Saturday, October 09, 2004

CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Paavo Jarvi creates seismic jolt in Orchestra Hall
By John von Rhein, Tribune music critic
Chicago Tribune, October 9, 2004

Scanning the shocking number of empty seats at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first Thursday night concert of the season in Symphony Center, you had to feel sorry for those who stayed away.

They missed a terrific program that went from cool Debussy to hot Bartok to electrifying Nielsen. It introduced an impressive conductor and an exciting soloist to Orchestra Hall. And it proved just the sort of seismic event to jolt the CSO back on track after its recent spate of podium cancellations.

Imagine a French tone poem, a Hungarian concerto and a Danish symphony played by an Estonian conductor and a German violinist with an American orchestra. That's what Thursday's audience heard when conductor Paavo Jarvi and violinist Christian Tetzlaff made their downtown debuts with the orchestra in an evening of masterpieces from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Not many conductors can front the mighty CSO for the first time and elicit the deeply communicative music-making Jarvi did. Son of the conductor Neeme Jarvi, he is in his fourth season as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony and, on the basis of his fine showing Thursday, can be considered a plausible contender for Daniel Barenboim's job here in 2006.

The man is all music, refreshingly self-effacing in manner, as secure in his command of structure as in the details, who gets his ideas across with a firm beat and one of the most expressive left hands of any symphonic conductor today.

Jarvi began with an unusually elastic reading of Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The music flowed in an unbroken arc of weightless sound, with Mathieu Dufour spinning the flute solo with his usual silvery delicacy.

Nothing Tetzlaff has performed at Ravinia quite prepared one for the sheer adrenaline rush of his Bartok Second Concerto. He attacked the opening movement with a controlled ferocity that kept the music, and the listener too, poised on the knife blade of anticipation. Words like "forceful" and "intense" kept coming to mind as the young German violinist answered the orchestral guffaws with furious passagework. Yet how beautifully he savored the dreamy lyricism and filigreed variations. To Tetzlaff's credit, he played Bartok's original coda to the finale, which is almost never heard.

One of the best concerto performances the CSO has given us in a long while earned Tetzlaff a roaring, standing ovation. He rewarded the crowd with a superlative reading of the "Allemande" from J.S. Bach's B-Minor Solo Partita.

The more I hear Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 5, the more I am convinced it is one of the great 20th Century symphonies. Jarvi's riveting account (even finer than his new Telarc recording with the Cincinnati orchestra) reaffirmed its stature. The music is all about construction and destruction, and Jarvi threw himself into it with such vigor that at one point the baton flew out of his hand into the second violins. The orchestra played as if their lives were hanging in the balance. That's inspiration. That's leadership. We must have Paavo Jarvi back.

CONCERT REVIEW: Chicago Symphony Orchestra

First CSO stint shouldn't be Jarvi's last
By Wynne Delacoma
Chicago Sun-Times, October 9, 2004

HIGHLY recommended
When: 8 tonight
Where: Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan
Tickets: $17-$110
Call: (312) 294-3000

The unsettled atmosphere at Symphony Center that included a spate of conductor cancellations during the first weeks of the season isn't entirely over yet.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians and management are still negotiating a new players' contract to replace the one that expired last month. And music director Daniel Barenboim, who canceled several dates due to back problems, is determined to conduct as scheduled in late October.

The orchestra typically begins its concert weeks on Thursdays, but in part because of the Jewish holidays, this week's Thursday performance was the first of the CSO's nearly month-old season. As if to celebrate a welcome return to routine, the orchestra gave a stimulating concert under the baton of Paavo Jarvi, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who was making his CSO debut.

Thursday's audience knew something special was in the air with the supple, expansive performance of Debussy's languorous Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Principal flute Mathieu Dufour brought his signature golden warmth to the opening solo, but the seamless way Michael Henoch's more penetrating oboe picked up and extended the flute line was magical.

Bartok's Violin Concerto No. 2 is both astringent and passionate, and soloist Christian Tetzlaff found just the right combination of anxiety and serenity in its two large movements. Jarvi and the orchestra performed Bartok's darkly mordant opening pages with an energy and drive that made them especially ominous. In the concerto's hallucinatory moments, Tetzlaff's violin turned woozy and discordant, reeling against the brooding, jumpy orchestra.

Carl Nielsen's large-scale Symphony No. 5 sounded surprisingly intimate at times. The snare drum's martial tattoo was as dry and relentless as machinegun fire, while stammering violins stormed and buzzed like a horde of insects.

Jarvi is a conductor to watch. Cincinnati may have him signed up through 2008-09, but he should be on the CSO's radar as it searches for a successor to Barenboim, who will be leaving at the end of the 2005-06 season. Conductors of Jarvi's caliber are a rare breed.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

CSO opens in grand style

Don't cry for me, Cincinnati. But, if I had had my 'druthers, I would have been taking my prime observation perch in the balcony (stage right!), watching over the opening night concert of Paavo's third season as Cincinnati Symphony Music Director, instead of lying, despondently, in a hospital bed recuperating from heart surgery.

Nevertheless, this was still a wonderful occasion in which the CSO found itself sharing the talents of the Estonian National Male Choir in CSO opens in grand style by Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer (9/18/04).

"The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was at full throttle as the Estonian National Male Choir pronounced with clipped power in old Finnish, Thus died Kullervo the hero. It was a thrilling conclusion to Sibelius' colossal masterpiece Kullervo, a work that gripped Friday's opening night audience in Music Hall, and made a momentous opening to the orchestra's 110th season, Paavo Jarvi's fourth as music director.

"...From the outset of this five-movement, 75-minute journey, Jarvi led stunning aural canvases that were full of life - dark and earthy in the basses; glowing in the violins and inspired playing in the winds and brass.

"Through it all, Jarvi propelled his musicians with imagination and momentum, never flagging in intensity, and they played with true distinction."

Read more: CSO opens in grand style by Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer (9/18/04).

Friday, September 17, 2004

Järvi up for fourth season

Järvi up for fourth season: Paavo returns to lead symphony Friday
by Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, September 17, 2004

Conductor Paavo Järvi was sitting in a hotel room in Bremen, Germany, earlier this month, saying in a groggy voice that he'd been on the road "a little bit too long." As he mused about his nonstop summer travels, the Estonian-born maestro was anticipating his fourth season as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which begins Friday.

Janelle Gelfand: What's the most interesting thing you did this summer?

Paavo: I don't know where to start. Most recently was my Salzburg Festival debut (in Austria) with the Deutsche Philharmonie Bremen (his chamber orchestra). Another was a European Union Youth Orchestra tour, which we finished in Estonia a few days ago. The other thing was my Cleveland Orchestra debut (at the Blossom Festival).

JG: What's the first thing you'll do when you get to Cincinnati?

PJ: The routine is so clear: you get off the plane, and you basically go to your apartment and say, "Hmmm, OK, I suppose that's my home now for these three weeks." I have to start from zero, get groceries and mundane stuff.

JG: What CDs do you listen to on your way to Music Hall in your Buick SUV?

PJ: I listen to a lot of jazz - Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. I have probably all their CDs. I listen to various things, but to be honest with you, I still go back to the older stuff.

JG: As a former rocker, do you have a favorite rock band?

PJ: I don't really have one favorite, but recently I heard a new CD by Peter Frampton. It was very impressive.

JG: Is there a CD in your collection that would surprise people?

PJ: I have all kinds that don't really live up to the image of what a classical conductor would listen to - rap artists, salsa artists and so on. For example, Eminem. He's brilliant and controversial, but the stuff that he's doing is pretty hip.

JG: What do you sing to your baby daughter to get her to sleep?

PJ: Sometimes it takes quite long to get her to sleep, so I go from the slow movement of a Brahms Symphony. I sing the whole thing, and she's still awake.

JG: You're opening the symphony season with "Kullervo," an "epic" by Sibelius. What would you like the audience to know about it?

PJ: It is slightly like a Greek myth - a whole list of characters and their journeys, and how the nation of Finland was created. The strength of the piece is that it is fresh, courageous and uncompromising music.

JG: You're bringing the Estonian National Male Choir, with whom you won a Grammy last year. Is the male choir a big tradition in Estonia?

PJ: It is, and throughout history and especially during Soviet times, it was a symbol of independence. A male choir was as close as one could have 100 men onstage singing something. In any other situation, it would be called an army.

W H E N   Y O U   G O 
What: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, conductor; Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo-soprano; Jaakko Kortekangas, baritone; and the Estonian National Male Choir. Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3; Sibelius' Kullervo.

When: 8 p.m., Sept. 17-18.

Where: Music Hall, 1243 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine.

Tickets: $21.75-$60.50; $10 students; (513) 381-3300.

New improved Web site: The orchestra's updated site has program notes, downloadable sound bites of Järvi speaking and a flash movie of a performance.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

CD REVIEW: Ravel: Daphnis & Chloe Suite 2; Pavane; La Valse; Mother Goose Suite; Bolero

RAVEL: Daphnis & Chloe Suite 2; Pavane; La Valse; Mother Goose Suite; Bolero
Cincinnati Symphony/ Paavo Jarvi
Telarc 80601--63 minutes

Review By Tom Godell
American Record Guide, May/June 2004, Vol. 67, Issue 3

In his review of Jarvi's Cincinnati recording of Prokofieff's Romeo and Juliet (Nov/Dec 2003), Don Vroon commented: "Too much of this seems too laid-back...emotionally limited. There is no wide-eyed wonder. It is prose rather than poetry." The same words apply to the first three selections here. Daphnis contains some of the most sensuous music ever written, but you'd never know it from Jarvi's carefully controlled, utterly passionless account. JoAnn Falletta with the Buffalo Philharmonic may not have Cincinnati's sumptuous strings, but she nonetheless uncovers all the mystery, drama, and urgency that Jarvi overlooks. Jarvi's Pavane is dry and deadpan. Compare Monteux on Philips; his warmth and affection for the music permeates every bar. In La Valse, Jarvi's blazing colors and the orchestra's stunning playing are remarkable, but the interpretation lacks imagination and character, especially after the malice and brutality of Paray (Mercury LP, NA).

The tide turns--dramatically--with Mother Goose. These gentle musical fairy tales inspire Jarvi to lead a heartfelt, sweetly atmospheric performance. Here at last he allows the music to breathe. Each phrase blooms magically and majestically. While he may have overlooked or downplayed the maliciousness of La Valse, in 'Petit Poucet' he unleashes some of the most menacing birds you'll ever hear. In the 'Conversations of Beauty and the Beast', however, his Beast is rather too tame and soft-spoken. Jarvi redeems himself in the end with one of the most touching and gorgeous renditions of 'The Fairy Garden' ever recorded.

All right, I'll admit it. I've never cared for Bolero, but Jarvi and his amazing orchestra have caused me to rethink that opinion. The conductor's perky tempo and rhythmic thrust are ideally suited to this music. Undoubtedly, Cincinnati has the finest winds anywhere right now. Here they engage in a friendly competition to see who can give us the most provocative or vividly colorful solo. I find it impossible to choose between the seductive flute, the haunting clarinet, the darkly mysterious English horn, and the sexy saxophones. Jarvi slowly, carefully ratchets up the volume--not to mention the heat--as the music unfolds, building inexorably to a blazing climax in the closing bars. Telarc's engineers should be

Sunday, March 28, 2004


RAVEL: Orchestral pieces
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Jarvi (Telarc CD 80601/ SACD 60601)
By Anthony Holden
The Observer, London (UK), March 28, 2004

Ravel's oh-so-tedious Bolero is the disc I would least like to be marooned with on a desert island. When a really classy orchestra under a conductor as suave as Paavo Jarvi bring it to almost acceptable life, I sit up. When they apply the same lush charms to a piece as pretty as his Pavane pour une infante defunte, I listen further. Throw in the Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloe, La Valse and Five Nursery Rhymes(from Mother Goose), and you have a collection which does Ravel almost more justice than is his due.