Wednesday, June 28, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler Symphony No. 3/LSO

Just in from the Times of London:
First Night Reviews
By Hilary Finch at the Barbican (6/29/06)
4 out of 5 stars

Buoyant from their barn-storming Shostakovich in St. Petersburg, the apparently indefatigable players of the London Symphony Orchestra braced themselves for one of Mahler’s most ambitious symphonies: the one that dares to confront the great god Pan head-on.

Paavo Järvi was charged with reanimating the primeval forces of the Symphony No. 3 — and his keen ear, eye for detail and rigorous baton certainly set the sap rising. The presence of Pan was felt from the first deep inbreaths and outbreaths of horns and trombones. Järvi worked the music’s great lung to maximum effect by making his baton rein in each breath, weighing and measuring every pulse. The listener was kept in a state of suspended anticipation.

In the symphony’s first part, ensemble was kept tight and taut, and orchestral sunbursts were laser-bright. Järvi encouraged his players to be tactile: what we heard, in this long awakening of Pan, was the whirring of wings, the ticking of insect life, the bright babble of birds as “Summer marches in”. He also made us aware of the virtuoso variations of this movement: a march constantly reinventing itself for all of 40 minutes.

The second part of the symphony, in which Mahler tunes in to the flowers, the animals, to night’s heart of darkness, to the angels, and finally to love itself, also balanced myopic detail and long-sighted vision to near perfection. Järvi made the minuet naive, folksy, with quizzical little violin solos from the leader Gordan Nikolitch; and the offstage posthorn in the third movement was a true Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

The Finnish mezzo Lilli Paasikivi gave voice to Nietzsche’s words from the deep midnight. She seemed a little in awe of it all, slightly unsteady at the start, then austerely intense of focus. A contingent of boys from King’s College Choir, Cambridge, was on hand to add their angelic bell chimes to those of the ladies of the London Symphony Chorus — who sang, open-voiced and open-hearted, from memory.

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler Symphony No. 3/LSO

This review is from the Financial Times (6/28/06):
Mahler’s Third Symphony, Barbican, London
By David Murray
Financial Times (June 28, 2006)

Back in the 1960s, Gustav Mahler’s symphonies were still considered slightly suspect in Britain, and even in Vienna he was remembered more as a great opera conductor than as a composer. The symphonies were too long, too grandiose – a bit vulgar. Then came the triumphant revival: suddenly modern conductors were searching his works with new respect, and even the “vulgarities” began to be recognised as characteristic and telling. A Mahler symphony would fill the hall. There are nine of them, of course, plus the unfinished Tenth, but for some time the Third and the Seventh remained unloved and little heard.

It was brave of Paavo Järvi to programme the lengthy Third, all by itself, with the London Symphony at the Barbican. It sounded lovingly prepared, and the voices were well chosen: the Finnish alto Lilli Paasikivi, the “Ladies of the London Symphony Chorus” and the boys of the King’s College Choir from Cambridge. The boys sounded bright and fresh in the fifth movement, and Paasikivi’s rich tones were warmly expressive.

Järvi made a powerful start with the first movement, lightened nicely for the Menuetto second and the Scherzando third, and made the hushed fourth movement both rapt and compelling, full of meaning.
Only the final movement disappointed a little; it was correctly “slow and peaceful”, but eventually sounded just becalmed. The final cadences, long drawn-out, prompted a silent “Get on with it!” from some of us. Järvi failed to achieve the sense of a radiant benediction, which was certainly required. Another time, maybe. ★★★☆☆

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

White Nights Festival

Next engagement on Paavo's international calendar is a 10 pm Late Night Concert as part of the White Nights Festival on Thursday, June 29, at the renowned Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. He will be conducting the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre in a program of Schumann's Symphony No. 1 ('Spring'), Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 (Anika Vavic, piano) and Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10.

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler Symphony No. 3/LSO

French blogger Laurent offers his review of Paavo and the London Symphony's performance of the Mahler 3 Sunday at the Barbican Centre in London.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Frampton Plays Riverbend

Rock legend and Cincinnati resident Peter Frampton will be appearing with his band and the Cincinnati Pops this Sunday night. As Janelle Gelfand writes in From pops to Pops in today's Cincinnati Enquirer,
The show evolved from an invitation from Cincinnati Symphony maestro Paavo Järvi to write a 25-minute concerto for guitar and orchestra.

"My stomach twisted all in knots when he said that," Frampton says, admitting, nevertheless, that performing with his band and orchestra is something he's always dreamed of. For now, the Pops show - that they plan to take on the road to other orchestras - is a "stepping stone" to the forthcoming concerto.

"This is definitely opening a huge door, shall we say," Frampton says.

Frampton, Pops hit right notes at Riverbend by Rick Bird, Cincinnati Post (6/26/06)

Frampton comes alive with Pops at Riverbend by Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer (6/26/06)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Paavo on BBC3!

In case you missed the live broadcast on BBC3 today, you can still listen to it -- like I did just now, by visiting In Tune. The part with PJ's interview ends at approximately 22 minutes 54 seconds. In it, he discusses how the human aspect of working with his CSO players is most important, how relatively unknown it is to most of the world the number of works which were premiered by or written for the CSO (the Mahler 5's American premiere was in Cincinnati; Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man commissioned by it), and the difficulty of filling the house when it's the largest concert hall in North America. He also gives props to the May Festival and James Conlon.)

For an archive of other interviews previously done by PJ on BBC3, go HERE. Real Player is required for listening.

Paavo to Guest on BBC3 TODAY!

I've just received word that Paavo will be the first guest today on BBC3 Radio's In Tune program airing from 17:00-19:30 GMT (I think that's 2-4:30pm Eastern time!). Host Sean Rafferty's other guests include countertenor Michael Chance and Fretwork, who perform live in the studio; and pianist Julian Jacobson. You may listen online by going HERE and click on Thursday! (Programs are also archived for late listening.)

CD REVIEW: Bartók/Lutoslawski

Here's a new review from Arkiv Music of PJ and the Cincinnati Symphony's well-received Bartók/Lutoslawski Concerto(s) for Orchestra.
Here are three winners from Telarc. Paavo Järvi and the excellent Cincinnati Symphony give superlative performances of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra coupled with Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra, the latter premiered in 1954, eleven years after Bartók's. In between these we have Lutoslawski's brief (1:29) Fanfare for Louisville written for Laurence Leighton Smith and the Louisville Orchestra in appreciation of their performances of the composer's music in 1985, a dazzling, brassy Bartókian interlude reminiscent of Miraculous Mandarin. The recordings were made May 1-2, 2005, and represent some of Telarc's finest sonics.

Telarc had received many requests for a surround sound version of their 1987 release Round-Up featuring Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops in a wide collection of music associated with the West including, of course, music for films. The original stereo release also included various appropriate sound effects. As explained in notes for the SACD release, Round-Up was not recorded in multi-channel sound, and the process to produce a surround sound version is explained stating the new release "features a completely new high resolution surround mix of the music, and sound effects plus a new stereo mix for both the stereo SACD and CD programs. The 5.l multi-channel and stereo programs benefit with greater detail, impact and harmonic content of both music and sound effects." And, indeed, audio quality on this new release is terrific. This is a terrific audio show-off SACD.

Great Film Fantasies is another sonic blockbuster, offering music by John Williams: ten excerpts from the Star Wars series, and four from the Harry Potter films, ending with four excerpts Howard Shore's score for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops have never played better, and Telarc's engineering is spectacular. These recordings were made September 9 and 13, 2005, produced by Robert Woods and engineered by Michael Bishop who also did the "surround" mix for Round-Up.

All three SACDs are highly recommended!

R.E.B. (June 2006)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Paavo in London

Paavo has a date with the London Symphony Orchestra Sunday, June 25, at 7:30 pm at The Barbican in London, ENGLAND

And, right on the heels of performing the Mahler 2 in Paris, this time the program features Mahler's monumental Symphony No. 3 with Lilli Paasikivi, alto; the Ladies of the London Symphony Chorus; and The Boys of King's College Choir, Cambridge.

From the LSO website: "Mahler declared that in his Third Symphony he wanted to 'create a gigantic musical poem, including all the phases of evolution, and depicting its gradual ascent. It begins at the heart of inanimate nature and progresses to the love of God.' The result (scored for mezzo-soprano, choirs of women and boys and a large orchestra) is not only one of his most massive works, but also one of his most all-embracing."

Tickets are £5, £11, £16, £21, and £27.

Barbican Centre
Silk St
London EC2Y 8DS
(nearest tube is Barbican) Other directions may be found here.

Box Office: 020 7638 8891
Admin: 020 7588 1116
Fax: 020 7374 0127

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CD REVIEW: Grieg: Norwegian Dances

Julie Amacher of Minnesota Public Radio offers this review of Paavo and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra's Grieg Norwegian Dances CD (June 20, 2006):
Grieg: Norwegian Dances--Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Jarvi (Virgin 44722)

St. Paul, Minn. — He's an Estonian conductor who hangs his hat in his native country, his adopted home in Cincinnati and (next year) in Frankfurt. But lately Paavo Jarvi has been exploring his Norwegian soul. After a highly acclaimed recording of Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt" with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Jarvi has just added another Grieg CD to his discography, with the same ensemble. This one is devoted to the Norwegian master's orchestral music.

Grieg's orchestral music is special because he wrote it reluctantly. As a composer, Grieg focused on smaller works like songs and piano pieces, partly because he didn't think he could compete with the work of his colleague Johann Svendsen, the first Norwegian symphonist. Grieg highly admired his idol's gifts, declaring, "Svendsen has precisely all that which I don't have: mastery of the orchestra and its large classical forms." For that reason, Grieg limited himself to composing just 15 orchestral works. I, for one, am glad Grieg was brave enough to dip his toe in the orchestral waters.

Grieg originally wrote his Norwegian Dances for piano duet. He had hoped French composer Eduard Lalo would orchestrate them, but instead Hans Sitt, a member of the Brodsky Quartet, did the honors in 1888. Grieg based the first symphonic dance on a Scottish theme, with energetic sections that recall the sinister sound of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from his incidental music for Peer Gynt. The other three dances are all hallings, a dance style that comes from the Hallingdal region of Norway. Each is based on a Scottish reel and they're written in double time.

I like these dances because they show Grieg's light-hearted nature, yet there's nothing frivolous about the complex harmonies, ingenious modulations and passionate melodies. The second in the set begins with a lazy bear's dance. It speeds up suddenly as the dancers try to outdo each other with animated leaps.

Paavo Jarvi's father, Neeme Jarvi, recorded the Norwegian Dances 20 years earlier with Sweden's Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Paavo Jarvi may have followed in his father's footsteps, but he's not afraid to make his own musical statements. Where Neeme creates added dramatic effect with quick tempo changes, esthetic pauses and bold dynamic changes, Paavo goes for a brighter sound, and overall faster tempos. He prefers smooth, lyrical lines and he eases into his crescendos gradually.

Grieg believed the best medium for conveying deep emotion was the string orchestra, a belief that the music on this CD affirms. The familiar "Holberg" Suite contains emotion to spare. But to my ears, the most moving orchestral pieces are the four songs he wrote and later arranged for this kind of group.

Particularly beautiful are the earliest songs, Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 24. These are settings of melancholy poems by Aasmund Vinje. Grieg based each of them on a single melody, which then undergoes a series of subtle harmonic variations. Debussy once said it was this formula that elevated Grieg's music to a higher plane. The Elegiac Melody No. 2, titled "The Last Spring," was played at the composer's funeral. This piece is filled with a bittersweet nostalgia. It's very reminiscent of "Solveig's Song" from Peer Gynt.

The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra has a big, unified sound that sweeps the listener along. We can hear individual instruments only when the score calls for that texture, like the romantic oboe line in the opening of the Symphonic Dance No. 2. The colors of various wind instruments rise above the orchestra on occasion, adding to the folksy feel of this music, helping to recreate the solitary, peaceful nature of Grieg's homeland.

Some friends of mine recently visited Grieg's home in Norway. They were glad they took the bus to Troldhaugen, because they were sure they would never have found it on their own. With this collection of Grieg's orchestral music, you don't need a map to get to where you want to go. Paavo Jarvi and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra know just how to bring its simple beauty to you.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Une ferveur irrégulière

Par Christian Merlin, Le Figaro
12 juin 2006, (Rubrique Culture)

Verdi et Mahler au Festival de Saint-Denis

Musique. On ne va pas à la basilique de Saint-Denis pour distinguer les subtilités d'orchestrations touffues : l'acoustique, généreusement réverbérée, ne le permet pas. On y va pour ressentir le choc d'un lieu qui communique sa ferveur aux interprètes et pour communier dans une ambiance festive et sans chichi. Les deux concerts entendus la semaine dernière, avec les deux orchestres de Radio France, n'ont pas atteint le même niveau d'inspiration. Jeudi soir, le Requiem de Verdi, avec un Philharmonique aux chefs de pupitre particulièrement attentifs, a surtout souffert du manque d'intériorité de la direction de Myung-Whun Chung et d'un quatuor vocal particulièrement mal apparié : la soprano Angela Brown, caricature de chant verdien à l'américaine, vibrato et volume surdimensionnés, la mezzo Béatrice Uria-Monzon, souvent hors d'intonation, la basse Roberto Scandiuzzi, dont les effets théâtraux semblent vouloir faire oublier la fatigue vocale. Seul Rolando Villazon (notre photo), pour son premier Requiem de Verdi, séduit sans réserve par l'équilibre entre beauté vocale et expression.

Quelques jours plus tôt, un classique de la basilique : la Symphonie Résurrection de Mahler, confiée cette fois à l'Orchestre national et à Paavo Järvi. Rien à voir avec la sensualité féline d'Ozawa, qui fit jadis retentir ces voûtes de la même musique. Mais comment ne pas être admiratif devant la poigne du chef estonien, pour qui Vienne n'est pas synonyme de charme élégant et d'humour ironique, mais de puissance implacable et de cohérence dans la conception. Souvent frustrante dans les mouvements instrumentaux, desservis par l'acoustique, cette vision décapante trouve sa logique dans le finale vocal, couronnement d'une authentique grandeur. Le merveilleux Orfeon Donostiarra affirme sa supériorité sur le Choeur de Radio France, la subtilité de la soprano Christine Schäfer et surtout l'incroyable rayonnement de l'alto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, dont la voix s'ouvre pour prendre possession de tout l'espace sonore et spirituel, contribuant aux sensations fortes ressenties ce soir-là.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Better late than never!

From April, here is the poster for Chicago...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Paavo in Paris at St-Denis

The leaves are on the trees and Paris, that legendary City of Lights, is in full bloom, as Paavo assumes the podium to conduct the Orchestre National de France at the Basilique Saint-Denis (St-Denis Basilica) for two concerts, one on Monday, June 5, and the other on Tuesday, June 6 (ticket information here).

On the program this week: Berg's 7 Early Songs (Christina Schaefer, soprano and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto) and Mahler's glorious Symphony No. 2 ("Resurecction"). Trust me, if the Mahler 2 is anywhere nearly as moving as the performances of it which PJ conducted earlier this year in Cincinnati, you are definitely going to shed some tears. I wouldn't miss this one, if I were you!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

CD REVIEW: Bartok/Lutoslawski

Here's a review of Paavo and the Cincinnati Symphony's newest recording from the French classical music webzine, ResMusica.
Le coup de poing dans l’estomac
par Pierre-Jean Tribot (29/05/2006)

Witold Lutoslawski (1913-1994) : Concerto pour orchestre, Fanfare for Louisville ; Bélà Bartòk (1881-1945) : Concerto pour orchestre. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, direction : Paavo Järvi. 1 CD TELARC. Référence : CD-80618. Enregistré en mai 2005 au Music Hall de Cincinnati. Notice de présentation en anglais. Durée : 71’04 mn

Le chef d’orchestre Paavo Järvi, fils de Neeme Järvi, est en train de réaliser un parcours discographique presque sans faute à la tête de la formation qu’il dirige depuis 2001 : le Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Fondé en 1895, cet ensemble peut s’enorgueillir d’être le cinquième orchestre symphonique le plus ancien des Etats-Unis. Peu médiatisé, il a tout de même été dirigé par des personnalités comme Leopold Stokowski, Fritz Reiner, Eugene Gossens, Walter Susskind, Michael Gielen et Jesús López-Cobos. Un long partenariat discographique le lie à la firme américaine Telarc, bien connue pour ses prises de son hifistes. Maîtrisant à merveille l’acoustique du Music Hall de Cincinnati, le label américain réussit toujours à produire des prises de son exemplaires de restitution et de profondeur. Cette esthétique s’associe à merveille au style analytique mais pugnace du chef d’orchestre et le commentateur peut s’extasier devant les plus éloquents témoignages de ce tandem : une Symphonie fantastique, un couplage des Symphonies n°2 de Sibelius et de Tubin, une anthologie Maurice Ravel qui ne cède en rien aux légendaires enregistrements de Paul Paray et un recueil de ballets d’Igor Stravinsky.

Peu pratiqué au disque, le couplage des concertos pour orchestre de Lutoslawski et Bartòk semble pourtant couler de source. Composée en 1949, la pièce de Lutoslawski est un festival de couleurs et une véritable partition de démonstration qui témoigne de l’impressionnante maîtrise technique du jeune compositeur. Aidé par un orchestre superlatif, le chef d’orchestre vise à clarifier les structures tout en imprégnant une progression dramatique qui évite à la pièce de rester un morceau de musique pure. La discographie de l’œuvre était jusqu’alors dominée par les enregistrements de Christoph Von Dohnanyi (Decca), Antoni Witt (Naxos) et Seiji Ozawa (EMI) ; il faut désormais compter avec cette interprétation magistrale. Avant de passer à la pièce homonyme de Bartòk, les interprètes nous proposent un charmant bonbon : la Fanfare for Louisville du maître polonais. Cette brève œuvre pour vents, cuivres et percussions est un cadeau de remerciement de l’auteur à l’orchestre de Louisville suite à une série de concerts autour de sa Symphonie n°3. Impressionné par la qualité de la phalange, Lutoslawski lui offrit cette pièce en guise de cadeau de remerciements.

Véritable cheval de bataille des orchestres et des chefs, le Concerto pour orchestre de Bartòk reste la partition la plus populaire du compositeur. Paavo Järvi évite le principal écueil de cette pièce : la romantisation à outrance. Il s’intéresse aux équilibres entre les pupitres et à la finesse des traits. Souvent galvaudé par des musiciens qui ne savent en cerner l’esthétique si particulière, « l’introduzione » sonne ici avec une belle évidence. Järvi n’en oublie pourtant pas de faire briller son orchestre dans les deux derniers mouvements. En dépit de la qualité incroyable de la discographie, il faut saluer cet enregistrement qui se hisse sans problème au niveau de : Karajan (EMI), Reiner (RCA), Solti (Decca), Kocsis (Hungaroton), Szell (Sony).

« Donner vie à la musique », selon Paavo Järvi

Ah, the great tour of Japan has been completed now and Paavo moves on to Paris for two concerts next week: Monday, June 5, and Tuesday, June 6, for the Festival de Saint-Denis. And here is an article I just found from Le Web de l'Humanite (23 mai 2006):
« Donner vie à la musique », selon Paavo Järvi

Il dirigera Mahler et Berg, deux soirs en la basilique, à la tête de l’Orchestre national de France.

La 2e Symphonie, Résurrection, est l’une des partitions qui symbolise le mieux cette adéquation, non donnée à l’avance, cette quasi-connivence qui s’est affirmée dans le cadre du Festival de Saint-Denis, entre la basilique et l’oeuvre de Gustav Mahler. Cette année, le flambeau est repris par Paavo Järvi, à la tête de l’Orchestre national de France. Le chef estonien a déjà, dans ce même lieu, dirigé la 3e Symphonie de Mahler et la 7e Symphonie de Bruckner. De la 2e Symphonie de Mahler, il a une expérience acquise à la tête de deux orchestres : celui de Cincinatti et celui d’Estonie. Mais, c’est à chaque fois l’oeuvre qui impose une vision : « Mon approche, en travaillant la 2e Symphonie avec l’Orchestre national de France, ne sera pas influencée par ce que je sais de cet orchestre. Mon approche a été déterminée par l’étude de la partition afin de découvrir les émotions et les significations qu’elle porte. Un chef a beaucoup de choses à faire pour préparer un orchestre. Il doit être certain que les musiciens ont une conception complète de la partition, il doit veiller aux équilibres sonores et s’assurer que les éléments essentiels sont bien perçus. Généralement, je ne procède pas à une explication de la pièce, ce serait mésestimer les connaissances et le talent des musiciens, mais si certains aspects me semblent devoir être explicités, je le fais en quelques mots. Mais la chose la plus importante est de donner vie à la musique. La musique n’a rien d’intéressant tant qu’elle n’a pas mûri et n’est devenue musique vivante. La 2e Symphonie est une oeuvre stupéfiante, elle a une force intérieure positive et un esprit de jeunesse qui me touchent beaucoup. La première intervention du choeur peut être un moment inoubliable. »

En première partie du concert de ces 5 et 6 juin seront donnés les Sieben frühe Lieder (Sept Mélodies de jeunesse) d’Alban Berg, avec Christine Schäfer, soprano. Le programme n’a pas été élaboré pour mettre en valeur les similarités historiques et musicales entre Berg et Mahler, qui existent, mais il sera plutôt, de l’avis de Paavo Järvi, le reflet du contraste intellectuel entre les deux compositeurs.

Si l’on compare la situation d’un jeune chef, tel que Paavo Järvi, face à ces oeuvres qui ont fait l’objet dans les dernières décennies d’une quantité d’interprétations accessibles par la circulation des enregistrements à l’échelle internationale, on peut se demander si son approche est différente de celle des chefs qui n’avaient pour référence que la partition et éventuellement quelques témoignages sonores. La réponse est catégorique : « Absolument, aujourd’hui nous avons tout ce qu’il est possible de souhaiter : des DVD, des CD, iPod, Internet. Je suis très favorable au fait d’avoir accès au plus grand nombre de ressources possibles pour connaître les oeuvres. J’encourage toujours les jeunes chefs à prendre connaissance d’un maximum d’interprétations. » Paavo Järvi, qui a reçu un Grammy Award pour l’enregistrement des Cantates de Sibelius, n’a pas enregistré de symphonie de Mahler. Une lacune à combler.

H. J.

Article paru dans l'édition du 23 mai 2006.