Saturday, July 30, 2005

Wild about the Jarvis

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, July 29, 2005

Reports to the contrary, Paavo Järvi did go to Detroit last month. Sort of.

The Cincinnati Symphony music director, son of Detroit Symphony music director emeritus Neeme Järvi, accompanied a delegation from CSOEncore, the CSO's young adults avid support group.

At least his poster did.

Järvi's giant-sized image - remember those "Bravo Paavo" billboards a couple of seasons ago? - rode on the bus with the Jarvi fans, which had been organized to travel to Detroit to hear him conduct the final concert of "Järvi Fest," the DSO's three-week celebration of Neeme Järvi's 15-year tenure with the orchestra.

Paavo himself actually was in Japan, where he was treated for a hand injury (he has fully recovered and is about to embark on a tour of Europe and North America with his German chamber orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie).

Although he had to cancel the tribute to his father, the show went on - with the father conducting in the son's place (ironically, the last performance was on Father's Day).

Members of CSOEncore and their guests, CSO assistant conductor Eric Dudley, public relations manager Fran Blasing, assistant manager for audience development Debra Bell and Cincinnati Symphony Association vice president for audience and development Tim Giglio, made the trip for the event. The 26 participants, ages 25-80, including three enthusiastic retirees, pronounced the trip a resounding success.

So much so, that the group is planning a trip to Chicago next spring when Järvi guest conducts the Chicago Symphony.

Meanwhile, CSOEncore and seven other young-adult groups from Cincinnati arts organizations will get together at Sunday's CSO concert at Rivberbend.

Taking part in the collaborative event for the third year in a row will be members of Cincinnati Art Museum's One World Wednesdays, Cincinnati Opera Center Stage, Club Taft, the Contemporary Arts Center, Playhouse in the Park, Young Friends of CCM and Enjoy the Arts/Start. The evening begins with a cocktail party at 6 p.m. with appetizers, cash bar and prizes, followed by the concert at 7:30. All-inclusive prices are $15.75-$31. For information on the concert or CSOEncore, call (513) 744-3590.

Detroit was the first road trip for CSO Encore, organized three years ago by Giglio.

The Järvi family fans met at Music Hall and boarded a bus for the four-hour trip to Detroit - enough time, said Encore member Bryan Folz, to "really meet people." The whole Detroit experience, a first for him, "was great," he said.

The group stayed at Detroit's Renaissance Center for two-day trip, which included a tour of the Detroit Art Institute, lunch at the Detroit Beer Company, a pre-concert dinner and an "afterglow" party attended by Neeme Järvi. Their hosts were members of the DSO's young adult group, Overtures.

They were taken on a tour of the DSO's new $60 million Max M. Fisher Music Center and a mini-drive of the vicinity around Orchestra Hall, Detroit's lovingly restored 2,064-seat concert hall adjoining "The Max." Behind The Max is the new Detroit School for the Arts (a project similar to the Greater Cincinnati Arts and Education Center planned for Over-the-Rhine), due to open in the fall.

Seeing the renewal in progress around Orchestra Hall, a blighted area not unlike Over-the-Rhine, was inspiring, said artist and Encore member Linda Edwards. "I liked seeing all that they are doing in that city. There are some ideas for what we should be doing in our city."

For Encore member Phil Kidwell, 45, the trip amounted to a sentimental journey, his first visit to his childhood home since 1968. He took a cab to the spot, and made "a quick little tour" of the parsonage and church his father founded in 1955.

Encore members Mary Kay Koehler, 25, and Kevin McManus, 28, were struck by the intimacy and beauty of Orchestra Hall. "I haven't been to the symphony in a lot of other places, but Music Hall is so large," McManus said. "I think Detroit would be a normal setting. Music Hall with 3,000 seats is just a huge arena. They did great renovating and it was just a very warm atmosphere, with all the wood, very decorative."

Although initially disappointed by Paavo's cancellation, the group was unanimous in its impression of his father and the opportunity to hear him conduct (Neeve Järvi becomes music director of the New Jersey Symphony this fall).

"With Paavo's father conducting, you were able to tie in the two and see the styles of both of them and see where Paavo came from," said Greg Reedy, 34.

Friday, July 29, 2005

CD REVIEW: 'A Real Feast for the Ears'

Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Play Debussy
By David Hart
Birmingham [U.K.] Post - 21 July 2005

Debussy: Nocturnes; La mer; Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune; Berceuse héroïque

By all accounts Paavo Järvi has worked wonders with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since he became music director in 2001. If this sumptuous recording of Debussy's orchestral masterworks is typical they are indeed a force to be reckoned with.

The sound quality of the CD is rich and detailed — Cincinnati's Music Hall obviously has no acoustic drawbacks — and the engineers have achieved perfect instrumental balance. One or two violin solos, as in 'Nuages' from the Nocturnes and the first movement of La mer, do seem a little too foregrounded, but it's a minor niggle. The all- important wind contributions, like the flute opening of Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune and the distant little fanfares in the middle of 'Fêtes', are ideally positioned on the aural canvas, and the women of the May Festival Chorus, who make the Sirènes sound particularly sultry, as they should be, are blended beautifully into the orchestral fabric of the piece.

There are no interpretative surprises. Järvi scrupulously observes Debussy's dynamics and tempo marks, shaping phrases and textures to produce the required levels of spaciousness and languor. Despite much of this being music you can just wallow in, Järvi keeps a close grip on its underlying, if often subtly stated, sense of momentum.

Both main works, Nocturnes and La mer, are spectacularly well played, as is the Prélude and a comparative rarity, Berceuse héroïque, which Debussy wrote in 1914 to mark the fall of Belgium. With strings as sonorous, shimmeringly delicate and disciplined as these, and wind and brass players whose rounded, beautifully focused tone is truly wondrous, this benchmark release will be hard to beat. A real feast for the ears.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A Veritable Dynamo of the Podium

A veritable dynamo
A conversation with Paavo Järvi, and a review of his Miami concert in April,
Music and Vision Daily

The Estonian born conductor Paavo Järvi is a veritable dynamo of the podium. Already well established as Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Bremen based Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, and Artistic Advisor of the Estonian National Symphony, Järvi is about to become Principal Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. Between concerts with these ensembles he keeps up an active schedule of guest engagements. A return appearance with the New World Symphony (after a stunning début in 2002) brought Järvi to Florida in April.

Järvi is a member of a distinguished musical dynasty. Conducting comes naturally to him. His father Neeme Järvi recently completed a decade as Music Director-Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and a long tenure as Principal Conductor of Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony. (Järvi Senior is hardly resting on his laurels. Next season he becomes Music Director of both the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Hague Residentie Orchestra.) Paavo's brother Kristjan Järvi is Founder of New York's Abolute Ensemble. His sister Maarika Järvi is a renowned solo flutist.

Neeme Järvi has been an inspiration for his gifted son. 'My father is an erudite musician,' Järvi told me. 'His sense of musical curiosity always ignited when he learned about new works and new composers. His enthusiasm is infectious. He really enjoys the process of music making.'

Leonard Bernstein was another icon for the conductor. (Paavo studied with Bernstein at a Los Angeles Young Musicians' Orchestral workshop in 1986.) 'This was a fantastic opportunity. Bernstein was a true giant. He had great charisma and a magical presence. You had the feeling that you were in the presence of someone exceptional. He was so direct on the podium. Bernstein did not emphasize the mechanics of conducting. For him it was all about music making and communication', Järvi recalled.

Paavo's principal conducting teacher at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute was Max Rudolf, long a stalwart at New York's Metropolitan Opera and former Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony. 'Rudolf was an incredible person. Although he was frail he was absolutely brilliant. He had the ability to really illuminate a score. Rudolf had great charm and a wonderful sense of humor. He also had great fondness for Cincinnati. I still hear from my audiences there what a strong impact he had on the orchestra and on the city's musical life', Järvi said.

Looking forward to his appearance with the young New World musicians Järvi waxed enthusiastic. 'I love working with youth orchestras. In addition to the New World Symphony I have led the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Russian-American Young Artists' Orchestra, and the Verbier Festival Orchestra. These young ensembles have fewer preconceived ideas and bring tremendous energy to their music making. When I made my début with the New World Symphony in 2002 I conducted a score by my friend Erkki Sven Tuur. The NWS musicians really identified with the music from the point of view of rock. They understood when I told them to play this piece like Led Zeppelin -- a very fond memory.'

The music of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) is very close to Järvi's artistic heart. 'Nielsen deserves more recognition. His music is looking for a good champion,' the conductor noted. For his New World concert Järvi chose Nielsen's late, enigmatic 6th Symphony. Järvi marvels that 'the symphony was written in the first quarter of the 20th century (1925) at the time of Walton and Copland. The musical language of the Nielsen 6th Symphony is fantastic, wonderfully strange, and extremely original.'

When Järvi mounted the New World Symphony podium on 16 April 2005 at the Lincoln Theater in Miami Beach, Florida, USA, he galvanized the young musicians to some of their most riveting performances of the season. At once witty and pessimistic, Nielsen's Symphony No 6 (Sinfonia Semplice) is a musical portrait of a world on the verge of chaos and disintegration. The score's opening subject is deceptively light and elegant. Thematic and harmonic ambiguities preface the grim humor of the Humoresque movement (with an enlarged percussion battery). The Proposta seria movement is deeply moving with its darkly pensive and emotional writing for the lower strings. Järvi's magisterial performance never lost sight of the grand arc of Nielsen's musical discourse. He superbly gauged mercurial changes of tempo and mood in the concluding Theme and Variations. Järvi and his superb players recreated a unique sound world that encompassed Mahler's expressionism, Stravinsky's tart neo-classicism, and Schoenberg's excursions beyond tonality. While vividly delineating the agony and the ecstasy of this restless score, the conductor demonstrated a vibrant dynamic palette. Järvi unleashed the ensemble in full throttle fortissimos and brought the sound down to a mere whisper. A great performance!

Järvi preceded the Nielsen with Mozart's Symphony No 39. He promised an unconventional performance. 'I use a small string section -- not a Wagnerian sized orchestra', he explained. 'It is important to understand the performance practice of the era. In Mozart's scores Adagio has a different meaning than in the works of Liszt or Wagner. I have been greatly influenced by the early instrument movement. When I heard Nikolas Harnencourt and John Eliot Gardiner conduct this repertoire, it was shocking and extremely powerful -- a totally different sound and logic.'

Järvi led a brisk, supple account of this Mozart masterpiece. His bracing performance was definitely not powdered wig Mozart. From the first bars of the introductory Adagio Järvi commanded astonishing orchestral control. Taking his cue from the period instrument movement, he fielded a reduced ensemble with vibrato-less strings and felicitous woodwinds. It was delightful to hear the Menuetto played with such incisive energy and vigor. (No one has led this movement at such a rapid clip since Toscanini.) The final Allegro sparkled with vivacity and élan.

Järvi is not didactic about orchestral size in 18th and early 19th century scores. 'We are at a healthy place in terms of symphony orchestras playing chamber orchestral repertoire', he says. 'I want to bring Bach back to the major concert stage.' He is looking forward to performing Bach's B Minor Mass in Cincinnati with large orchestral and choral forces. Järvi notes that 'Mahler, Furtwängler, and Mengelberg performed Bach's music with a large orchestra and chorus. Mengelberg's Bach was deeply profound.'

Now firmly ensconced in Cincinnati, Järvi is proud of his accomplishments with that orchestra. 'We have performed 50 pieces (over four seasons) that were new to the orchestra's repertoire. It is important to keep the art alive, to present works in context, and to include challenging repertoire. The Cincinnati Symphony is the fifth oldest orchestra in North America. Our support is tremendously strong. The orchestra really matters to the community.'

Järvi has undertaken a series of acclaimed recordings with the stellar Cincinnati ensemble. A recent disc coupled Stravinsky's Rite of Spring with Nielsen's 5th Symphony. (There is always logic in Järvi's combinations of scores on his recordings.) 'The Stravinsky and Nielsen are similar in concept -- two views of barbarism about ten years apart. The Nielsen symphony is almost threatening', Järvi elucidated. His next recorded project in Cincinnati is the Concerti for Orchestra of Bartók and Lutoslawski. 'The Lutoslawski work is not absolutely standard repertoire.' Recent recordings have paired symphonies of Dvorák and Sibelius with works by Bohuslav Martinu and Eduard Tubin. The latter Estonian composer is particularly dear to Järvi's heart. 'One of the paradoxes of the musical world is that there is such a rich library of works; yet the repertoire remains limited to what is considered standard. Tubin is an unjustly neglected composer with a distinctive musical voice. My father recorded a complete set of Tubin's symphonies', he observes.

Following summer appearances at the Verbier Festival, fall finds Järvi touring South Germany with the great Dresden Staatskapelle (which recently gave memorable performances of Beethoven and Brahms symphonies in South Florida under the baton of Myung Whun Chung). He will conduct a complete Beethoven symphony cycle with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. 'We are a touring orchestra similar to the Chamber Orchestra of Europe', he observes. 'The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie plays everything from small Stravinsky to Brahms.' Performances in the Far East and Asia also loom on Järvi's calendar. Clearly he upholds the family tradition of superb music making with ensembles that span the globe!

Copyright © 11 July 2005 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

Monday, July 25, 2005

CD REVIEW: Debussy

Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
'Debussy: Prelude a L'Apres-midi d'un Faune' (Telarc)
By Michael Barnes
Austin American Statesman, March 10, 2005


There is no paucity of modern Debussy recordings, especially of his symphonic masterworks "Prelude a L'Apres-midi d'un Faune," "Nocturnes" and "La Mer." So why issue a CD from a second-tier -- if improving -- ensemble such as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra? Two words: Paavo Jarvi. The Estonian conductor has already worked his magic on Debussy's near-relations -- Ravel, Sibelius, Britten -- for moody, nature-inspired music -- as well as edgier selections from Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Sumera and Part. But Debussy brings out Jarvi's historical intelligence and ardor for voluptuous tones. The sensualist in me prefers these renditions to Pierre Boulez's chilly 1960s series or his more tender 1993 versions, or Bernard Haitink's popular recordings with the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Paavo in Parnu Today

Well, look who's back in Estonia again--and just in time for the David Oistrakh Festival! Yes, it's PJ, this time conducting the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra Sunday, July 17 in Parnü. Featured on today's program is the acclaimed young Russian violinist Tatiana Berman playing Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3.