Friday, March 31, 2006

My Review: PJ on The Dish

Jean-Robert, Paavo, and Meg with a toast to a successful show, with (left to right) Creamed Brussels Sprouts, Sauteed Fingerling Potatoes, and Veal a la Viennoise garnished with capers and diced hard boiled egg

Well, I'm not prejudiced or anything ;-), but I think Paavo was one of the best guests I've seen on The Dish since it premiered last fall. It was fun to see an aspect of his personality that most people, who only think of him as the serious "Maestro", never get to see -- the playful, charming side.

From his entrance, when he declared that his cooking specialty was "boiling water"--and Jean-Robert retorted that they had the perfect job for him (boiling potatoes prior to cooking)--to Paavo's anecdote about his two-year-old daughter Lea attending his concerts and recently blurting out "Papa!" during a quiet moment in Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, there was a lovely chemistry at work; not exactly an easy thing when there's still a whole lotta cookin' goin' on!

Paavo pointed out that, in French, the conductor is referred to as the "chef d'orchestre", while, of course, Jean-Robert is also chef [de cuisine] and asked Jean-Ro if he had studied music as a boy in France. Jean-Robert responded by saying he'd studied something that I am going to have to listen to again to figure out, but it had something to do with singing and musical terms. PJ knew exactly what it was, even though co-host Meg and I were stumped! All the while, as this banter flew back and forth, Paavo continued his kitchen "apprenticeship" under Meg's tutelage: trimming the ends off of Brussels sprouts, pounding strips of veal to flatten ("I never thought I'd be doing this in public!"), breading and sauteeing the resulting scallopine. Not too bad for a novice! ;-)

The recipes are not posted on the website yet, but when they are they will appear here. The dishes on today's menu for spring included Veal a la Viennoise (which, as PJ pointed out, is the French version of Wiener Schnitzel!) with Madeira Sauce, sauteed fingerling potatoes, creamed Brussels sprouts, and tiramisu.

As Paavo, who clearly was having a good time, said, during a particularly hectic moment, "I hope you invite me back!" I hope they do, too.

Paavo. The Dish. WKRC-TV. 9:30 am TODAY!

Paavo, wearing a big smile, does something dangerous with a knife, as Jean-Robert works his kitchen ju-ju! Dig that gorgeous glimpse of rosemary in the foreground...

Man, I am beginning to feel a little like the PR flack for this show. No mention of PJ on The Dish's website -- no guests listed after March 17, in fact. No mentions in the Post, Enquirer, or CityBeat. If there was a television commercial, I must have missed it. Too busy watching American Idol, I guess!

Oh, well. Make sure you get that VCR timer programmed to record before you leave for work this morning: Channel 12, Friday, March 31, 9:30-10 am!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Someone's in the Kitchen with...Jean-Robert!

The Dish co-host Meg Galvin with Paavo and Jean-Robert

Oh, yes. And this Friday, March 31, renowned French chef Jean-Robert de Cavel welcomes Paavo to his cooking show, The Dish. Paavo, no doubt, will dazzle us in the kitchen the same way he dazzles us on the podium - or maybe not! But one thing we know for sure is that PJ has a hearty appetite and a great appreciation for good food shared among good friends. And what a good friend Jean-Robert must be to have. Recently honored with a nomination as Best Chef - Midwest for the James Beard Awards, Jean-Ro has established a mini-empire in the Cincinnati area with his nationally-acclaimed restaurant Jean-Robert at Pigall's, as well as Jean-Ro Bistro, Pho Paris, and the soon to open Jean-Robert's Greenup Café.

The Dish airs Friday from 9:30-10 am on WKRC - Local 12.

Monday, March 27, 2006

PJ's New Grieg CD

I've finally tracked down the information on Paavo's soon-to-be-released Grieg CD, recorded with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Titled Norwegian Dances, it includes: Holberg Suite; Symphonic Dances and Elegiac Melodies. Oddly, the only information I could find so far comes from two German sources: and; neither of the U.K. versions of these companies have anything posted about this CD at all yet. But soon...I'm sure they will soon!

European Release Date: 7. April 2006
U.S. Release Date: May 2, 2006

Ringtones? MP3s? Beethoven would have been proud

Sarah Jones of Scotland on Sunday offers an interesting take on the way British symphony orchestras are taking advantage of digital technology to extend and develop their audiences. Read the complete article here.

Some excerpts:
ONLY a year or so ago you were lucky if you could get more than the 'Toreador' theme from Carmen in ear-piercing monotone blips on your mobile. Hardly an advert for the joys of classical music, but popular nonetheless. Recently, however, classical music has grasped the world of digital music technology to such an extent that there's no excuse now for not having the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra blasting from your phone in full 'true tone' glory.

It's not just ringtones, either. Classical organisations everywhere, including our own Royal Scottish National Orchestra, are offering us free downloads, build-your-own albums, and podcasts with gusto.

What marks out classical downloading from pop-based genres is that classical music has so much more to gain. Digital technology is fast becoming the new vanguard in the fight for audiences.

Chaz Jenkins, head of LSO Live, the go-getting recording armof the London Symphony Orchestra, says that its hugely popular ringtones website, which offers a vast array of LSO recorded ringtones, classical and otherwise, resulted from the orchestra's use of text messaging to alert students to late availability of concerts.

"It was a real stab in the dark, but it's been really successful," says Jenkins. "During an evening, at 8pm or 9pm, someone who got a ringtone earlier in day is obviously in the pub or something, playing their new classical ringtone, and we'll get a sudden flood of five or six people in that short period buying the same ringtone. It suggests we really are reaching new people, even on that most basic level."

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra adopted digital downloading after a Classic Bites concert last year. "It was about mass appeal for new or infrequent audiences," says RSNO spokesman Daniel Pollitt. "We were the first major orchestra in the UK to provide the performance as a download. Everyone at the concert got a password and instructions and 25% downloaded after the concert, which was really encouraging."

Back in London, the Philharmonia Orchestra, who made its first webcast of a concert in April 2005, is now offering MP3 downloads for £1 a shot. In Wales, the WNO streams live performances online, and the BBC recently offered its entire Beethoven season as a free download, as well as podcasting concerts and musical programmes.
Beethoven, ever the innovator, would have approved.

...Orchestras are achieving results too. Last year the LSO became the first orchestra in the world to make recordings available through iTunes, the online music store. "We're currently at No 2 and No 7 in their classical chart, which isn't bad," says Jenkins.

He puts it down to the ability to experiment. "When you download, you can listen to excerpts of music which you just can't do in a music store, so you can maybe take a chance on something you've not heard of before.

"In America, where they're about 18 months ahead of us on this, CD sales account for 2%-3% of the CD market, but on iTunes, classical music gets at least three times that share. We're definitely reaching new audiences."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

CD REVIEW: Bartók/Lutoslawski

I just can't wait to share this review with you. I mean, when is the last time you can remember the Cincinnati Symphony getting a CD review in the Sunday New York Times? That's what I thought! Here it is:
A Conversation Between Composers, in Polish and Hungarian
By James R. Oestreich
New York Times, March 26, 2006

Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra; Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra, Fanfare for Louisville
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paavo Jarvi. Telarc 80618; CD.

PAAVO JARVI'S adventures as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony have been well documented in recent years by a series of excellent recordings from Telarc. Perhaps the finest was a coupling of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Nielsen's Fifth Symphony, released in 2004.

Here is another winner. The coupling of Lutoslawski's riveting Concerto for Orchestra (1954) with the work that probably inspired it, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra (1943), seems inevitable, if only on the strength of Christoph von Dohnanyi's brilliant versions with the Cleveland Orchestra from the late 1980's, released on a 1990 CD from Decca.

The juxtaposition pits Bartok late in his career against Lutoslawski early in his. But with their allusions to Hungarian folk music in one case and Polish in the other, they come out in much the same place. Lutoslawski's concerto is for the most part louder and brasher, offering some of the most exhilarating noise this side of Janacek's Sinfonietta.

The skittish and intense Fanfare for Louisville, a minute and a half long, gives at least a taste of the later Lutoslawski as well.

Mr. Jarvi's interpretations are everywhere persuasive, and the performances almost uniformly virtuosic. Telarc's typically expansive sound is especially gratifying in the clatter and the occasional shriek of the Lutoslawski concerto.

The only caveat in recommending this recording is that the Dohnanyi CD is still available. It was made when the marvelous chemistry between Mr. Dohnanyi and the orchestra was at its formidable height. But Mr. Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony seem to have a chemistry thing going, too. And to say that the new release is worthy to set alongside that earlier one out of Ohio is no mean praise.

Downsizing among options considered for Music Hall

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer
In this article, Janelle Gelfand writes of the dilemma faced by the CSO as it is faced with an increasingly high profile worldwide reputation for its exciting and emotionally moving concerts under Paavo Järvi and the loss of local listeners to appreciate them at home:
Downsizing among options considered for Music Hall
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, March 26, 2006

On most nights, more than half the seats are empty in the cavernous, 3,400 seat Music Hall, the largest concert hall in the country.

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Paavo Järvi says that to make it a destination, Music Hall needs updating to bring it to the 21st century - such as places where concertgoers can have a bite to eat before the concert or drinks afterward. And the size of the auditorium needs to fit the needs of a symphony orchestra.

Renovation plans could be unveiled as early as this summer.

Music Hall - a multi-purpose hall - was built in 1878 for the massive choral concerts of the Cincinnati May Festival. Because most orchestra halls seat about 2,200, Järvi and the CSO trustees are discussing ideas to make it more intimate for concerts. Ideas include temporarily closing off sections, making the hall "adjustable" depending upon its use or projecting a "thrust stage" into the hall.

"It is not a question of trying to take an easy way out and build something smaller so we don't have to look at so many empty seats," he says, "but creating an environment in which the art form that we practice is comfortable."

In the past decade, there have been successful renovations in Chicago's Orchestra Hall, Cleveland's Severance Hall and Detroit's Orchestra Hall. Just up I-75, Daytonians built the sparkling Schuster Center for the Performing Arts for the city's orchestra and opera. Although the CSO has not yet assembled a team - which would likely include theater and acoustical consultants as well as architects and a construction company - there are many possibilities, Järvi says.

"In our case, we shouldn't be stuck to something that worked before, but doesn't work for us now. Chicago has changed, Severance Hall has changed, even much smaller communities are building new halls. We need to adjust to the times."

It's premature to speculate a price tag, or how it would be paid. But a redo would need to preserve Music Hall's famed acoustics, praised last year in a guest May Festival appearance by America's most famous maestro, James Levine.

The city of Cincinnati owns Music Hall, and it is managed by the Cincinnati Arts Association. The orchestra is meeting regularly - as recently as Monday - with the other tenants, Cincinnati Opera and May Festival, as well as CAA, to assure that changes are mutually agreeable.

"We're all taking this very seriously. The future of Music Hall is so dependant on the fact that arts organizations are able to stay here and remain viable. When the symphony says they have problems, all of us are listening," says Patricia K. Beggs, general director and CEO of Cincinnati Opera.

"The fact is, there are very few amenities here for patrons. We'd all like for this to be a destination for them - for dinner, for staying afterwards, going to clubs and art galleries - and that doesn't exist here. Parking is a challenge.

"It's about getting the attention of people who can make a difference, so that they can invest in this part of town just like they have in other parts of town."

If the orchestra were to leave, it's unclear where it might go. The Aronoff Center, designed for Broadway, has no orchestra shell and no other music venue in the region is large enough or available. The orchestra's onetime home in the Emery Theater on the edge of Over-the-Rhine is crumbling in disrepair, and a move to the suburbs or to a glittering new hall downtown would take a major capital campaign.

But, Järvi says, "If there comes a point where we just simply cannot find the solution for this hall, then we're going to have to try to find another place to be."

There is precedence. Founded in 1895, the Cincinnati Symphony left its Music Hall home in 1912 for the Emery Theater on Walnut Street, where it played for 25 years before moving back to Music Hall in 1936.


Sandye's Unscientific Survey of Seating Capacities of U.S. Concert Halls

Music Hall, Cincinnati, OH - 3,516
Bass Concert Hall, Austin, TX - 2,926
Jones Hall, Houston, TX - 2,833
Isaac Stern Auditorium, Carnegie Hall, New York, NY - 2,804
Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA - 2,743
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, NY - 2,738
Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis, MO - 2,689
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA - 2,625
Symphony Hall, Chicago, IL - 2,500
Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA - 2,500
Kennedy Center Concert Hall, Washington, D.C. - 2,442
Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C. - 2,374
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA - 2,265
Schuster Performing Arts Center, Dayton, OH - 2,155
Severance Hall, Cleveland, OH - 2,100
Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, TN - 1,900

Showdown at Music Hall

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand provides an update on current issues affecting Music Hall and its relationship with its majority tenant, the Cincinnati Symphony in this article:
Safety, renovation issues could affect future of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in Over-the-Rhine
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati enquirer, March 26, 2006

A concert hall that's too large.

A neighborhood that's struggling and has had its share of bad luck.

And lots of empty promises to drive out the criminals and develop Over-the-Rhine.

Now, the mayor's initiative to make the neighborhood safer, plans to develop the Washington Park area near Music Hall and a desire to make the grand venue a more exciting destination all add up to one thing: It's the last chance to keep the Cincinnati Symphony from leaving its home.

Five years into the tenure of music director Paavo Järvi, 43, he hopes - finally - "for the start of something we have been waiting for."

Although a move is not imminent, the symphony's 53-member board of trustees has quietly discussed one for years. It would take a majority board vote and "I think we would get that," trustee Jack Rouse says.

Despite international acclaim for the 111-year-old orchestra, among the top 10 of the nation's 25 big-budget orchestras, fear of crime around the historic, 128-year-old hall is one reason attendance has dropped steadily in the five years since Järvi began his tenure - three days after 9-11 and five months after the riots in Over-the-Rhine.

At the same time, Järvi wants a redo of the hall, which two decades ago was able to fill most of its 3,400 seats for symphony concerts but now is half-empty for most concerts.

"I like this building, and I see so much potential," Järvi says. "I have hope that this city will find a will to change this neighborhood into a prosperous neighborhood that retains its color, but regains its streets from the drug dealers.

"As somebody who came here five years ago with high hopes of trying to create this as the center of the city - the hall being the crown jewel of the city - I find things move too slowly, and I find the political will is lacking."

Will anything change by the time his contract expires after the 2008-09 season?

Trustees recently took their concerns to City Hall, and were encouraged by Mayor Mark Mallory's response. But promises have to be fulfilled, Rouse says:

"If (the neighborhood) isn't cleaned up, no matter what we do to the hall won't make any difference. Music Hall is the anchor of Over-the-Rhine, but it's anchoring nothing."

Yet the completion of a new School for the Creative and Performing Arts by 2009, a proposed parking garage and neighborhood condos are still years away. And music lovers are anxious about attending the concerts in Music Hall.

"Like it or not, safety is an issue in Over-the-Rhine," says symphony subscriber Judy Evans of Anderson Township. "Perception or not."

The Town Center Garage on Central Parkway and the rehabbed neighborhood to the west of Music Hall are safe, according to police statistics. Many symphony stalwarts, like Tom and Luanne Morgan of Mount Lookout, have never stopped attending. They walk in groups and park in well-lit lots or the garage.

But Princeton Middle School teacher Gary Cook says the one time in December 2003 he tried to save $5 by parking on Elm Street, he returned with his 10-year-old daughter from seeing the "Nutcracker" to find four bullet holes in their car from a drug deal gone bad. Now Cook, who still enjoys going to the symphony, always parks in the garage.

Perception of crime, rightly or wrongly, keeps some suburban classical music lovers such as Tim Fry, 44, of Montgomery from going to Music Hall.

Fry attended the symphony once in 1997 and says he'll never go back.

"I just remember the streets and kids milling around and not many police. After the riots, I thought, I don't understand the value of taking a potential risk to go to a concert. ... To me, Cincinnati is almost irrelevant. I go through there on my way to the airport. It never dawns on me that I'd want to go there."

Many issues affect attendance - from cuts in school arts programs to ticket price increases. But Järvi is alarmed at what he perceives is an increased presence of drug dealers close to Music Hall. He's discouraged that a coherent plan for the neighborhood, long beleaguered by crime and poverty, has been slow in coming from city leaders.

"I told them we would certainly find ways to be helpful, in making sure that as many people that want to experience the greatness of Music Hall are able to do that in safety," Mallory said last week about his meeting with board members.

Mallory unveiled his public safety initiative in January. The force has 25 new officers and another 25 have been reassigned to cover "hot spot" areas - areas of the highest crime activity, he says.

"Obviously we're going to be focusing on areas that need the most attention," Mallory said, adding that additional officers are in the area on performance nights.

Leaving Music Hall "has come up for years," board chair Rick Reynolds says. "My concern is the next generation, and are they going to come up? Perception is a concern, headlines are a concern."

Nevertheless, he is more hopeful than ever that, "very quietly, things have been improving."

Except for the empty seats. "The elephant in the living room for us is the huge number of seats and the emptiness for great concerts. ... The symphony has to look out for itself. That's what we the trustees are there for. Right now, our first line of defense is a renovation with reduction of seating," Reynolds says.

Music Hall, also home to Cincinnati Opera and Cincinnati May Festival, is owned by the city and managed by the Cincinnati Arts Association. There must be agreement between all of these entities before the orchestra, its largest tenant, is allowed to renovate.

Board members know that now, with developers and a new city government poised to make improvements, is a unique opportunity for a turnaround. Rouse, who is also on the executive committee of Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) and chair of the Port Authority, says cooperation is critical.

Developers hope that big plans to rehab the Washington Park area will result in an enhanced feeling of community that should - eventually - drive crime away. But no groundbreaking dates for these projects have been announced.

"We really have only conceptual plans at this point," says Des Bracey, project manager for 3CDC, a nonprofit corporation developing downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the Banks. And before development can take place, criminal activity in and around Washington Park is being tracked, to see if the new lights are effective, and fencing is being raised around vacant lots.

"It's really not until those vacant buildings are rehabbed and are homes with people living there, that the perception and character of the neighborhood will change," Bracey says.

Until then, Marcy Elter of Lebanon will attend the Lebanon Symphony Orchestra rather than the Cincinnati Symphony because of safety concerns.

"I am able to enjoy these performances within my own community, where I can afford the ticket, park within the hemisphere of the performance for free and not have to worry about predators on my way into or out of the venue," she says.

Police visibility during concerts is important, but it won't solve the problem, Järvi says.

"We can bring in the National Guard for every concert here, but that still doesn't make it any better for the people who live in this neighborhood, or for us," he says. "We need to address the real issue, which is that this neighborhood is not getting any better, and our empty seats are very much related to that issue.

"There are people who don't want us to move. But at the end of the day, if you are uncomfortable in your house, you call your Realtor."


Saturday, March 25, 2006

Music Hall and Over-the-Rhine

Janelle Gelfand of the Cincinnati Enquirer has just posted a blog entry titled Music Hall and Over-the-Rhine in which she shares a number of reader comments about perceptions of safety issues and other things which may deter patrons from attending events at Music Hall. There were some interesting points made; among them:
Anonymous male, an engineer, writes: "I sometimes find it sad that you will find a police officer present to direct traffic arriving, and someone at the door of Music Hall. But rarely do I see an officer when I'm leaving after a performance.

"...Also, I think the advertising campaign is anemic. I only hear ads on WGUC, which is like preaching to the choir. The Concerts in the Park series has fallen off, and I think this generated a lot of interest. After many years, we have a first class Symphony, but I don't think the community really knows this."

Shirley Ekvall of Wyoming suggests: "I would suggest the police be around the parking garage, too. Maybe more officers should be visible. Could an escort be available if some desire?"

Sergio Baranovsky e-mails: "Crime in OTR is a concern. That said, we do not make concert attendance decisions based on local crime statistics. On the other hand, we always allow ourselves sufficient time to park in the CET/WGUC lot. The $5 fee is well worth our peace of mind.

"Perhaps symphony tickets could include parking as an additional incentive. Some upscale downtown restaurants offer complimentary valet parking to make security conscious patrons feel safer."

So what do you say?

Friday, March 24, 2006

L'Orchestre de Paris en tournée en France et en Europe

From tiny Luxembourg comes this news of the Orchestre de Paris's tour of France and Europe in the 2006-2007 season. Paavo will be guest conducting at the Théâtre de Caen on May 31, 2007, so mark your calendar now if you are planning a little vacation getaway!
L'Orchestre de Paris en tournée en France et en Europe
Tageblatt, 24/03/2006
L'Orchestre de Paris (OP), en marge de son activité parisienne, se déplacera au cours de la saison 2006-2007 à trois reprises en région en France et se rendra en tournée dans quatre pays d'Europe (Allemagne, Pays-Bas, Luxembourg, Espagne).

En région, l'OP se rendra dans trois grandes métropoles pour des concerts avec des chefs invités : le Finlandais Esa-Pekka Salonen à l'auditorium de Dijon le 1er décembre 2006, le Français Michel Plasson au Pin Galant de Mérignac-Bordeaux le 23 mars 2007 et l'Estonien Paavo Jarvi au Théâtre de Caen le 31 mai 2007.

Hors de France, l'OP donnera au total dix-sept concerts. Il sera en résidence avec son directeur musical le chef Christoph Eschenbach à la Philharmonie d'Essen où il donnera quatre concerts du 30 octobre au 2 novembre 2006. La formation et son patron effectueront une autre tournée de neuf concerts en Allemagne (Francfort et Munich) et au Concertgebouw d'Amsterdam, avec quatre programmes différents, du 22 février au 5 mars 2007.

Le russe Mstislav Rostropovitch, auparavant le 18 novembre 2006, dirigera l'OP lors d'un concert au Luxembourg.

La dernière tournée de la saison 2006-2007 conduira l'OP pour trois concerts au Festival de musique et de danse de Grenade (Espagne), deux seront assurés par Christoph Eschenbach les 28 juin et 1er juillet 2007 et un troisième par le chef espagnol Josep Pons le 29 juin 2007.

Top ten orchestras

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand has a new entry in her blog titled Top ten orchestras in which she expands upon a talk she gave to a Kiwanis group last night in which she was asked how the Cincinnati Symphony would rate today against the "Big 10" American orchestras. I especially liked this part (and I bet the orchestra would, too!):
So, where does our orchestra fall? I'd say lately, under Paavo Jarvi, definitely within the Top 10 -- and that is because the artistic quality (playing, programming and sheer excitement level) of concerts is something the likes of which this city hasn't seen since the Schippers era. In fact, it may be better now than any time in our orchestra's 111-year-old history.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CD REVIEW: Bartók/Lutoslawski

Well! It isn't even available for sale yet, but the reviews are already beginning. Like this great one from Classics by Victor Carr Jr.:
Concerto for Orchestra; Fanfare for Louisville
Concerto for Orchestra
Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Telarc- 60618(SACD)
Reference Recording - Lutoslawski: This one; Bartok: Kubelik (DG); Bernstein (Sony)


The gripping Intrada to Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra, with its pounding timpani and gutsy strings, immediately displays the stunning high-fidelity sound Telarc has achieved on this SACD in both stereo and multi-channel formats. Instrumental groups make their entrances from clearly defined points in the sound picture, thanks to the recording's remarkable clarity and vivid imaging. Of course, all of this counts only if it serves the music, and Paavo Järvi plays Lutoslawski's fascinating score for maximum sonic--and musical--impact.

Järvi encourages his players to go for virtuosity, and they make the most of the opportunities provided by the score's many exposed solo passages
, from the intriguing interplay of orchestral sections in the Capriccio, to the uncanny juxtaposition and interweaving of instrumental layers in the Passacaglia. The brief Fanfare for Orchestra (1985), in the composer's later, aleatoric style explodes in a brilliant flourish of brass, which the Cincinnati musicians tackle with real gusto.

Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra is of course more familiar than Lutoslawski's, long ago having attained warhorse status, but you'd never know it from Järvi's ever-fresh approach. The Introduzione opens with a mystical air reminiscent of Bluebeard's Castle before launching headlong into the movement proper. Again, the Cincinnati musicians make a fine impression in Bartók's frequent concertante passages, while Järvi's conducting exudes engaging energy and imagination. There's scarcely a passage where you can relax into lazy listening as Järvi invests each moment with a sense of anticipation and discovery. Even the finale's (in)famous coda sounds fresh in Järvi's clever phrasing. This is a performance that makes you appreciate Bartók's genius once again, and the disc as a whole is a highly rewarding listening experience. Recommended, absolutely!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chamber Music Group, Concertnova, to debut in Friday concert

Tatiana Berman (photo: Yuri Komka)

Violinist Tatiana Berman will be leading the chamber music group Concertnova in its debut concert, Friday, March 24, 2006 at 8 pm at Nativity Church in Pleasant Ridge. Concertnova,comprised of local musicians and members of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, will perform works by Bach, Mozart, and Messiaen. Members of Concertnova participating in this concert include Gerard Itzkoff (violin), Heidi Yenney (viola), Christina Coletta (cello), Owen Lee (bass), Randy Bowman (flute), Ixi Chen (clarinet), Jennifer Monroe (bassoon), Gene Berger (horn), Christian Ganicenco (trombone), Eric Dudley (piano/organ/conductor), and Meng-Chun Lin (soprano).

The Concertnova performance is the second in Nativity's Laetare Arts Series, launched last February with the dedication of a sculpture titled "Anguish of Abraham". This year's concert falls two days before Laetare ("to be joyful" in Latin) Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent when Catholics celebrate the joy of their journey toward Easter. Concertnova's performance is free and open to all. General admission seating begins at 7:30 pm. Nativity of Our Lord Parish, 5935 Pandora Ave. Cincinnati OH 45213-2017. Phone (513) 531-3164, Fax (513) 458-6761.

For a map and driving directions to the church, click here.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Coleman Commission to Premiere in New Jersey

Paavo's friend, composer Charles Coleman, will see the premiere of his new commission entitled Red Oak Dawn on Thursday when it is performed by Neeme Jarvi and the New Jersey Symphony. The New York Times had this to say about it:
A Premiere for the State And for the New Conductor
By Brian Wise
New York Times, March 19, 2006

It's an unusual task for any composer: Write a symphonic work that pays homage to New Jersey. But it should also celebrate a new conductor, share a program with Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, justify its expense and serve as an orchestra's single world premiere for an entire concert season.

Neeme Jarvi, music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, wanted just such a piece and asked the composer Charles Coleman, a Manhattan native, to write it. Titled Red Oak Dawn, it will have its premiere on Thursday at the State Theater in New Brunswick, followed by performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Friday and Sunday and the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank on Saturday.

For Mr. Jarvi, commissioning a piece about New Jersey during his first season on the job sends a strong message, echoing his experiences at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, where he was music director from 1990 to 2005. There he helped build an identity for the orchestra by premiering works on local themes, like Motor City Triptych by the composer Michael Daugherty, a Michigan resident.

"I'm extremely proud to be in New Jersey," Mr. Jarvi said. "It's a great place to live and has reason to boast of its state orchestra. With such talent at my disposal, Charles felt a work celebrating the state, the orchestra and my leadership of it was necessary."

Named after the New Jersey state tree, the 15-minute piece began with an Internet search, Mr. Coleman said. A Web site of state symbols listed the red oak.

"I looked at the tree, and it has a nice inner portion that blossoms out," he said. "I have a lot of overlapping material throughout the piece that seems to represent the multiple details of the leaves of a tree."

The piece also subtly honors Count Basie, who was born in Red Bank. "We were actually thinking about using Count Basie's tune Little Darling, Mr. Coleman said. "But I had a terrible time trying to get the rights to it. I ended up creating a jazzy, walking bass middle section that bore a resemblance to the tune."

Mr. Coleman is part of a generation of American composers whose music freely draws on jazz, funk and rock. While studying composition at the Manhattan School of Music in the early 1990's, he met Mr. Jarvi's son Kristjan, who was a conducting student. Together, they founded the Absolute Ensemble, a chamber ensemble noted for its hip synthesis of rock and contemporary classical music.

In 2001, when Kristjan's older brother, Paavo Jarvi, became music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, he commissioned Mr. Coleman to write a piece for his opening concerts. Titled Streetscape, the piece is an evocative portrait of the composer's native New York City. Eventually, the elder Jarvi took notice.

"Neeme Jarvi is a man whose recordings I grew up with as a teenager," Mr. Coleman said. "Twenty years later, I'm writing for the guy. I can't believe it."

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New CSO Bartók/Lutoslawski CD to be released in April!

Telarc's website has posted information about its upcoming release of Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony's newest CD and its "Russian Constructivist"-style cover is one of the most appealing I've seen. Although its official release date is April 25, I am making a major guess that it just may be available for sale in Music Hall's Bravo Shop the weekend of April 21-23 when Paavo returns to Cincinnati to conduct what is sure to be a major crowd-pleaser of a program: Kurt Weill's Suite from The Three Penny Opera; Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue and Riffs and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.

Meanwhile, you may listen to samples and place advance orders for the CD through Telarc's website.

From Telarc's notes:
Paavo Jarvi/Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra; Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra and Fanfare for Louisville

Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra make their ninth Telarc recording with Concertos for Orchestra by both Béla Bartók and Witold Lutoslawski, as well as Lutoslawski’s Fanfare for Louisville. The recording is a study of two composers on a very similar creative path.

Järvi himself poses a very simple but significant question regarding the two mid-20th century composers: “Is it possible that two works can share so much in common purely by accident? Whether or not Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra directly influenced Lutoslawski’s, we can sense the musical affinity between these great Central European composers in the folk melodies and chorales at the center of both masterpieces. Hearing them together on one recording gives the listener the joy of making these connections.”

Bartók and Lutoslawski composed their concertos for orchestra at opposite ends of one of the twentieth century’s most defining events, World War II. “Yet from separate standpoints—Bartók’s during his last years as an emigrant to the United States and Lutoslawski’s during this years of struggle in post-war Poland—the pieces share distinct similarities,” according to the recording liner notes by Jonathan D. Kramer and Eric Dudley. “Both works display their composers’ interests in earlier music and formal ideas, their connection to the folk music of their native lands, and their response to the circumstances of their times—and both are towering examples of the concerto for orchestra as a genre and among both composers’ most popular works.”

After Bartók had moved his family to the United States, he started to experience severe health and financial problems. He had developed international ties through connections like fellow Hungarian Fritz Reiner, who was the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Aware of the composer’s predicament, Reiner and violinist Joseph Szigeti approached Serge Koussevitsky, the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, to organize a commission for Bartók. Once Bartók’s health began to improve, he completed the Concerto for Orchestra in 1943.

Bartók explained the work’s title by its “tendency to treat single orchestral instruments in a concertante or soloistic manner.” Its five movements are cast in an arch form, with substantial outer ones flanking two scherzos and a slow movement at the center.

The political situation in his country, Poland, is a strong part of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra. The post-war years were a time of repression in Poland under Stalin’s rule, and in 1949 the vice-minister of culture organized a conference instructing new guidelines for Socialist content in art. Lutoslawski muted his protest in order to survive.

The three-movement work is broken down into an Intrada (Introduction) in arch form. The second, Capriccio, is a scherzo with a trio (Arioso). The third and longest movement begins with a passacaglia on a folk theme that rises in seventeen repetitions from low to high. The main body of the movement is the Toccata, interrupted by a chorale that appears softly at first and then climatically near the end.

Much like Bartók’s Concerto, Lutoslawski’s Fanfare for Louisville emerged from the composer’s relationship with an American orchestra, The Louisville Orchestra. Upon winning the Grawemeyer Award in 1985, Lutoslawski conducted a series of performances of his Third Symphony in Louisville. Months later, he sent the orchestra the Fanfare as a gesture of thanks.

This new recording by Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra comes on the heels of their critically acclaimed recording of Dvoøák: Symphony No. 9 and Martinù: Symphony. No. 2, which was picked as an Editor’s Choice by Gramophone. The reviewer at the international publication proclaimed, “Paavo Järvi reveals his keen imagination and sharp concentration in both performances and under his guidance, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is consistently excellent: this ensemble more than matches that of the rival versions.”

Järvi explains what he aims to accomplish through his Telarc recordings: “My Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra recordings with Telarc allow listeners to hear works in a new light. Pairing standard repertoire with rarely heard or newer works creates interesting connections, and I like that a lot.”

Friday, March 17, 2006

On the importance of cultural identity

Blogger Kyle Gann, former music writer for the Village Voice, has an interesting post titled Advantages of Foreign Imperialism, which discusses the prominence of living composers from Estonia, the Ukraine, and Georgia in new music in his Arts blog, PostClassic. He even received an email from Paavo's friend, composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, saying E-S reads PostClassic from his home on the Baltic island of Hiiumaa! And here's a reader comment that I was particularly taken with:
From Diego Chávez-Vargas at March 9, 2006 09:47 PM

I was fortunate to travel as a journalist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during its 1998 European tour, which closed with two concerts in Tallinn, Estonia, the hometown of then music director Neeme Jarvi, who is treated like a rock star whenever he returns to Estonia. I was struck by the degree to which Estonians --from the president of the country to the halter-top women in the hotel disco -- were aware of the cultural importance of classical music figures like Jarvi.

In a piece for the Free Press I wrote: "Jarvi's place in the Estonian psyche transcends his musical gifts, burrowing deep into the nation's soul, both its cultural identity and its political ambitions. As soon as Jarvi and his family emigrated to the West in 1980, he began to champion the Estonian composers whose works the Soviet authorities had forbidden him to perform at home -- Arvo Part, Eduard Tubin and many others. Jarvi's concerts and recordings were patriotic flares announcing the wealth of musical talent produced by this Baltic nation of just 1.5 million.

'The way a small country can feel herself part of the world community is not through battles or armies,' explained Lennart Meri, the president of the Republic of Estonia. 'We have one means: That is cultural identity. That's why we attach so much importance to music, poetry and painting.'"

Paavo speaks!

Paavo talks with WGUC's Brian O'Donnell about his first four years with the Cincinnati Symphony in this video produced by Cincinnati's public television station, CET. Viewing requires Windows Media Player and a broadband connection, so if you are a Mac user with dialup (like me!) I guess you're just out of luck!
Video viewing on

Optimum viewing on requires a broadband connection, such as cable, DSL or IP over power lines broadband. CET strongly recommends that users with a slow connection ( e.g., a dial up with a connection less than 56Kbs) should not attempt to play the video on this site. Either the video will not play at all or it will take a very long time to start and then will not play smoothly. All other non-video features of this site should work fine.

Our videos work best with the latest, free version of Windows Media Player; they are not compatible with Quick Time or Real Player. You can download for free the latest version of Windows Media Player. Mac users should download the latest version of Flip4Mac™.

If you have the latest version of Windows Media Player installed on your computer and are having problems viewing our videos, you can find helpful troubleshooting information, including help on how to download browsers, by clicking on "Help" in the Video Player.

If you feel you can tackle the problems yourself, visit Microsoft's Frequently Asked Questions about how to troubleshoot issues in Windows Media Player.

CONCERT REVIEW: Goodyear shines in return visit with Jarvi and the CSO

The Cincinnati Post's Mary Ellyn Hutton writes glowingly of last night's concert in this review:
It was a choice program that Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi set before his audience Thursday night at Music Hall. Choice for being all-20th century music (including a CSO premiere) and choice for bringing the phenomenal pianist Stewart Goodyear back to town.

Just 27, Goodyear was a knockout in Bartok's Concerto No. 2, a Magyar-flavored showpiece that shows no mercy for soloist or orchestra.

Indeed, by the end of the concert, it would have been appropriate for every member of the CSO to take a separate bow, for their mettle was shown repeatedly during the evening.

Järvi opened with Insula deserta by Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür, a nine-minute work for strings. Tüür, who headed a progressive rock band in Estonia during the 1970s, is a musical omnivore who has made it a point to try to reconcile erudition and intuition.

His works are highly individual and expressive, drawing upon a wide range of compositional techniques.

Insula deserta (Deserted Island) sometimes sounds minimalist, but it is spiced with dissonance and coloristic variety.

Järvi conjured it from nowhere in the soft, high shimmer of violins which went "out of focus" by twisting simultaneously sharp and flat. Smooth-as-silk harmonics were heard as melodic lines emerged.

The work built to a peak of dissonance, then subsided. There was a furry of pizzicato, the rugged sound of basses bowing over their bridges and a soft, downward glissando to the final D-minor chord.

The CSO winds, brass and percussion got their turn in the first movement of the Bartok, which omits strings. They were tit for tat with Goodyear, who sent up volleys of notes with a merry little tune embedded within.

The slow movement began with soft, muted strings, placid as a lake in the moonlight. Goodyear's big, muscular solo sounded in dialogue with timpani rolls, and he took off like lightning in the scherzo-like mid-section.

The finale had a barbaric sound, from the aggressive bass drum and timpani to Goodyear's flashy, knuckle-breaking solos. Kudos to timpanist Patrick Schleker and Marc Wolfley on bass drum.

Shostakovich's Sixth is one of his lesser known symphonies, but for no good reason, because in just three movements (30 minutes), you can meet him in all his moods.

The first (slow) movement is the tragic Shostakovich, with a big broad main theme and a fragmentary counter-theme suggesting trumpet calls from a distant battlefield.

Solo work by principal players was superb, punctuated by vivid points of dark and light in the CSO - "black" tam-tam and harp, shimmering celesta trills.

A sting of horn led to the final, soft whimper of violins.

Clarinetist Jonathan Gunn's raucous E-flat clarinet introduced the Allegro, which literally spun out of orbit in a snarly, downward spiral of winds at the end.

Then it was off to the races in the six-minute finale (Presto), which sounded like a ballet score complete with galop-style theme (a kind of reverse of the first movement trumpet calls) with oompah accompaniment. Järvi built it to a pounding, high-spirited end, snapping sideways toward the audience on the last beat.

Repeat is 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets are $17.75-$73.75, $10 for students, half-price for seniors at (513) 381-3300 or visit on the Web.

Mary Ellyn Hutton's website is Music in Cincinnati.

Hot Topic: Ticket Pricing

San | Francisco | Classical | Voice has an interesting piece today called The (High) Price of Music by Lisa Hirsch.

CONCERT REVIEW: Concerto sets the tone for CSO

After reading this glowing review by the Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand, I think you just might want to book some tickets for Saturday's repeat performance pronto! :-)
It could be the most fiendishly difficult piano concerto on the planet. But Thursday night with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Stewart Goodyear turned in an Olympian performance of Bartok's punishing Piano Concerto No. 2.

With Paavo Järvi on the podium, it was an evening of discovery that held one gripped from start to finish. The rarely heard Bartok concerto was the centerpiece of a program that opened with the orchestra's first performance of Insula deserta (Deserted Island) by Erkki-Sven Tuur and ended with Shostakovich's lesser-known Symphony No. 6.

Goodyear, a 27-year-old Toronto native, wields not only a big technique, but also substantial musicianship.

In the first movement, Bartok's percussive chords are relentless, yet the pianist held his own against the brilliant brass and percussion of the orchestra, and forged ahead with explosive energy. His playing was red-blooded but also amazingly clear. Only once did the music become so breathless it threatened to run away with him, but he managed to rein it in. Järvi kept textures pointed through the fast and furious moments.

The slow movement was a gorgeous example of Bartok's "night music" - atmospheric and full of mystery, with muted, cool tones in the strings and a breathtaking sonority in the piano. The unusual combination of timpani and piano (guest timpanist Patrick Schleker) added drama.

The pianist hunched over the keyboard in the work's presto section, with its tricky repeating notes and hand crossing, projecting fearlessness through some of the most treacherous writing ever penned.

He took off like a rocket in the finale, punctuated by pounding timpani, and hurtled through phenomenal passages like there was no tomorrow. The orchestra provided supercharged support.

The program opened with Estonian composer Tuur's "Insula deserta" of 1989, one of the most beautifully crafted pieces I've heard from the 20th century. A lucid "arch" form made it immediately accessible.

For strings only, it began with the desolate sound of soft, high harmonics, moving into sections of post-minimalist repetitions and frenzied intensity. Järvi calculated its ebb and flow with a wonderful feel for this music, and the string sound was inviting and never harsh.

The sparse - but youngish - crowd gave it a warm reception.

Shostakovich's Sixth is one of his most unusual symphonies. It's not generally associated with wartime or political statements, but, opening with a massive slow movement, it echoes the bleak times in which it was composed (1939), and its final two movements are driven and sardonic.

Järvi emphasized the interior quality of the opening "largo," phrasing expansively, with horn calls soaring out in broad strokes and a full-bodied sound in the strings. It was reflective and at times, deeply emotional.

The final two scherzos were simply electrifying. The second movement featured spectacular "drumming" by the timpanist, chortling in the winds and tumultuous climaxes. The third was a pointed, driving feat performed in one big flourish.

Järvi flung his arms up at cut-offs, crouched for sudden drops and urged his players on in a spectacular show of energy. The orchestra, once again, turned in a remarkable performance that ended in cheers.

To hear such music making on a weekly basis is indeed a rare treat.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday in Music Hall. Tickets: (513) 381-3300.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

More on the BBC Music Awards

From the article Takács Quartet Tops First BBC Music Awards by Ben Mattison for, we learn more about their origin:
A jury of critics from BBC Music and other publications chose nominees for the awards from among discs that were released in 2005 and received five stars in the magazine. The category winners were picked in a public vote; the jury selected the disc of the year and the winners of the newcomer, premiere, technical, and DVD awards.

Andy Benham, publisher of BBC Music, said, "When we announced the launch of the awards in October 2005, we said that the success or failure of them would be judged on the simple criteria of whether or not we could stimulate the market and increase sales of classical music CDs. Looking at the sales figures of the nominated discs to date, I’m delighted that both record companies and key retailers have reported excellent uptake of the CDs. Now that the names of the winners are out there, we’re hoping that the uplift in the market that we’ve engendered will continue, if not accelerate."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Paavo wins award!

BBC Music Magazine, April 2006

Our friend Friederike Westerhaus from Radio Bremen writes to tell us that Paavo won the Best Orchestral Recording category from the BBC Music Magazine Awards for his
Peer Gynt Grieg CD
with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra!
Järvi brings true theatrical excitement, heartfelt melodic warmth and a grainy, flavoursome feeling for the folk elements. It's all delightful, and ultimately very touching.

IN RECORDING GRIEG'S INCIDENTAL music to Peer Gynt, conductor Paavo Järvi risked comparison with a particularly lofty antecedent - his own father, no less. In 1987, Neeme Järvi’s groundbreaking disc brought the Norwegian composer's folklore-infused accompaniment to Ibsen’s play to an audience previously familiar only with the suites of the same name. Now, after a few judicious cuts to the score, Paavo’s had his turn – with glorious results, as his Virgin recording with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra plus choirs and soloists shows. But what does Järvi Senior make of it? ‘He likes it,’ says Paavo. ‘He himself was formerly director of the orchestra, so for him to see this continuation makes him very proud.’

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stewart Goodyear to guest this week

This is your last opportunity until April to hear Paavo with the Cincinnati Symphony before he goes off on some impressive guest conducting gigs with the Chicago Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. And this week, you also can have a complimentary dinner in Music Hall Ballroom before the Thursday night concert!

From the CSO website: "The brilliant young pianist Stewart Goodyear returns to perform a work he has made his own—the fresh and fiery Bartok “Second.” Also: Shostakovich’s powerful 6th Symphony, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and Tüür’s Insala deserta ("Deserted Island"), which was inspired by an ancient travelogue describing his Estonian homeland."

Performances are Thursday, March 16, at 7:30 pm, with complimentary dinner at 6:15 pm; and Saturday, March 18, at 8 pm.

Read the Program Notes. Hear Paavo's Notes about this program. This concert will air via streaming audio on Classical WGUC, 90.9 FM, on Sunday, April 16, at 7:30 pm.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Järvi weds longtime partner

By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer (3/13/06)

Paavo Järvi, 43, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, wed his longtime partner violinist Tatiana Berman on Sunday, in a private ceremony at River High, the Hyde Park home of their friend Melody Sawyer Richardson.

The small gathering included Järvi's parents, Neeme and Liilia Järvi.

Neeme Järvi, who is music director of the New Jersey Symphony, also took in his son's performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 over the weekend. The couple and their 2-year-old daughter reside in East Walnut Hills.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Mihaela's Air!

Paavo and friend Mihaela Ursuleasa enjoy a light moment after her performance with the CSO, March 2002 (photo by moi!)

As mentioned back in November, the spirited young Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa returns to Cincinnati next week to play a recital Tuesday, March 14 at 11 am, for the Matinee Musicale. It will take place at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, 317 East Fifth Street, downtown. Tickets are $15 general or $2 students and may be purchased at the door. Information may be obtained by calling (513)821-2228

From on the road in New York, Mihaela tells us that her program here will consist of Beethoven's Eroica Variations op. 35, Shostakovich's Preludes from op. 39, and Ginastera's Sonata No. 1. This sounds like a must-see/hear concert to me!

A recent appearance in San Francisco brought high praise for her playing, in a review for the San Francisco Classical Voice by Heuwell Tircuit, who was chief writer for Gramophone Japan, and for 21 years a music reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sunday afternoon in the Florence Gould Theater, down in the bowels of the Legion of Honor, Romanian pianist Mihaela Ursuleasa played a recital whose neatness of design nearly rivaled the quality of her playing. Not one item on the program betokened an unimaginative reliance on the trite and true. But then, this was a presentation of San Francisco Performances, from which we have come to expect both fresh repertoire and fresh artists on the way up.

Ursuleasa opened with Beethoven’s Variations and Fugue in E-flat major, Op. 35, more commonly known to its friends as the "Eroica" Variations. This large set was followed by 13 of the Shostakovich 24 Preludes, Op. 34; Scriabin’s Three Etudes, Op. 65; and the full seven Brahms Fantasies, Op. 116. Cheers followed, a standing ovation, and then two short encores: a Romanian toccata and a schmaltzy prelude.

Ursulease displayed a natural, complete technique, honed in Vienna after her early successes. She gave her first public recital at age eight, and won international prizes by age 16 — not least the Clara Haskil Competition. She’s been playing major recitals and concertos with top orchestras all over the place ever since. One had a right to expect a lot. And, that’s what the audience received.

The Beethoven was glorious, although Beethoven’s devotion to that skeleton of a tune has always puzzled me. He used it in four different works: his early Contradanse No. 7, WoO 14 (a collection without an opus number); his second ballet, The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43; Sunday’s piano variations, Op. 35; and finally for the finale of his “Eroica” Symphony, Op. 55. Each fed on its predecessor, each extending ideas found in its older siblings.

Of course, while the raw theme is as pale as paper, that’s precisely its merit for variations. Decorative and alterational possibilities are endless. Complicated themes make for a compositional straitjacket. One has only to consider those full folk melodies used in so many 19th century pieces where there’s nothing much to do with them besides repeating them endlessly in different instrumental combinations.

Beethoven covered a lot of emotional ground in his 15 variations. Some are meltingly lyrical, others rambunctious in their extreme flights of virtuoso bravura. They were doubtless meant for his own use, to impress the Viennese and perhaps affright competing pianists. Ursuleasa's mastery of the 25-minute piece was total. Her playing was clean and resonant, free of pounding, even through the bravura passages, and right on the button for tempo selections. It’s the kind of Beethoven I have not heard since the heydays of Claudio Arrau and super-musician Clara Haskil herself.

Turning on a dime, Ursuleasa then altered her style of playing for the small Shostakovich cycle, a thing whose demands are totally different from those of Beethoven’s pristine heroics.
The Preludes date from 1932, when the composer was still in official favor. So among them there’s much of the saucy quality of the First Symphony and the early ballet scores such as The Age of Gold. Some are of course more serious than others, and even touched by outright Romanticism, à la Chopin here and there. In that sense, they represent a wonderful grab bag of goodies, and for me his finest work for solo piano.

The surprise is that Ursuleasa managed to slip in and out of the composer’s little fancies with so complete a vocabulary of sound. Yet even her staccato playing managed to avoid the usual hammering of the keys, with lots of appreciation for the madcap pieces like the sarcastic nose-thumbing Prelude No. 24. It was all throughly excellent.

CONCERT REVIEW: Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony

Blogger William O'Hara of Without Heart, Don't Sing posted this account of his Saturday night experience:
Last night, I went to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra with my family. They were performing Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, the "Resurrection" Symphony. Ethan recommended it to Glee Club and Chorale by email, saying it's one of his favorite pieces of music. Since I'm home for Spring Break, I dragged my family along. Several people must have taken his advice, since I ran into two other Glee Clubbers, along with Ethan himself, and Dr. Bausano, Miami's other choir professor. Before tonight, I wasn't familiar with Mahler at all, but tonight has piqued my interest. Dr. Denny Roberts, the advisor to Stelliott (my dorm), is also a fan of Mahler. Maybe he and Ethan are on to something.

This five movement, late-Romantic symphony clocks in at over an hour and twenty minutes, with no intermission. They turned out to be some of the most riveting eighty minutes of my life. Paavo Jarvi conducted, and the symphony was excellently paced. The orchestra completely filled the stage, and with the 120+ member May Festival Chorus sat on risers behind them. The symphony wavers drastically between moods.

The symphony opens with an intense, staccato riff in the cellos and basses. The winds stated a tentative, floating melody. The movement builds up and releases intensity, ebbs and flows. One of my favorite moments is when the cellos and basses use "col legno" (with the wood), a technique where they hit the strings with the back of the bow, rather than bowing. It creates a cool percussive effect, which blended with the rest of the orchestra to give the passage a sinister build-up.

The second movement was waltz-like. It had a theme that John Williams must have listened to around the time he was composing the score for Harry Potter...It ended beautifully, but led suddenly into the aggressive third movement. I'll get to the fourth and fifth later...

I think my favorite part of the symphony was the variety of moods expressed. At the end of the development in the first movement, the orchestra cuts out except for one violin holding out its note. The movement seemed to be over, but suddenly, with a violent gesture from Paavo, the cellos jumped in with the opening motive again. The performance was simply full of moments like that. It's so well written. And it was excellently conducted. There were at least a half dozen moments when I caught myself holding my breath at the end of quiet passages.

The name of the symphony refers to the text. One of the soloists sings in the fourth movement, and the chorus and second soloist enter in the fifth and final movement. The fourth movement was simple and songlike. After the darker third movement ended, the mezzo soprano soloist entered with a simple melody. The trumpets played behind her for a while, before the strings took over. It was simply GORGEOUS. The mezzo was covered up by the orchestra at some points, but that may just have been because we were sitting in the top balcony (center balcony! We had AMAZING seats from a viewer's perspective...) as opposed to the front of the orchestra seats, like we were last time I heard a soloist with the CSO...

Excerpts from the mezzo's text--

"Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
Rather would I be in Heaven!
I am from God and will return to God!
The dear God will give me a small light,
Will light my way unto eternal blessed life!"

The fifth movement began with a triumphant theme, one of the first major-key tonalities in the whole work. The chorus remained seated as they sang "You will rise again, my dust, after a short rest!" The soloists came back in, before the chorus finally rose on the lines "Stop trembling! Prepare yourself! Prepare yourself to live!" They finish with triumphant music, hitting the loudest chord of the entire piece at the end of the lines "I shall die, in order to live! You will rise again, my heart, in a moment! The things for which you have beaten will carry you to God!"

I loved the way the symphony built up -- that's my most obvious interpretation. It swung between moods, perhaps ambivalent about death. Mahler refers to the first movement as a funeral march, which it seems like it could be to me. It seems almost to represent death approaching. The second movement is a relief from the intensity and foreboding of the opening section. The third movement didn't stick out as much to me. It began darkly, without as much sudden variation as the first movement had. Mahler describes it as a cry of disgust. The fourth, however, was like a sudden ray of sunshine. It was the most beautiful music yet. Mahler wrote the text himself, and the music fits itself beautifully. The mezzo soloist, whose text expresses a desire to leave this world and enter heaven, blends into a heavenly fanfare. Then the music recedes again, before finally exhaulting in its final fanfare. In the end, the name "Resurrection" finally comes into play, since the music has gone full circle. Through the end of life, through death, and through rebirth.

posted by William O'Hara at 12:57 AM

Russian star to conduct here

Exciting news in this article by Janelle Gelfand!
Russian star to conduct here
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer (3/12/06)

Russian conducting star Valery Gergiev will take time from his busy international schedule to make his Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut in a special concert next season.

Gergiev will conduct Stravinsky's "Petrouchka" and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 on Feb. 22 in Music Hall. A coup for the orchestra, the performance will be one of just two U.S. conducting engagements for Gergiev next season.

Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi said he was pleased Gergiev had accepted his invitation. During the Cincinnati Symphony's 2004 European tour, Gergiev attended the orchestra's concert in Vienna.

"Valery Gergiev and I are very close friends," Järvi said.

Known for his intense persona and electrifying podium style, the globe-trotting maestro is principal guest conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theater, Gergiev has toured widely with the Kirov Opera and Orchestra. He leads four festivals, including the Stars of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Järvi will conduct 14 subscription weeks in 2006-07. The 112th season will open Sept. 15-16 with an all-Brahms program starring violinist Gil Shaham.

Tickets to Gergiev's concert will be available only to 2006-07 subscribers, beginning today.


For his sixth season as music director, Järvi is balancing masterworks with a mix of symphony premieres.

"Pairing something fresh with an established masterpiece can help the audience discover something new in both cases," Järvi says. "On the one hand, they are hearing something new, and on the other hand, they are hearing an old favorite in a new way."

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will present 19 premieres this season, including the world premiere of "Deep Woods" by American Charles Coleman and the U.S. premiere of "Zeitraum" by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur.

Coleman has been awarded a five-week residency with the Cincinnati Symphony through Meet the Composer and the American Symphony Orchestra League.

Soloists will include Grammy-winning cellist Truls Mork in the Schumann Cello Concerto (Sept. 29-30). His Virgin Classics recording of the same work with Järvi leading the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France was nominated for a Grammy this year.

The field of nine guest violinists includes Shaham performing Brahms on opening night (Sept. 15-16) and 26-year-old phenom Hilary Hahn in Britten's Concerto No. 1 (Oct. 13-14). The dynamic Leila Josefowicz will tackle the John Adams Violin Concerto (Feb. 16-17), and Israeli violinist Vadim Gluzman performs Bernstein's "Serenade" in March.

Making their debuts are Munich-born violinist Julia Fischer in Mendelssohn(Feb. 9-10) and Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who will play Sibelius (April 12-14).

Perhaps the season's most unusual debut will be percussionist Colin Currie, who will introduce "Der gerettete Alberich" (Alberich Saved) by Christopher Rouse (Dec. 2-3).

Pianists include Yefim Bronfman performing Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 (March 9-10). Helene Grimaud, who joined the orchestra on its 2004 European tour, will play Brahms' Concerto No. 1 (Jan. 18-20), and Piotr Anderszewski performs Bartok's Concerto No. 3 (March 24-25).

Eleven guest conductors will visit Music Hall, including Kwame Ryan, a native of Trinidad, and Michael Christie, just named music director of the Brooklyn Philharmonic.

The season includes the return in October of James DePreist, who in 2005 received the National Medal of the Arts.

Järvi's symphonic repertoire will include Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, Brahms' Symphony No. 1, Mahler's Symphony No. 9, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, ("Pathetique") and Beethoven's Sixth. A Nordic evening in April will include Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 ("The Inextinguishable").

Premieres will include the orchestra's first performances of Leonard Bernstein's "Slava! A Political Overture for Orchestra," Sibelius' symphonic poem "Night Ride and Sunrise," Shostakovich's Symphony No. 11 and Schubert's Mass No. 2 in G Major ("The Great") with the May Festival Chorus.

Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki will conduct his own Symphony No. 2 (Feb. 24-25), and principal bass Owen Lee will premiere John Harbison's Double Bass Concerto (March 30-31).

The orchestra will make two Telarc recordings: an album of Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" Suite and Symphony No. 5 and a Tchaikovsky disc pairing the "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-fantasy with Symphony No. 6 ("Pathetique").


2006-2007 Cincinnati Symphony Schedule

Sept. 15-16 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Gil Shaham, violin. Brahms Academic Festival Overture, Op.80; Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.77; Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op.68

Sept. 22-23 - Paavo Järvi conducting; William Winstead, bassoon. Duruflé, "Three Dances," Op.6; Mozart Bassoon Concerto in B-flat Major, K.191; Franck Symphony in D Minor

Sept. 29-30 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Truls Mørk, cello. Tubin Symphony No. 11; Schumann Cello Concerto in A Minor, Op.129; Bruckner Symphony No. 6 in A Major

Oct. 6, 8 - James DePreist conducting; Louis Lortie, piano. Persichetti Symphony No. 4, Op.51; Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op.21; Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op.90 (Italian)

Oct. 13-14 - Andrey Boreyko, conducting; Hilary Hahn, violin. Tchaikovsky "Voyévoda," Op.78; Britten Violin Concerto No.1, Op.15; Prokofiev Suite from "Romeo and Juliet"

Oct. 27-28 - Robert Porco conducting; Twyla Robinson, soprano; Kelly O'Connor, mezzo-soprano; Stanford Olsen, tenor; William McGraw, baritone; May Festival Chorus, Robert Porco, director. Britten "Cantata academica"; Bach Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068; Schubert Mass No. 2 in G Major, D.167; Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs

Nov. 3-4 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Dmitry Sitkovetsky, violin. Bernstein "Slava! A Political Overture for Orchestra"; Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op.63; Shostakovich Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op.60 (Leningrad)

Nov. 10-11 - Paavo Järvi conducting. Messiaen "L'Ascension: four méditations symphoniques"; Mahler Symphony No. 9 in D Major

Nov. 16, 18 - Gianandrea Noseda conducting; Leon McCawley, piano. Schnittke "Moz-Art à la Haydn"; Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K.466; Rachmaninoff/arr. Respighi "Cinq Etudes-tableaux"; Respighi "Pines of Rome"

Dec. 2-3 - Kwamé Ryan conducting; Colin Currie, percussion. Wagner "Siegfried Idyll"; Christopher Rouse "Der gerettete Alberich" ("Alberich Saved"); Schumann Symphony No. 2 in C Major, Op.61

Jan. 12-13 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Thomas Zehetmair, violin. Sibelius Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, Op.63; Berg Violin Concerto ("To the Memory of an Angel"); Tchaikovsky "Romeo and Juliet" Overture-fantasy

Jan. 18-20 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Hélène Grimaud, piano. Verdi Overture to "I vespri siciliani"; Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op.15; Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op.74 ("Pathétique")

Jan. 26-27 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Christine Brewer, soprano; Stanford Olsen, tenor; Eric Owens, bass; (another soprano to be announced); May Festival Chorus, Robert Porco, director. Webern "Im Sommerwind"; Berg "Sieben frühe Lieder" ("Seven Early Songs"); Mozart Mass in C Minor, K.427, ("The Great")

Feb. 9-10 - Yakov Kreizberg conducting; Julia Fischer, violin. Glinka Overture to "Russlan and Ludmilla"; Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op.64; Shostakovich Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op.103, ("The Year 1905")

Feb. 16-17 - Michael Christie conducting; Leila Josefowicz, violin. John Adams Violin Concerto; Copland Symphony No. 3

Feb. 22 - Special Concert. Valery Gergiev conducting. Stravinsky "Petrouchka"; Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op.64 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 24-25 - Krzysztof Penderecki conducting; Chee-Yun, violin. Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op.26; Krzysztof Penderecki Symphony No. 2

March 2-3 - Eric Dudley conducting; Denis Matsuev, piano. Stephen Paulus "Concertante"; Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op.26; Dvorák Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op.13

March 9-10 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Yefim Bronfman, piano. Prokofiev Suite from "Lieutenant Kijé," Op.60; Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op.30; Scriabin Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, Op.29

March 15-17 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Vadim Gluzman, violin. Barber Music for a Scene from Shelley, Op.7; Bernstein "Serenade"; Prokofiev Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op.100

March 24-25 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Piotr Anderszewski, piano. Smetana The Moldau; Bartók Piano Concerto No. 3; Berlioz Symphonie fantastique, Op.14

March 30-31 - Olari Elts conducting; Owen Lee, double bass. Prokofiev Russian Overture, Op.72; John Harbison Double Bass Concerto; Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op.44

April 12-14 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Pekka Kuusisto, violin. Erkki-Sven Tüür, "Zeitraum" (U.S. Premiere); Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op.47; Nielsen Symphony No. 4, Op.29 ("The Inextinguishable")

April 27-29 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Alison Balsom, trumpet. Sibelius "Night Ride and Sunrise," Op.55; Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E-flat Major; Sibelius "The Bard," Op.64; Schumann Symphony No. 4 in D Minor, Op.120

May 3-5 - Paavo Järvi conducting; Olli Mustonen, piano. Charles Coleman "Deep Woods" (World Premiere); Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op.37; Beethoven Symphony No. 6 in F Major, Op.68 (Pastorale)

Mahler 2: Big WOW of the Season!!!!

Liilia, Paavo, Sandye, and Neeme in the CSO green room after Saturday night's concert

May I just take a moment to tell you how unbelievably amazing Paavo's little band, the Cincinnati Symphony, sounded Saturday night?? Mahler's spirit was most definitely in the house, man, and I can reprezent by virtue of the fact that during the finale, I suddenly found myself taken by a major case of the chills and then, for good measure, just burst into tears! As soon as PJ made the final sweep of his arm to the orchestra and chorus and then swiveled around, turning, in his trademark dramatic look toward the unusually full hall, the house erupted in cries of "bravo" . The audience, full of pent-up energy and emotion, let loose, applauding for what seemed like an eternity, and with an extra soupcon of foot-stamping for good measure!

My special (and unexpected) pleasure occurred after the concert, as I waited to go backstage to the green room, along with other concertgoers. I had spied Liilia Jarvi, Paavo's beautiful mother, sitting in the conductor's box just before the lights went down. Later, as we waited for the backstage door to be opened, I noticed her again, near the head of the line, smiling and nodding in empathy as she heard me describe my reaction to the piece to a friend.

Once, finally backstage, and waiting patiently in the green room for Paavo to emerge from his "inner sanctum", I recognized his father, Neeme, talking with a group of Finns. For me, Paavo is Paavo and my dear friend, but, my, oh, my -- Neeme -- well, *he's* The Maestro!!

For a number of years now, Paavo has told me that his father is *my* greatest fan because he can always go to my Paavo site and know just what Paavo's up to! Well, tonight I had the pleasure of meeting The Maestro and having a real conversation with him. And what a charmer he is. I can see why he is so beloved in Detroit and told him that I couldn't wait to see him conduct one of these days -- and hoped it would be here and sooner rather than later!!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO resounds with 'Resurrection'

Janelle Gelfand reports on Friday's concert -- and spied Paavo's papa, Neeme, in the appreciative audience, as well! After reading her account, it breaks my heart that I wasn't able to be there for that performance, too!
CSO resounds with 'Resurrection'
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer (3/11/06)

When the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra struck an earth-shattering climax in the final moments of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection," on Friday night, one could feel the floor of Music Hall vibrate. Its sheer sonic power punctuated one of the most electrifying readings by Paavo Järvi in his five-year tenure, a journey that was at once fiercely intense and wonderfully relaxed.

Mahler's Second, in five movements spanning 85 minutes, has not been performed at the symphony since 1980, under Michael Gielen.

The Mahler universe travels through terror-filled marches, light-hearted waltzes, offstage fanfares and emotionally charged hymns. It is the human experience as seen through Mahler's eyes, an intense psychological drama of man's search for meaning. In his "Resurrection" Symphony, Mahler begins in death and ends affirmatively, in life.

In Järvi's hands, it was a revelation. First there was the massive spectacle: The orchestra, with two sets of timpani, two harps, expanded brass and organ, shared the stage with the May Festival Chorus and soloists mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi and soprano Latonia Moore.

The first movement, a funeral march, was vividly portrayed, from the crunch of the basses to the rattle of the cellos' bows in "col legno" passages. Järvi contrasted the tension and attack of its terror-stricken moments against others that pulled back and seemed to radiate deep sadness.

In contrast, the central movements unfolded with irresistible warmth. The second was gently nostalgic, with the serene sound of violins strumming their instruments. The third was an exuberant scherzo, brought to life with wonderful color in the winds and a genuine quality.

The heart of this epic work is the fourth movement, "Urlicht," a serene, hymnlike setting of a "Wunderhorn" poem. In her Cincinnati debut, Finnish mezzo-soprano Paasikivi projected richly hued vocal color and heartfelt expression. It was a radiant moment in which time stood still, enhanced by beautifully shaped orchestral solos.

Järvi attacked the finale with breathtaking, almost brutal force. Pacing was ideally gauged through brass chorales, heaven-rending drumrolls and offstage horn calls. Through it all, the conductor never lost sight of the grand design of Mahler's vision.

The May Festival Chorus, prepared by Robert Porco, performed Klopstock's "Resurrection Ode" with a hushed, incandescent sound. It was a heavenly climax, with lush, glowing strings and soprano Moore soaring through the texture.

The orchestra, which is playing at the height of its powers, responded wonderfully through super-charged build-ups.

At the cutoff, the cheering crowd was on its feet in an instant.
(Too bad cell phones had marred some quiet moments in the performance.)

Spotted in the audience: maestro Neeme Järvi, father of Paavo Järvi.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: (513) 381-3300.


CONCERT REVIEW: Jarvi leads CSO and chorus in powerful Mahler

From Mary Ellyn Hutton's review for the Cincinnati Post (3/11/06):
Jarvi leads CSO and chorus in powerful Mahler
By Mary Ellyn Hutton

Redemption for all is the message of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"), performed by music director Paavo Jarvi, the Cincinnati Symphony and May Festival Chorus Friday night at Music Hall.

All, perhaps, except the two audience members whose cell phones went off during the performance, one complete with Bach Minuet. That latter was particularly jarring as it happened during a rest just before offstage horns signaled the dawning of the Day of Judgment in the finale.

No matter. It was but a momentary interruption, and by the time Jarvi had reached the work's heaven-storming conclusion, with its sizzle of tam-tam and clangor of bells, the audience was swept up in, to use a word currently in vogue, rapture.

Jarvi's traversal of the work was his own, deeper and more self-assured than most this listener has heard.
The symphony deals with death, Mahler's favorite subject, and one can read a life story into it. The first movement is a gigantic funeral march, the second a gentle interlude followed by a sardonic scherzo, a luminous and searching fourth movement where the human voice is finally heard, and then a finale filled with cosmic drama. Jarvi searched out all the tenderness, hope and love Mahler put into it, rejecting the bone-chilling hysteria sometimes imposed on it.

It began ferociously enough with a swath of angry cellos and basses, accented by a death rattle in the contrabassoon. By contrast, the gentle second theme floated upward like soft incense. Jarvi signaled some of the explosive moments two handed, like wielding a baseball bat, and he found just the right tone of lament before the final downward cascade.

Jarvi utilized the break specified in the score by leaving the stage and returning with the soloists, Finnish mezzo-soprano Lilli Paasikivi and American soprano Latonia Moore.

The Andante had an otherworldly quality, like a moment out of time. The soft, dovelike opening conjured childhood, the agitated mid-section adulthood, followed by the return of the opening melody in charming, disarming pizzicato, flavored with harp.

The scherzo utilizes one of Mahler's "Wunderhorn" Songs ("Fischpredigt," about St. Anthony preaching to the fish, sung by baritone Matthias Goerne with the CSO last fall). Jarvi put lots of detail into it, but with less bite than is sometimes heard. It set up a violent contrast, however, with the air-raid like outburst and sharp timpani reports near the end.

Paasikivi had the perfect voice for "Urlicht" ("Primal Light"), the encounter with an angel that hints at the resolution in the finale. The CSO wove gorgeous chamber music-like textures around her creamy alto, which never turned overripe.

The finale began with a mighty orchestral surge followed by a 30-minute apocalypse that kept the audience riveted. The movement's desolate moments were just that, with fragments of the "Dies Irae" signaling the serious business at hand. Trombonist Cristian Ganicenco sounded a burnished resurrection theme, and the offstage brass and percussion were synchronized perfectly with the orchestra onstage.

Graves opened with a rumble that could have raised the bones interred beneath Music Hall and after a chaotic resurrection march, Randolph Bowman and Joan Voorhees sounded the Earth's last, lonely birdcalls. In one of the great moments in music, the chorus entered on "Auferstehen" ("You will rise again") with a softness and clarity that were mesmerizing, Paasikivi and Moore joining in an ecstatic "Glaube" ("Believe"). Jarvi built the mighty conclusion carefully and exquisitely, the men's voices soaring in affirmation before the all-stops-pulled conclusion, where he asked for all his forces could give and got it.

Repeat is 8 tonight at Music Hall.

Mary Ellyn Hutton's website is Music in Cincinnati.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What's next for the symphony?

What's next for the symphony?
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post (3/10/06)

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is poised to announce its 2006-07 season, music director Paavo Järvi's sixth at the helm.

But more than a clutch of new repertoire lies ahead for the CSO. Symphony orchestras across the country are facing challenges and the nation's fifth oldest orchestra is no exception.

Unlike most, the CSO is on an even keel financially. Thanks to an anonymous donor, it was freed of debt in 2004 and has remained that way, with a balanced budget anticipated for the current fiscal year (ending Aug. 31). There has been significant belt-tightening to go with it - its summer chamber orchestra series "Bach and Beyond" and "Home for the Holidays" were eliminated, as were the Concerts in the Park and the Handbook to the Season - and ticket prices were raised.

Concert attendance is up from last season, CSO officials say, but it still needs spiking. With revitalization of Over-the-Rhine yet a distant goal - despite good intentions and a new K-12 School for Creative and Performing Arts planned to go up in the neighborhood during the next couple of years - there are many people who remain wary of coming to Music Hall.

Music Hall itself is a hot-button issue. With 3,516 seats, it's the largest concert hall in the U.S., and despite having an audience any orchestra in the country would be proud to own (the CSO has more long-term subscribers than any U.S. orchestra), the cavernous hall swallows them up.

Worse is the lack of intimacy in Music Hall. The electricity of a live, close-up performance - possible in a hall of 2,000-2,300 - is missing, and binoculars (commonly seen at CSO concerts) are no solution.

What Järvi finds "most detrimental," he says, "is the perception that somehow the quality of the orchestra is not good enough to fill the hall. That, of course, is completely misleading. It's not the quality or the support in the community. It's just that the proportions are wrong."

There has been considerable speculation about "downsizing" Music Hall, which was never intended as a concert hall in the first place, the CSO having left its home in Emery Theatre in 1936 to give Music Hall an anchor tenant.

Apparently, downsizing could be done so that the hall could revert to its larger configuration for the May Festival and Cincinnati Opera. Järvi cited New York's Avery Fisher Hall, where chamber concerts in the summer are with the stage positioned in the middle of the hall.

The CSO's needs are paramount, since the opera and May Festival utilize Music Hall for much shorter periods of time and depend on the CSO for their own existence.

"I think it can come to the point where we have to move out of here if we cannot make a right environment for this orchestra," Järvi said. "I'm not saying that it's going to happen or that there are any plans to leave, but I don't think it is something that should not be discussed.

"All the new halls that are being built for orchestras are small, not because they want to have the easy way out and not worry about ticket sales, but because that is the right environment for this kind of music."

Järvi cites the Los Angeles Philharmonic's new Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, which seats 2,265 compared to 3,197 in its former home in Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, while serving the nation's second largest metropolitan area - 16 million compared to Cincinnati's 1.9 million.

"We have plenty of audience who are true music-lovers, plenty for the size of the community, who know and love music and come here regularly. I just think if you put these people in a stadium, the stadium would look empty," he said.

Järvi also does not want to dilute the repertoire and "play the 40 or 50 pieces that everybody thinks they know, combined with media stars who look good on a picture for the sake of filling the hall. This art form cannot and should not ever be in the position of competing with the movie star, Hollywood idea of what's attractive and successful - or with this television attitude, let's see what the ratings are. We have much different values and goals."

Another issue on the CSO horizon is Järvi himself. His CSO contract expires in 2009, a blip in the world of major league classical music, where seasons are planned years in advance. (Järvi is booked four or five years ahead, he said). He is being eyed to succeed music director Daniel Barenboim, who leaves the Chicago Symphony in June. Järvi will guest conduct there in April and twice next season. In the fall, he adds the music directorship of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra to his CSO post and his positions as artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and artistic adviser of the Estonian National Orchestra.

Järvi says he "loves" Cincinnati and the CSO. "Somehow I feel like it has just started. I sometimes have to look at the eight CDs we have made so far to remind myself that actually there has been a substantial amount of time already. I feel fresh, because I think the music is happening well. That aspect is better now than it has been - even last year."

As the CSO prepares to announce its new season, the focus will shift to promoting and selling it.

For tips, they might look across the river.

Granted, the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra has a five-concert subscription season compared to the CSO's 24, but they are famously creative with what they have.

When it comes to concert enhancements, multi-media and tie-ins to popular culture, "the devil is in the details," says American Symphony Orchestra League president Henry Fogel. "Experimentation is necessary and by definition, not all experiments will be successful. If you experiment and have no failures, you're not experimenting enough."

The CSO takes to experimentation slowly. (Erich Kunzel has been given wide latitude with the Cincinnati Pops, but that is the nature of the beast.) In 1992, for example, the CSO was the first orchestra in the country to use video screens during an adult subscription concert. After one concert, however, the idea was scrapped because audience reaction split 50-50. The Detroit Symphony is using video screens with great success now as part of its "Classics Unmasked" series.

The full CSO season is being announced this weekend.

One program is already certain. Estonian conductor Olari Elts, 34, who made a splash with Shostakovich's irreverent Symphony No. 9 last season, will conduct Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3 on March 30 and 31, 2007. Soloist will be CSO principal bassist Owen Lee, who will perform American composer John Harbison's Double Bass Concerto. The concert will open with Prokofiev's "Russian Overture," Op. 72.

Though further details await formal announcement, here is some reasonable speculation about the next Music Hall season:

Järvi and the CSO will observe the centenary of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich's birth. Expect his wartime Symphony No. 7, the "Leningrad," to open the season in September, plus other works during the season, perhaps even a mini-festival. Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, who is doing a lot of the current Shostakovich honors, is supposedly on the CSO guest list at an unspecified future date, but Järvi's own father Neeme Järvi, who knew and worked with the composer, would be a natural.

Also look for:

Carl Nielsen Symphony No. 2, "The Four Temperaments."

World premiere by Charles Coleman. The New Yorker, who wrote "Streetscape" for Jarvi's September 2001 CSO inaugural, will spend five weeks in residence with the CSO next season.

Stravinsky ("Firebird"?); 2007 is his 125th birthday.

Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Noesis" for Violin and Clarinet with violinist Isabelle van Kuelen and clarinetist Michael Collins. Long shot: Tüür's Symphony No. 5 for symphony orchestra, big band and electric guitar (premiered by Elts in Stuttgart last year). According to The Post's Rick Bird, former King Crimson guitarist/Northern Kentucky resident Adrian Belew has expressed interest in performing it with the CSO.

The standards: Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, Bruckner No. 7, Mahler No. 3, Schumann No. 4, Haydn No. 100 ("Military"), Sibelius No. 2.

Any of Arvo Pärt's "tintinnabuli" (minimalist) works. "Wenn Bach Bienen gezüchtet hätte" ("If Bach had kept bees") would go well with something by Bach himself.

As part of Mozart's 250th birthday celebration, Finnish pianist Antti Siirala, who played a sublime Mozart Concerto No. 27, K.595, with Neeme Järvi and the Detroit Symphony last fall.

Other guest artists: pianists Lang Lang and/or Yundi Li; violinists Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn and Vadim Gluzman; cellist Truls Mork.

Guest conductors: Marin Alsop, Mark Wigglesworth, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, Stephane Deneve.