich sehe dann das Orchester reinkommen, das Licht ausgehen und spüre gespanntes Warten. Für mich ist das neu und aufregend. Sonst stehe ich zu der Zeit Backstage, bin auch unter Strom, doch ganz anders. Da ist das Motto dann Auf in den Kampf!
Es ist also entscheidend für mich, oft im Saal zu sitzen und mir klar zu machen: In jeder Stadt, jeden Abend warten wieder Menschen auf das besondere Erlebnis, das wir ihnen bieten sollten.

niusic: Viel hängt da ja auch am Programm. Beim Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Ihrem neuesten Chefposten, unterstützt man Sie auch in der Programmplanung.
Järvi: Für mich ist Programmplanung, ebenso wie das Dirigieren, am Ende kein Job für ein Komitee. Es geht ja nicht nur um die Stücke, die gespielt werden, sondern wo das Orchester in fünf Jahren stehen soll, welches Repertoire erschlossen wird und die ganze Tourneeplanung. Ich will da immer sehr langfristig denken.




niusic: Deshalb sind Sie lieber Chefdirigent bei guten Orchestern, als übermorgen dreimal mit den genialen Berliner Philharmonikern aufzutreten?
Järvi: Natürlich liebt man jeden Job mit den Berlinern. Aber Chefdirigent zu sein ist eine viel größere Verantwortung. Als Gast kann man nicht viel verändern. Gute Abende gestalten und grandiose Konzerte spielen, das ja, aber es ist nicht deine Aufgabe, das Orchester zu bewegen und weiterzuentwickeln, wie sie spielen oder denken. Das reizt mich aber!

niusic: Nochmal zur Programmplanung in Zürich: Tschaikowskis Erste hat hörbare Schwächen, trotzdem haben Sie sie ins Programm genommen...
Järvi: Weil ich sie liebe. Wenn man seine erste Sinfonie schreibt, man nehme Bruckner und Mahler, komponiert man ja irgendwie immer etwas unreif und naiv. Aber gerade das ist charmant. Meine Meinung.
Der Dirigent muss dann aber dem Stück helfen. Klingt komisch, aber jedes Werk braucht Hilfe. Klar ist eine mittelmäßige Aufführung von Beethovens Siebter aufregend, aber eine wirklich grandiose ist himmlisch ... Und bei den frühen Werken eines Komponisten braucht man tatsächlich einfach die besseren Dirigenten!

niusic: Inwieweit würden Sie dann in den Notentext eingreifen?
Järvi: Hm. Ein beliebter Satz ist ja: „So wollte das der Komponist.“ Aber am Ende ist auch das nur unsere Meinung. Auf der Bühne darf man modifizieren, um alle Facetten herauszubringen. Mahler hat als Dirigent oft bei Wagner und Schumann Dynamik verändert, er hat Beethovens Neunte angepasst. In der Probe tun wir doch genau das: Hier steht piano, spiel das trotzdem lauter, sonst hört man die Phrase nicht, lass uns das Crescendo nicht dort machen, wo es geschrieben steht, sondern später, sonst hört man die Streicher nicht. Also im Grunde orchestrieren wir jeden Abend neu, in jeder Halle, mit jedem Orchester.

niusic: Wenn Sie den Musikern Ihre Klangvorstellung vermitteln, wie vermeiden Sie da Phrasen und abgegriffene Worte?
Järvi: Mein einziger Rat, oder eher meine Hoffnung ist beim Proben, dass jeder mit voller Persönlichkeit spielt. Deine 1. Oboe weiß, dass sie Solist ist und tritt dementsprechend auf. Aber im Tutti, in den zweiten Violinen, in den hinteren Reihen, ist es leichter, sich zurückzulehnen und weniger präsent zu sein. Nicht mit mir! Ich will, dass jeder extrem anwesend ist, alles von sich gibt und mir eine Idee präsentiert. Über die kann ich dann diskutieren. Schlecht ist nur, wenn jemand ohne Meinung spielt. Ich will eine starke Aussage in jeder Phrase und in jeder Stimme!

niusic: Sie haben auch mal gesagt, jedes Orchester, das Sie geleitet haben, klang danach hörbar besser ...
Järvi: Grinst und nickt.

niusic: Was soll denn beim Tonhalle Orchester besser werden?
Järvi: Sie spielen schon beeindruckend, keine Frage. Schwer, jetzt schon konkret zu werden: Jeder Dirigent braucht etwas anderes vom Orchester. Ich brauche Musiker, die ultraflexibel sind und noch im Moment etwas ändern. Das Tonhalle Orchester hat das schon ein bisschen, sogar mehr als einige deutsche Orchester, aber ... Nein, ich brauche noch Zeit.

niusic: Denken Sie nur in langfristigen Zielen? Mal ganz einfach: Wann ist ein Konzertabend für Sie erfolgreich?
Järvi: Da sind die technischen Kriterien, ob ein Orchester richtig und gut spielt. Aber es gibt feine Performances, denen fehlt Seele. Dann habe ich auch kein Erfolgsgefühl mehr. Ich glaube, ich kann das nicht messen mit externen Kriterien, weder an Publikumsreaktionen noch Kritiken. Zufrieden bin ich mit der Zeit auf jeden Fall immer seltener geworden. Das steht fest.
Ich bin ein Glückspilz. Viele Musiker wären gern halb so beschäftigt wie ich, und schon erfüllt.

niusic: Aber trotzdem immer im Arbeitsrausch. Chef in Bremen, Zürich, Tokio.
Järvi: So ist es im Leben, entweder man hat zu wenig oder zu viel zu tun. Balance ist schwer. Nur nebenbei, ich sage 90 Prozent aller Angebote ab. Aber ganz ehrlich: Auf dem Papier ist das, was ich tue, viel. In der Realität startet man ja nicht bei jedem Orchester wieder mit: Hallo, ich bin Paavo.
Und was die Gastspiele angeht, die Berliner und New Yorker, das sind Beziehungen, die haben sich entwickelt und die gibt man nicht auf. Für eine wahre Partnerschaft ist man schließlich nie zu beschäftigt.

niusic: Haben Sie zu Karrierebeginn eigentlich alle Jobs angenommen?
Järvi: Ja, ich habe auch total blöde Musik dirigiert. Aber junge Dirigenten haben ja keine Audition oder sowas, da muss man alles annehmen, um sich einen Namen zu machen. Oft wurde ich dann wieder eingeladen, mit sinnvollerem Programm. Jetzt nehme ich solche Dinge nicht mehr an.

niusic: Was reizt Sie jetzt noch?
Järvi: Ich bin immer nur in den Hochstätten der Musikindustrie unterwegs. Aber da ist nichts in Indien oder Südostasien. Ich würde gerne mit einem Orchester in den Iran oder Irak gehen. Ich war noch nie in Afrika. Also wenn mich dort jemand einladen will: Ruft an. Ich reise mit dem Tonhalle Orchester an!

niusic: Sie sagen, Sie sind nie zufrieden. Das kann ich mir schlecht vorstellen ...
Järvi: Da haben wir uns falsch verstanden. Ich sehe meine Konzerte kritischer, weil ich mittlerweile immer weiß, wie es sein könnte. In der Hinsicht war ich, als ich unerfahrener war, noch öfter glücklich. Aber mein Leben ist super: Ich kann aufwachen, Musik machen, viele substanzielle Dinge tun. Für die Gesellschaft. Ich glaube nicht, dass ich es verdiene. Ich bin ein Glückspilz und einer aus einer Million. Viele Musiker wären gern halb so beschäftigt wie ich, und dadurch schon erfüllt.

niusic: Wie unfair!
Järvi: Ist es wirklich. Aber ich bin mir dessen bewusst und deshalb dankbar. Während des Studiums in Amerika wünschte ich mir immer ein lokales Orchester, mit dem ich einmal im Monat auftreten kann. Das war mein erstes Ziel. Und irgendwie wäre es auch in Ordnung, wenn es darauf hinausgelaufen wäre.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Berliner Philharmoniker – Paavo Järvi conducts Bruckner 2 & Bach/Webern Ricercar – Mojca Erdmann performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]

classicalsource.com
Colin Anderson
25.05.2019

Paavo Järvi conducts Berliner Philharmoniker
Photograph: Stephan Rabold

Paavo Järvi has been on the road with Anton Bruckner’s Second Symphony. Previous to three performances in Berlin (this was the last of them) it was Hamburg, also a webcast (review-link below).

Järvi has a very persuasive way with this example of C-minor Bruckner (dating from 1872 in its first guise) – and using a first-class choice of edition for the 1877 revision (William Carragan’s recent undertaking, which maybe now supplants those by Haas and Nowak) – keeping the music on the move, bounding along, if without rushing or hectoring, and also introducing welcome flexibility, letting the otherwise-fleet, fuelled by trumpet calls, first movement breathe and reflect at appropriate moments, yet without symphonic threads being cut asunder.

This is music full of individual character, woodwind curlicues (for flute especially) and church chorales, for example, if with the composer also aware of his Austro-German symphonic lineage, fully appreciated by Järvi in his thrusting, shapely and everything-belongs approach, brought off resplendently and sympathetically by the Berliners, silences as meaningful as sound; and note the different weights applied to the final three chords of the opening movement, a bit stronger each time, timpani aflame, rolling underneath.


Järvi has the heart and soul of the slow movement, simply glorious here, of such eloquent wonderment and Heaven-opening vistas, music with deep and transcending harmonies, as to be truly transfixing, a mystical undertaking, and with the tricky horn solos safely delivered by Stefan Dohr, poetic too, not least the stratospheric one in the coda, as if from a mountaintop ... only to be brushed aside by the rhythmic propulsion of the Scherzo (placed second in 1872), exhilarating; yet no repeats (I guess Carragan follows Bruckner’s revised excision of them, Haas doesn’t) although this shorter-form fits well in context, especially given Järvi’s dynamic approach to the outer movements; the Trio here was a moment of repose, yearning lower strings bathed in upper radiant ones; rapt.

A sense of optimistic journeying informed the Finale, nearly as long here as the seventeen-minute opening counterpart – nice balancing by Järvi, intended or not – the music given lilt, eagerness and sacred reminiscence. Bruckner isn’t one to arrive too soon; but when he did, the Berliners blazed. Overall, Järvi added a couple of minutes to his Hamburg timing, fifty-five there.

The concert’s first half was also as in Hamburg, if with a welcome addition/starter. Prior to Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs (completed with-piano in 1908, if becoming ‘later’ in his twenty-year-on orchestration, Wozzeck completed, Lulu in the wings) was Anton Webern’s reciprocated ‘musical offering’ to Johann Sebastian Bach, the ‘Ricercar a 6’, a fugue in all but name, Bach’s unspecified instrumentation pinpointed by Webern as being strings (solo and tutti), woodwinds (including bass clarinet and cor anglais), harp, timpani, horn, trumpet and trombone, the latter instrument introducing the work’s solemn and expressive ideas that interweave and are contrapuntal perfection, Webern colouring the lines without highlighting any one, Järvi sculpting the music with his hands to a sonorous conclusion.

Following which, the Berg. In Hamburg it was Laura Aikin singing, replacing Hanna-Elisabeth Müller. In Berlin it was Mojca Erdmann (young-looking, confident, charming, natural) similarly stepping in for Müller; if, unlike Aikin, placed where you would expect to find her, that is not behind the orchestra, an unusual decision for Aikin in Hamburg. Continuing the Hamburg connections, Erdmann was born there...


Seven Songs, seven poets, including Lenau and Rilke; each setting may be aphoristic yet mood and meaning are established immediately to ravish the ear and the senses vocally and orchestrally, and also to describe. Erdmann was wonderful, as pure of timbre as she was voluptuous, as confidential as soaring, and with vivid word-painting (German text and English translation part of the relay) without losing the expressive line. Järvi (now with baton) and the Berliners offered a sensitive and superfine accompaniment, alive to every detail and dynamic of Berg’s fastidious and variegated scoring. ‘Die Nachtigall’ (Song III) would pass easily for Richard Strauss, and one can find other composer connections (he was just into his twenties when first-composing these Songs, imbibing from forbears and contemporaries) without diluting the Berg effect.

As ever, the sound and camerawork from the Digital Concert Hall were exemplary. Following the Bruckner, with orchestra personnel taking bows, particular attention was paid to timpanist Rainer Seegers, a member of the Berlin Phil since 1986 (a Karajan appointee, then, succeeding Werner Thärichen) and whose final Philharmoniker concert this was. Järvi walked up to Seegers to hand-over the bouquet just presented to him, there were speeches, a standing ovation, and hugs with BP colleagues. All best wishes to Herr Seegers.

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_concert_review.php?id=16496

Friday, May 17, 2019

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester – Paavo Järvi conducts Anton Bruckner's Second Symphony – Laura Aikin performs Alban Berg’s Seven Early Songs [live webcast]

classicalsource.com
Ateş Orga
17.05.2019

With Paavo Järvi you get the modern jet-setting conductor who, whatever the repertory, is always responsibly prepared, coaxing orchestras to give of their best. Watching him and the response of his players you get the strongest impression that here is a man one works with, not for. He's a music-maker first and foremost. A week ago in London he was putting the Philharmonia Orchestra through its paces in Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. On this occasion in Hamburg he was journeying a different emotional road, a late Austrian Habsburg one looking back from Berg to Bruckner, two composers he sees as a particularly intuitive mix.


In the interval interview of this webcast, he noted how for him Alban Berg's early death in 1935, at the age of fifty, was “the biggest tragedy of the twentieth-century … the most talented composer of the Second Viennese School … undated and relevant,” retaining a tonal persona to the end. In tackling the “curiosity” that's Bruckner's 1872 Second Symphony, the first of his Viennese period, he maintains it best to think of it rooted (hence by implication played) in mid-Romantic tones, to hear it of its day, freed of the monumentalism and “statement” of the later Symphonies. Mendelssohn came into his reference (‘Scottish’ Symphony?), but Schumann and Raff would not have gone amiss. Working with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, he reminded, brought back reminiscences of the “collective memory and DNA” of its post-war Bruckner tradition (Günter Wand's recordings presumably, but also, one imagines, the drama and tension of Tennstedt before him).

In keeping with Järvi's 2012 Frankfurt recording, this performance followed the 1877 revision in William Carragan's recent 2007 edition, complete with Carragan's optional reinstatement in the A-flat slow movement of the difficult (high) horn episode of the first version, deleted by Bruckner at, demonstrably, the expense of architectural balance. Aiming to convey a composer ever prone to symphonic tussling and indecision, yet to find his feet despite having reached his half-century, benefitting from musicians attentive and attuned to the style, Järvi presented us with ideas freshly brushed on a blank canvas. He found a deep, long poetry in the Andante (notwithstanding some pizzicato untidiness), the final hushed bars suspended like a Caspar David Friedrich night painting. He crafted fine, organically urgent codas to the outer movements (especially the Finale, a glory), and welded a magnificently hammering Scherzo (placed originally second), the orchestra at full tilt, with a particularly tender Trio. The circling, repetitive phrases, the climax-building, the terraced contrasts of timbre and dynamics, solos, unisons and tuttis, fire and lyricism in temporal/paused opposition – the Bruckner fingerprints we know so well – were never far away, yet in keeping with Järvi's desire, sensed more prophetically than memorially, foresight before hindsight: a triumph.

Using smaller forces favouring antiphonal violins, with four double basses to the left, Berg's 1928 orchestration of his Seven Early Songs, written while he was a student of Schoenberg, in Vienna, focussed on a different sequence of vistas. An order of expressive concentration touched vaguely by Wolf, Mahler, Strauss, Zemlinsky perhaps … distilled through ghosts from Verklärte Nacht ... flying freely yet chained by key-signatures. Järvi shaped a lusciously warm, chorded support for Laura Aikin, standing in at short notice for indisposed Hanna-Elisabeth Müller. Her account and projection wasn't altogether ideal, however, not helped by her placement behind the orchestra (to the right), a miscalculation. This had the effect, along with following her score too closely, of reducing proximity and distancing/covering the words (Berg's choice of poems are distinguished, they need to be articulated and heard). She gradually warmed into the music, but, given its brief fifteen-minute span, her uneasy vibrato never entirely went away. More bloom and beauty would have been welcome, vocally less within than with the ensemble.

One hears varyingly negative reports about the Elbphilharmonie; whatever its problems, the audio engineers seem to have got the measure of the place. This was a sonically flattering relay, with plenty of presence and detail, and good camerawork. The highs of the Bruckner had plenty of air and space to impact and dissipate – all of five spacious in-the-round storeys from ground level.

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_concert_review.php?id=16471

PAAVO JÄRVI ET LE PHILHARMONIA SUR LES TRACES DE MVRAVINSKI

resmusica.com
Patrice Imbaud
17.05.2019

Concerts, La Scène, Musique symphonique

Paris. Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. 13-V-2019. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) : Ouverture d’Egmont en fa mineur op. 84 ; Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) : Concerto pour violon et orchestre en ré majeur op. 47 ; Piotr Ilitch Tchaïkovski (1840-1893) : Symphonie n° 6 dite « Pathétique » en si mineur op. 74. Vadim Repin, violon. Philharmonia Orchestra, direction : Paavo Järvi

En tournée avec le Philharmonia Orchestra, pour un concert unique à Paris au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Paavo Järvi livre une interprétation saisissante de la Symphonie n° 6 de Tchaïkovski, tandis que le violoniste russe Vadim Repin exalte toute l’expressivité du Concerto pour violon de Sibelius.

Dès les premières mesures de l’Ouverture d’Egmont de Beethoven, le ton est donné : l’ambiance, ce soir, est au drame. Dans un mélange de grandeur solennelle (cordes graves et timbales) et d’effusion (petite harmonie), soutenu par un phrasé très opératique collant parfaitement à l’épopée d’Egmont (lutte, amour, victoire), la phalange londonienne répond, dans l’instant, à la direction fougueuse du chef.

Le Concerto pour violon de Sibelius bénéficie aujourd’hui d’une notoriété incontestable par son mélange de lyrisme, de virtuosité et de romantisme exacerbé qui en fait un des chevaux de bataille favori de tous les violonistes actuels. Après Hilary Hahn, il y a quelques jours, c’est ce soir Vadim Repin qui officie, autorisant le jeu des comparaisons. Si la violoniste américaine, violonistiquement irréprochable, avait bénéficié d’un environnement assez neutre, privée parfois d’un appui orchestral consistant de la part de Mikko Franck, Vadim Repin, à l’inverse, voit ce soir son interprétation magnifiée par les couleurs et la dynamique émanant d’une phalange londonienne très complice, élevant par instant la complicité au niveau de l’égrégore. Moyennant quelques accommodements avec la justesse, le violoniste fait valoir dès l’entame du premier mouvement Allegro moderato l’ampleur et le grain exceptionnel de sa sonorité, toute au service d’une expressivité haute en couleur, consolidée par un parfait équilibre avec l’orchestre. Les cadences claires apportent leur lot de virtuosité, impeccablement menées dans l’émouvant dialogue avec la clarinette. L’Adagio contemplatif, d’un lyrisme chaleureux, est tout entier supporté par le legato tendu du violon et un accompagnement orchestral de premier ordre dans lequel se distinguent cordes (violon solo) et vents. Le Final très dansant renoue avec la virtuosité dans une cavalcade aux allures tziganes se déployant sur une rythmique obstinée de l’orchestre scandée par les timbales véhémentes. Deux bis empruntés à Bach concluent cette première partie qui vaut autant par la qualité solistique de Vadim Repin que par l’engagement de l’orchestre et la pertinence de la direction.

Drame encore après la pause. Paavo Järvi persiste et signe en offrant au public de l’avenue Montaigne une interprétation originale, et aujourd’hui assez inhabituelle, de la Symphonie n° 6 de Tchaïkovski dont il propose une vision quasi expressionniste, dramatique et rugueuse, comme taillée à la serpe qui n’est pas sans rappeler le grand Mvravinski. Les quatre mouvements s’y succèdent, justement typés. Dramatique, l’Adagio initial débute par la complainte lugubre du basson, bientôt relayé par le tutti où se distinguent des cordes somptueuses, une petite harmonie très investie et des cuivres rutilants (trombones) dans une lecture extravertie, haletante, chargée de contrastes et de nuances où le chef semble parfois souligner presque abusivement la fibre tragique. L’Allegro con grazia apporte un court moment de répit par sa valse élégante d’où sourd, en filigrane, une inquiétude persistante portée par les vents. L’Allegro vivace, juste dans le ton comme dans la note, est traité ici comme un scherzo dionysiaque, débutant par une attente angoissante avant que ne se déchaînent crescendos et effets sonores. L’Adagio lamentoso justifie à lui seul le nom de la symphonie, pathétique, déchirant, résigné et douloureux, conclu par un grave et saisissant choral de cuivres… suivi de longues minutes de silence, signe des grandes interprétations.

https://www.resmusica.com/2019/05/17/paavo-jarvi-et-le-philharmonia-sur-les-traces-de-mvravinski/

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Paavo Järvi and Viktoria Mullova impress in Sibelius and Tchaikovsky

bachtrack.com
Vishnu Bachani
14.05.2019

Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi led the Philharmonia Orchestra in a diverse programme spanning nearly a century of music. Opening with Beethoven’s Egmont Overture, the orchestra played with solemn pathos, the searing silences in between the opening chords pregnant with anticipation. A measured and nuanced performance set the mood for the rest of the evening: one of genuine, idiomatic music-making.


Viktoria Mullova
© Benjamin Ealovega

London-based Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova interpreted Sibelius’ concerto with reserved calm, opting for long, smooth phrases amidst the cascading arpeggiations and scalar figurations. Järvi and the Philharmonia played in close lockstep, allowing Mullova to truly shine in the first movement’s cadenza. The overall restraint of her performance made the first proper fortissimo tutti climax in the third movement much more impactful, paving the way for an emphatic finish. After applause, Järvi turned to the audience to announce that the encore would be Arvo Pärt’s Passacaglia, in which Mullova and the orchestra played with masterly élan.

Tchaikovsky’s mistranslated “Pathétique” Symphony is still considered by some scholars to be a suicide note, spurred on by societal intolerance of the composer's homosexuality. The facticity of these theories aside, the work is undoubtedly lugubrious with a highly unorthodox slow, minor ending. Numerous other aspects of the piece signal something awry, like the undance-able waltz in 5/4 time in the second movement and the almost excessively jubilant faux finish in the third movement. Järvi highlighted these aspects appropriately.

In spite of some mismatched articulations in the brass, the first movement showcased an impressive dynamic range, with the bass clarinet’s pppppp passage indeed being nearly inaudible. The trombones shone in the climax of the movement as well as in the tranquil major-key ending of the movement, displaying a marked contrast from the turbulent development section to the serene coda. Metrical divisions were earmarked clearly by Järvi’s tightly controlled tempi in the second movement, leading to a similarly well-executed third movement with the numerous scalar passages and hockets interlocking like clockwork. The long crescendo to the climactic finish of the movement was done so convincingly and effectively that the audience could not help but applaud after the exultant peroration in spite of Järvi going almost attacca into the finale. The fourth movement retrospectively contextualizes the “awry” features of the previous movements, and Järvi and the orchestra made this clear with the accentuation of the antiphonal split-violin theme and the repeated chains of suspensions permeating the thematic material. By the time the music progressed to the coda, the dying away of the final B minor chord into nothingness did not shock as much as it conveyed a sense of inevitable despair and tragedy. A protracted silence following the last echoes of the symphony provided a fitting close to both the work and to the concert.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mullova, Philharmonia, Järvi, RFH review – clear paths through the forest

theartsdesk.com
Boyd Tonkin
13.05.2019


No swooning in the 'Pathétique': Paavo Järvi Kaupo Kikkas


Visit Ainola, Sibelius’s woodland house by Lake Tuusula north of Helsinki, and you’ll be told the story of the green stove. It appears that the famously synaesthetic Finnish composer identified the shade of his heating installation with the key of F major. Asked to attach a colour to the lustrous performance of his D minor violin concerto given last night by Viktoria Mullova and Paavo Järvi with the Philharmonia, I’d plump for a rich autumnal red-brown, glinting with bright golden highlights at the top but grounded in earth tones of a sumptuous depth.

Mullova, of course, has played this piece for decades. She brings to it a masterful assurance – electrifying empathy, yes, but also profound understanding – that never slides into over-familiarity. This work remains, as for all violinists, the most challenging, and mysterious, of friends. From the silvery grace of the adagio to the primeval forest stomp of the finale, the Russian-born, London-based soloist filled the Royal Festival Hall with a spectacular palette of sounds that melded refinement and muscularity. She sounded, and looked, utterly poised even in Sibelius’s hair-raising, spine-tingling stretches of double-stopping, and applied just the right (modest) touches of rubato.

Järvi, meanwhile, built up his orchestral canvas in rich impasto layers. He slashed luminous streaks of wood and brass across the enveloping, storm-tossed forest of the Philharmonia strings – who, under concert-master Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, sound truly formidable these days. The Estonian maestro thinks big, stitching finely-wrought phrases into broad, coherent musical paragraphs with a wide but never melodramatic range of dynamics. But he can spotlight the instrumental trees as well the orchestral wood, whether the bird-call motifs that cluster around the soloist’s inner voyage in the adagio, or the snort and roar of brass (with the trombones on superb form) that accompanies the finale.

Mullova and Järvi together drove the closing movement into a whirlwind ride, always beautifully controlled and never without a sense of Nordic cool behind the full-throttle interactions of violin and orchestra. Both conductor and soloist inhabit this music with an exhilarating inwardness: a marriage made in a pine-dark, lake-fringed heaven. Mullova (pictured below by Henry Fair) has recently recorded their encore, Arvo Pärt’s Passacaglia for violin and orchestra. Her reading – delicately steered by Pärt’s compatriot and champion, Järvi – made the most of its neo-Baroque beat and weave, as Bachian figures entwine around a Shostakovich-like throbbing pulse.


Järvi and the band had made their intentions clear in the opener, Beethoven’s Egmont overture. This became a glittering showcase for separate instrumental colours rather than a uniform Romantic blast, with strongly marked individual voices throughout – up to and very much including Keith Bragg’s piercing, martial piccolo – and a crescendo at the close that rose to majesty without the raucous shout of lesser maestros, and ensembles. The Egmont moves into F Major, although I can’t honestly say that I saw green. Järvi, all the while, found a satisfying graininess, a real crunch and bite, in the Philharmonia string tone. That augured well for the second-half offering: Tchaikovsky’s misnamed Pathétique – properly, “Passionate” – symphony.

So it proved, in a performance that held back on lush melancholia in favour of a discipline and drive that gave a shape, and point, to these iconic chunks of late-Romantic yearning and suffering. No plush-and-gilt swoons here, in a rendering that reminded us in its balance and attack of the “classical” Tchaikovsky who has recently emerged from under his mask of schmaltz. For a start, Järvi virtually pushed the four movements of the Pathétique together into a single entity – a seamless whole, which almost but not quite pre-empted the moment at the close of the third-act march when someone always applauds before the soul-scorching finale of the adagio lamentoso. His tempi in the inner movements often felt brisk, and the phrasing, while not lacking in amplitude and grandeur when the music demanded, had a snappy tautness that avoided lazy languor. The strings, rightly, were encouraged to show their clenched fists as well as their stroking palms. Around them, the instrumental solos proved the Philharmonia’s strength-in-depth – not just Robin O’Neill’s bassoon in the super-exposed first bars, but Carlos Ferreria’s clarinet, Timothy Walden’s cello and Byron Fulcher’s emphatic trombones (with a grateful nod, again, for Antoine Siguré’s reliably terrific timpani, and Peter Smith’s tuba).

Järvi injected the middle movements with a freshness, even jauntiness, that belied the work’s hackneyed reputation as the longest suicide note in musical history. The broken waltz, in 5/4, of the adagio felt weirdly danceable. Its sly pace and zest seemed long Russian versts away from the sheer despair of the Pathétique legend – after all, no one thinks that this time signature heralds breakdown when Dave (“Take Five”) Brubeck deploys it. The march, though, did climb nervously towards a manic intensity that Järvi summoned and then unleashed with a fierce exactitude.

And then we dived straight into the final lament. Its great descending arcs of melody unrolled across strings and woods, touching levels of sorrow all the more striking for the relatively upbeat mood that Järvi had spread over his middle acts. Tragedy proper kicked in here, and it kicked hard. Järvi, though, is no sort of sentimentalist. He maintained an alertness and attentiveness to aural detail even as the music tumbled down its scales, across the violins and into the lower strings, coming to exhausted rest in the quiet last gasp of the basses, and the silence of oblivion. A silence rudely broken by over-eager clappers – but then, they had plenty to applaud.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Philharmonia Orchestra/Paavo Järvi – Egmont Overture & Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony – Viktoria Mullova plays Sibelius’s Violin Concerto

classicalsource.com
Ateş Orga
12.05.2019

This was one of those popular 'old-fashioned' Saturday evenings. Infinitely musical, resolutely undemonstrative, Paavo Järvi steered proceedings in a cultured way, score before him, clear and direct in his intentions. If there was a trait, it was his insistence on pauses and rests, allowing the music to breathe with eloquence. At the end of the Tchaikovsky, letting death and B-minor settle, he deliberated the aftermath long, to the uncertainty of a packed audience impatient to cheer and applaud. Fielding a largely youthful team, carrying no dead wood, the Philharmonia (antiphonal violins, led by Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, concertmaster designate) rose splendidly to the occasion, Järvi's balancing and 'air' encouraging full, rich, glowing strings, a brass section exemplary in individuality and chording (Tchaikovsky again), and a woodwind line-up riding the tuttis with incisive, soloistic clarity. Repertory like this can all too easily fracture into the routine and ordinary. What we got was involvement and freshness.

Admirers and collectors will need no reminding of the authority of Järvi's videoed Beethoven cycle with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. Pulsating with tension, his Egmont ploughed the drama and rose to glory. The precision attack was to be relished, the piccolo at the end piercingly clear (Keith Bragg), the use of hard-stick ‘period’ kettledrums, a recurrent trend these days, underpinning the action with not a little fire and gallantry (Antoine Siguré). (Like modern pianos, modern timpani are a different breed of instrument, at the expense of their original rattling physicality.)

London-based Viktoria Mullova is ever-youthful. Watching her, listening to the unfailing brilliance and power of her playing, she's still that slim Moscow girl of the early-eighties, winning the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky competitions, defecting with her Georgian lover to the West, her story “the stuff of spy movies”. Her Sibelius Concerto was arresting, its accuracy and intonation compelling (octaves and harmonics not least). This was a silk-and-cream performance, the first movement emphasising its cadenzas, the Adagio like an old tale, each slur, accent and tenuto, each rhythmic grouping and dynamic curve, carrying feeling and meaning. “The people [of the Baltic] might seem cold and cool”, Andrew Mellor reports her as saying, “but underneath they are very, very emotional, they cry easily.”


For an encore she offered Arvo Pärt's 2007 Passacaglia written for Gidon Kremer's sixtieth birthday – a piece journeying from ghostly, metrically/temporally metamorphosised echoes of the Beethoven Concerto (the repeated open string A/E fifths) to a brief, unexpectedly Hebraic, close. This was refined, the final cadenza a teasing mixture of arco and pizzicato (Pärt leaves options open). Maybe the Philharmonia was a touch uneasy (and I would have preferred more tangibly audible viola and cello slurring at the start), but the last bar was unadulterated magic, a hushed pppp A-major chord that hummed from nowhere into nothing (compared with her recent Estonian National Symphony recording which has Järvi relatively present at this point). Classy.

Järvi has never been a man given to histrionics or showmanship: he's far closer to his father, Neeme, than his younger brother, Kristjan. In his Frankfurt days, his Tchaikovsky was more in the Haitink vein than anything Russian or American, overdrive mattering less than a quality pulse and honesty to the page. This 'Pathétique' emphasised beauty of tone and ensemble. Carlos Ferreria led the clarinets with distinction, likewise Robin O'Neill the bassoons. The brass, from stridency to appeasement, found a filmic dimension, impeccably in accord. Cellos and basses plumbed Jovian gravity, the codas of the outer movements – the descending major scales of one, the life-ebbing minor throb of the other – up there with the finest.

In an effort to stem audience intervention, prompted perhaps by the autograph/published pause signs at the end of each movement, Järvi went for a segue reading, effectively turning the work into a fantasia in four tableaux, further subdivided. It made for a powerful, theatrical re-focussing of familiar landmarks, their unconventionality primed in provocative, almost operatic light. “The best thing I have composed”, believed Tchaikovsky – and that's what it felt like.

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_concert_review.php?id=16453