Saturday, September 30, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO builds Bruckner with depth, passion

CSO builds Bruckner with depth, passion
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, September 30, 2006

"A lot of people don't like Bruckner," said music director Paavo Jarvi on the taped video shown before Friday's Cincinnati Symphony concert at Music Hall.

That, plus an unfamiliar name on the program and an artist change, may have contributed to the unusually small turnout, but those who were there constituted a rapt audience.

In fact, the silence during the Adagio of Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 and the collective exhalation that followed the softly brushed chords at the end were eloquent testimony that Jarvi had kept his listeners spellbound. It was an extraordinary moment during an extraordinary performance and one to make any Bruckner fan's heart grow fonder.

The unknown quantity on the program was Estonian composer Eduard Tubin (though Jarvi has led his Symphony No. 5 and Double Bass Concerto for CSO audiences previously). It was the CSO premiere of Tubin's unfinished Symphony No. 11, a nine-minute Allegro vivace that lives up fully to its "con spirito" designation.

Stepping in on just three days' notice for Norwegian cellist Truls Mork, who canceled because of an illness in his family, was cellist Alisa Weilerstein, who picked up the traces with the previously announced Cello Concerto in A Minor by Robert Schumann.

Just 24, Weilerstein is a superbly talented young artist, and her performance demonstrated that. She plays with a rapid vibrato and demonstrative gestures, making for an intense listening experience. Her Schumann was impetuous, even fevered, though she could produce a lovely, warm sound when she wanted to, as in her duets with CSO principal cellist Eric Kim in the slow portion of the one-movement work.

At other times, one could have wished for more subtlety, and her down-bow attacks were sometimes heavy-handed. Nevertheless, she is an important new talent, with much to offer, and should be invited back soon on her own terms.

Jarvi's approach to the two symphonies was engrossing and, in the case of the Bruckner, revelatory. The Tubin took off on a flourish of timpani, setting an exuberant tone before falling back into a mood of suspense. A "Mars"-like buildup (Gustav Holst's "Planets") preceded the soaring, brassy recapitulation, but the work ended on a note of questioning with harmonies that remained unresolved.

Jarvi handled the shifting duple/triple (sometimes super-imposed) rhythms by varying and sub-dividing his beat, and he treated the work's block-like construction as given, with acutely sensitive characterization.

For this listener, no one is likely to equal his reading of the Adagio movement soon. It was an emotional journey that painted the composer as more than the plaster saint he is often supposed. There was solemnity, tenderness and almost funereal depth. And yet there was also light - of the resigned sort, perhaps, but those chords at the end were like shards of hope.

The sun came out in the Scherzo, which was gleefully martial and childlike, with its tramping basses, brass fanfares and playful pizzicato.

The finale had plenty of nervous energy - tremolo strings punctuated by blasts of brass at the beginning - and even more discontinuity. Jarvi shaped it all discretely, from the moments of pensive, fitful winds to the brass-heavy, heaven-storming declarations that topped it off.

It was a connoisseur's concert maybe, but demonstrated the mastery Jarvi has brought to the CSO and the extent to which the orchestra has responded to it.

The program repeats at 8 tonight at Music Hall.

CONCERT REVIEW: Shining evening for CSO

Despite the loss of the week's original guest soloist, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand's review of last night's concert praises the playing of the young artist who stepped in on short notice:
Shining evening for CSO
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, September 30, 2006

The saying goes that composer Anton Bruckner wrote the same symphony nine times, as conductor Paavo Järvi noted in his introduction to Bruckner's Symphony No. 6Friday night. That myth, and a canceled soloist, may have kept the crowds away from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert in Music Hall.

It's too bad, because, despite the odds, it turned out to be an exceptional evening. The brilliant American cellist Alisa Weilerstein stepped in for Truls Mork to play the Schumann Cello Concerto on a few days notice, and Järvi and the musicians made a case for Bruckner's Sixth that would rival even the most majestic recording.

At just 24, Weilerstein has already been tapped as one of America's most promising young stars. The Cleveland Institute of Music graduate is one of the most individual voices you'll ever hear on the cello, and she tackled Schumann's Concerto in A Minor with a mixture of assured virtuosity and a large dose of emotion.

Although beauty of sound is not the first thing one notices about her playing, Weilerstein is an expressive player who makes her cello speak in a soulful, almost vocal manner. Her performance was an emotional journey that seemed to echo the composer's tormented psyche, with a throbbing vibrato and freely rhapsodic phrases.

The orchestra's collaboration, though understated at first, richly underscored her playing.

Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A Major is one of the least played of his symphonies, but it may, in fact, be the most attractive. High drama (in brass and timpani) and rhythmic complexity are its hallmarks. Yet its appeal is a lyricism and intimacy one usually doesn't associate with the Austrian composer.

Järvi found this balance of light and dark, and the orchestra rose to the occasion with truly stunning playing. The opening "Maestoso" had powerful brass climaxes of great, organ-like sonorities, balanced by moments of beauty that at times echoed Mahler in character.

The heart of this work is the slow movement. Järvi gave it a deeply felt reading, with beautifully shaped phrases and luminous strings, enhanced by contributions from acting principal oboist Shea Scruggs.

The somewhat quirky scherzo, with its mixture of brass fanfares, timpani rolls, horn calls and ringing cut-offs, somehow all made sense. Järvi brought the work to summation in a finale that was driving yet spacious, and the grandiose brass sound was something to behold.

The conductor opened the program with a work by his countryman, Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, and spoke in pre-recorded "First Notes" about the composer who was a family friend. His Symphony No. 11, left unfinished at his death in 1982, was a fascinating work that echoed many influences, from Carl Nielsen to the Russians and even, perhaps, Holst's "The Planets." It featured bold assertions in brass and timpani, angular themes and surprisingly lush strings.

The program repeats at 8 p.m. today. Tickets: 513-381-3300.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, Cincinnati Symphony

Mary Ellyn Hutton of the Cincinnati Post thinks Paavo's newest CD with the Cincinnati Symphony would make a good addition to that list for St. Nick!
Britten, "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," Four Sea Interludes from "Peter Grimes"; Elgar, "Enigma Variations." Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Paavo Järvi, conductor. Telarc. A

This tenth Telarc recording by music director Paavo Järvi and the CSO has a British accent, and an appealing one, too, with Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations."

Britten's theme and variations - much more colorful than the scholastic title it bears - shows off the CSO brilliantly. As the theme (by 18th-century British composer Henry Purcell) passes through the sections of the orchestra, each characteristic timbre and personality is captured vividly. Järvi and his players give it an extra charge here and there, as in the riotous percussion variation, the boisterous fugue and the return of the theme, which Järvi summons from the depths of the orchestra with pulse-quickening inexorability.

Paired with it and the Elgar is a less known score by Britten, the Four Sea Interludes from his opera "Peter Grimes." Britten equals any composer in history in his ability to craft images in music, like the look and feel of a dreary morning on the coast of East Anglia ("Dawn"), which he paints with high, cool strings broken by strands of bubbly winds, like ocean spray or rays of sunlight through the clouds. "Sunday Morning" utilizes bells, bustling, quirky rhythms and woodwind bird calls for a genuine sense of fun (scarce in this opera about disillusionment and death in a British fishing village). "Moonlight" is similarly evocative, with glints of flute and harp against soft, slow-moving strings, while "Storm" is inexorable in its fury.

Järvi and the CSO have competition with Elgar's much-recorded work. There is the highly emotive 1987 rendition by Leonard Slatkin and the London Philharmonic and the lovely 2002 Deutsche Grammophon recording by John Eliot Gardiner and the Vienna Philharmonic. Not only does Gardiner have the peerless sounding box of Vienna's Musikverein for a recording studio, but the aristocratic Viennese ensemble at his command.

Still, I admire Järvi's immaculate attention to detail (the coins on the kettledrum can be heard clearly in variation 13, rendered, according to the album insert, with authentic British pennies) and the depth of his interpretation. The CSO music director is not all dash and verve, though he can certainly deliver that, as in variation seven, with its pounding timpani and urgent-sounding trombones (portrait of a friend of the composer banging out a tune on the piano). There is also tenderness, as in the opening statement of the theme and in variation 12, with its aching cello solo (a secret love of Elgar's?).

As for the famous "Nimrod" variation (number nine), Järvi does something I have rarely heard, which is to sustain the orchestral sound without a break into the final fortissimo fragment of the "Enigma" theme. It is highly effective.

He wraps it up with an exciting, triumphant final, capped by a sustained, organ-permeated, fortissimo chord. Recorded in Music Hall, the sound is captured expertly by Telarc's painstaking engineers.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

SACD News from the High Fidelity Review

High Fidelity Review includes this piece about Paavo's newest SACD release from Telarc with the Cincinnati Symphony:
Britten: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes; Elgar: Enigma
Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
SACD Surround Sound/SACD Stereo/CD Audio
(Telarc SACD-60660)

This new Surround Sound Super Audio CD is the latest album from Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Paavo Jarvi has been one of the more active musicians in terms of Super Audio CD releases with this album marking his 15th Surround Sound SACD release on labels including Telarc, PentaTone Classics and BMG Japan. It is a Direct Stream Digital (DSD) recording and features performances of material by two well known British composers - Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar.

Conductor Jarvi says that "This recording pays tribute to three of Britain’s greatest composers—not only Elgar and Britten, but also Henry Purcell, who appears in The Young Person’s Guide as an inspiration from the past. My hope is that by having their voices together on one disc, you will enjoy hearing the dialogue between these giants of British music."

Album Producer Elaine Martone describes Jarvi as "an absolute gem to work with. Paavo Järvi is a brilliant man with a wonderful sense of the line of the music. He brings out the inner parts, illuminating them so they shine. The orchestra played the difficult Britten and Elgar music with virtuosity, and Paavo shaped and guided it all with a sure hand."

The album was recorded at Music Hall in Cincinnati by Telarc Engineer Michael Bishop using the Genex 8500 DSD Recorders, the Sony Sonoma DSD Workstation (for recording and editing) and the EMM Labs Meitner DSD Converters with the EMM Labs Meitner Switchman II for surround sound speaker monitoring. The SACD Production Supervisor was Eric Brenner. The SACD was made by Sony DADC at their Hybrid SACD production line in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mørk out; Weilerstein in

Alisa Weilerstein, cellist

Giving credit where it's due, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand scooped everybody today when she reported on her blog at 5:32 pm that highly acclaimed "Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk has cancelled his performances with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this weekend due to an illness in his family, the orchestra announced Tuesday. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein, 24, will take his place in the Schumann Cello Concerto. Weilerstein made her Cincinnati Symphony debut in 2004."

This week's concerts will take place on Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30 at 8 pm in Cincinnati's beautiful Music Hall. On the program: the CSO premiere of Symphony No. 11 by the Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, which was unfinished at his death; Schumann's Cello Concerto in A Minor, a jewel of the solo cello repertoire (Alisa Weilerstein, soloist); and Bruckner's Symphony No. 6 in A Major, the shortest in length of the composer’s nine symphonies and the only one that Bruckner, who was notorious for changing his own work, did not revise.

Listen to Paavo's Notes via MP3 here. And read this week's Program Notes before you go.

This program will air via streaming audio for the rest of the world on 90.9 FM, Classical WGUC on Sunday, December 31, at 7:30 pm ET.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Järvi mit Sibelius & Alber im BR

Sep 6, 2006
Järvi mit Sibelius & Alber im BR

Hugh Wolff ging und Paavo Järvi (Bild) kommt. Am 12. und 13. Oktober wird der estnische Dirigent als neuer Chef des hr-Sinfonieorchester in der Frankfurter Alten Oper seinen Einstand geben. Und er hat sich für sein Debüt ein einziges Werk vorgenommen, das monumentale und selten gespielte sinfonische Gedicht "Kullervo" des finnischen Komponisten Jean Sibelius. Als Solisten stehen die Mezzo-Sopranistin Charlotte Hellekant und der Bariton Jroma Hynninen auf dem Programm, außerdem wird der Nationale Männerchor Estlands in Erscheinung treten. Man darf gespannt sein.

Wenige Tage später kann man in München das Preisträgerkonzert des 55. ARD-Wettbewerbes erleben. Zuvor treten über zwei Wochen verteilt 192 Teilnehmer aus 42 Ländern in den Kategorien Gesang, Klavier und Bläserquintett an, um einen der renommiertesten Musikpreise der Welt zu gewinnen. Eines allerdings steht bereits fest: Wer auch immer das Finale erreicht, das Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks wird ihn, wenn gewünscht, unter der Leitung von Jonas Alber begleiten und der Hörfunk wird das Konzert am Abend des 15.September von 20 Uhr auf den Frequenzen von BR4 Klassik übertragen. Das Bayerische Fernsehen folgt dann am 3.Oktober mit einem Special um 11:30 Uhr.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, Cincinnati Symphony

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand reviews the Cincinnati Symphony's newest CD under Paavo's tenure today.
Järvi, CSO release refined 10th album
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, September 24, 2006

The combination of extraordinary playing and the superb acoustics of Music Hall make the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's latest all-British album a showstopper.

For his 10th album with the Cincinnati Symphony, music director Paavo Järvi has put his vivid personal stamp on a disc of best-loved music of the British repertoire.

The album, in stores Tuesday, includes Sir Edward Elgar's "Enigma" Variations, Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" and the "Four Sea Interludes" from "Peter Grimes."

It is perhaps the most refined playing of this ensemble to date and another example of a musical chemistry that works.

Not just for children, Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" showcases individual instruments of the orchestra in an inventive set of variations on a theme by Henry Purcell.

Orchestral soloists play with flair, notably the flutes, clarinet, bassoon and trumpet, and Järvi captures its youthful quality with spirited tempos and humorous touches.

The concluding fugue - traveling through every section of the orchestra - comes off as a flourish.

Although the theme to Elgar's "Enigma" Variations remains an enigma. Each of the 13 variations is a caricature of a person Elgar knew. The conductor's view is warm and rich with detail, expressive yet never overly romanticized, and the character of each piece is portrayed vividly.

There's a refreshing spontaneity to this performance. The seventh variation, Presto, is a display of impressive feats for timpani and brass, and the famous Nimrod movement unfolds exquisitely from an intimate pianissimo to an expansive climax.

Järvi leads the work in one expansive arc, and the final statement of the theme is truly majestic in Music Hall's acoustical space. The recording's dynamic range is so broad, though, you may have to turn up the sound in the softest passages.

Also on the disc, Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from the opera "Peter Grimes," captures all the atmosphere and mystery of this morose opera that takes place in an English fishing village.

"Sunday Morning" is a vibrant portrait, with its busy themes illuminated by crystal-clear textures, and punctuated by church bells.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Durufle Premiere Steals the Show

First things, first! Many thanks to our friend Mary Ellyn Hutton for allowing us to give you the first online look -- well, after her site, that is--at her review of Friday morning's concert:
Durufle Premiere Steals the Show
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, September 25, 2006

Let’s hear it for organists. Two of the composers featured on Friday morning’s Cincinnati Symphony concert were organists (both French), Cesar Franck and Maurice Durufle. Franck’s Symphony in D Minor is a staple of the orchestral literature. Durufle’s Three Dances for Orchestra, Op. 6 is not. From what I heard by the CSO led by music director Paavo Järvi (a CSO premiere) it should be. Composed in 1932 and obviously influenced by Ravel (and Durufle’s teacher, Paul Dukas), it’s a color-saturated beauty that also looks back to the French baroque. It helped light up a dreary morning (attendance was sparse, due in part, no doubt, to the cold and rain).

Not that it’s been buried Durufle’s complete opus comprises only 14 works, including his well-known Requiem. Outside of France, however, the Three Dances appear to have been over-looked (there is an out of print Erato recording by Durufle himself).

Scored for a big, Ravelian orchestra (five percussionists!), its three movements are patterned on the French dance suite, with an opening Divertissement that has everything: atmosphere, melody, including a soulful one originally sounded by the clarinet, and dramatic shaping, with a bells-in-the-air (horns) climax. The Danse lente sparkled with jewel-like textures and shifting moods. The opening (and closing) melody for clarinet and bass clarinet had an evocative, chant-like aura.

The final Tambourin was a complete delight. Written over persistent drumming (tambourin is the name of two-headed French drum), it included a spectacular "drumming" episode for spiccato strings. There was also the delicious sound of saxophone (James Bunte) meandering above and engaging in a chortling exchange with the bassoon and contra-bassoon.

One of the composer’s few non-organ or choral works, Durufle’s Three Dances (recorded in a two-piano version only at the moment) would be a prime selection for a CSO Telarc recording.

Friday’s featured soloist was CSO principal bassoonist William Winstead, who added a glow of his own with Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto.

Winstead was more than the superb bassoonist we hear week after week. He was a real presence, right down to the red, white and gold vest that complemented his bassoon, maple with a mahogany stain, and his own curly red hair.

Composed when Mozart was 18, the Bassoon Concerto is sunny and totally disarming. Winstead projected a mellow, pointed tone that engaged the listener immediately, from the acrobatics of the Allegro and the cadenzas (Winstead’s own), to the lovely aria-like Andante and bubbly Menuetto. Järvi’s accompaniment was precise, nuanced and exquisitely dovetailed with Winstead, never more so than in the gentle segue from his second movement cadenza.

The Franck Symphony in D Minor has never been absent from the concert hall (the CSO has recorded it with former music director Jesus Lopez-Cobos). Franck’s familiarity with the organ is evident in its huge sonorities and range of color, and Järvi and the CSO traversed it magnificently.

He began with a powerfully shaped introduction to the first movement. He took it from the glacially slow, eerie “fate” motif in the lower strings (compare Wagner’s “Ring” cycle) through a shattering crescendo to the theme’s transformation by the full orchestra, punctuated by angry shouts of brass. Then he got to do it all over again in a new key (something Franck has been criticized for, but it adds to the works' potent shiver effect). Järvi threw the movement into high relief by counter posing moments of gentle beauty, and the last statement of the opening motif built to a
grand conclusion.

English hornist Christopher Philpotts’ set the tone for the slow movement with his dark, eloquent solo, handing it off to principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth, who soared throughout. There were some wonderful moments of mystery, as in the soft, rustling strings that crept in on cat’s paws, and the music opened out like a flower at the end. There was lots of drama in the finale, too. The bright churning opening contrasted with more plaintive moments, and the variegated return of themes from the earlier movements. Järvi built to a full-bore, timpani-rattling recapitulation, then crafted a bated-breath conclusion. The harp bubbled up suspensefully against the gathering orchestral forces, which sealed the work with a great big D-major chord.

Repeat is 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall.

CONCERT REVIEW: Bassoon's front and center

Here is Janelle Gelfand's review of Friday morning's Cincinnati Symphony concert. Don't let the little known pieces deceive you. This sounds like one of those "can't be missed" concerts!
Bassoon's front and center
By Janelle Gelfand
Cincinnati Enquirer, September 23, 2006

The bassoon is one of the most colorful instruments of the orchestra, perhaps most known for its comical touches. On Friday morning, listeners heard how a bassoon can shine as a serious solo instrument, when principal bassoonist William Winstead performed Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat Major with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Winstead’s playing was a revelation of effortless technique and smiling phrases that sang. Aside from the fun of seeing a symphony musician out front, the program led by Paavo Järvi was something of a sleeper. It included Three Dances for Orchestra, a little-known work by Frenchman Maurice Duruflé, and Cesar Franck's glorious Symphony in D Minor.

A native of western Kentucky, Winstead has been principal bassoonist since 1987 and is also on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Mozart wrote his B-Flat Major Bassoon Concerto, K. 191, at age 18 – but there is nothing juvenile about its challenges. Winstead, sporting a brilliant red and gold vest, navigated its treacherous leaps, runs and flourishes with a sure hand and a smooth, sonorous timbre.

His seamless line was an asset in the slow movement, which brought out the beauty of Mozart’s soaring melodies. The finale was fleet, and the bassoonist transformed his sound for its dark, minor-moded section. The cadenzas, of Winstead’s own invention, were well-developed feats of virtuosity.

Winstead’s colleagues in the orchestra were sensitive partners in this engaging performance.

Järvi opened with Duruflé's Three Dances, an undiscovered gem of 1932 in the tradition of Debussy, Fauré and Ravel. The orchestra played with wonderful transparency in the opening Divertissement, which was awash with color. The slow Danse lente was gentle and touching, with sweeping climaxes in the brass, and the final Tambourin included a saxophone solo (James Bunte).

Järvi's view of Franck's romantic Symphony in D Minor, which concluded the morning, was one of the most vigorous you’ll ever hear, and painted in bold swaths of color. After the broad introduction (that recalls Liszt’s Les Preludes), the conductor burst upon the Allegro with surprising power. There was an aura of mystery about the chromatic motive that pervades this work, which contrasted against affirmative statements in the brass and deeply felt lyrical passages.

The orchestra turned in a polished performance, particularly the strings, whose ensemble has never sounded so lush. Principal English horn Chris Philpotts shone in the Allegretto, which also offered a chance to hear the orchestra’s new principal horn, Elizabeth Freimuth.

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


Thursday, September 21, 2006

More than music: Järvi's Job a Balancing Act

Photo: Jason D. Geil, Cincinnati Post

It's not all fun and glamour being the conductor of a major American orchestra these days. The side most people never see is what goes on behind the scenes as he occupies the post of the Music Director, too. The Cincinnati Post's classical music critic Mary Ellyn Hutton provides us today with an inside look at Paavo's daily life off the concert stage when he's in Cincinnati in her article More than music: Järvi's Job a Balancing Act.
There is an Estonian legend that once a year an old man rises from Ülemiste next to the capital city, Tallinn, and asks "Is Tallinn finished yet?"

The answer must never be "yes," Estonians know, for, if it is, he will flood the city.

The consequences may be less drastic for conductors, but their tasks are never finished either, said Cincinnati Symphony music director Paavo Järvi.

"It's an ongoing thing. There's always something to correct."

Being a music director and having your own orchestra "requires similar talents as a bank director or a business person. You have employees, you have long terms plans, you have financial responsibilities, people to whom you owe money, people from whom you want money.

"Most of the nights are spent dealing with people who know nothing about music, but who are able to support the cause that you must make them believe is important. And at the end of the day, if something goes wrong, it's all your fault."

When Järvi returned to Cincinnati to open the CSO season last weekend, he picked up both reins, leading the CSO in two all-Brahms concerts and attending to the many complexities of being artistic leader of the organization.

This week he conducts the CSO in the Symphony in D Minor by Cesar Franck, Mozart's Bassoon Concerto (with CSO principal bassoonist William Winstead as soloist), and Three Dances, Op. 6 (1932), by French composer Maurice Duruflé, a CSO premiere. Concerts are 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall.

As usual, Järvi hit the ground running, having just recorded Beethoven's Symphonies Nos. 1 and 5 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, conducted the Estonian National Orchestra at the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm and toured with the DK to the Salzburg Festival in Austria.

The first thing he does when he returns to Cincinnati is "detox," a healthful regime recommended by his wife, Tania, whereby he doesn't eat anything for two or three days and drinks only tea, juices and water. "The first time I did it I felt so good," he said. "I had more energy, and I wasn't hungry."

As he enters his sixth season with the CSO, Järvi will need lots of energy. Facing him are the potential "downsizing" of 3,500-seat Music Hall (largest concert hall in the country), player auditions, a to-be-announced CSO capital campaign, tour planning, recordings, programming and the usual rounds of meeting with CSO sponsors and donors.

Formation of a Music Hall Working Group, comprising representatives of the CSO, Cincinnati Opera, May Festival, Cincinnati Ballet and the Cincinnati Arts Association, which manages Music Hall for the city, was announced in August. The group will seek recommendations for reconfiguring the hall from Jaffe Holden Acoustics, Inc. of New York City and Fisher Dachs Associates Theatre Planning and Design of Norwalk, Conn. Preliminary recommendations are expected by the end of the year.

"I don't know what ends up being the final configuration, if it is going to be something changeable or not," said Järvi. "That is really something for the next step. The sooner the better as far as I'm concerned."

Performing in Music Hall constricts the CSO by putting pressure on the box office to sell more tickets and limiting the types of music that can be performed ("The hall is killing us," Järvi said in a March 2005 Post interview).

"The beginning of my real frustration was not being able to do not just new music, but lesser known classical music. If we do a Honegger symphony (Swiss composer Arthur Honegger), we have nobody in the hall, and that is not even new music.

"I am battling constantly with my marketing department because we can't fill the hall, and the thing is, I want to do more new music. I at least need to try to have some balance."

To try to enhance communication with Music Hall audiences, he is preparing pre-recorded video program notes (tested at last weekend's concerts) that involve screening his comments on the music to be performed on plasma screens mounted on each side of the stage before the concert.

On the 2006-07 season the Symphony No. 11 of Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, Vincent Persichetti's Symphony No. 4, Olivier Messiaen's L'Ascension, Christopher Rouse's Der gerettete Alberich (Alberich Saved), Krzysztof Penderecki's Symphony No. 2, Alexander Scriabin's Symphony No. 2, John Harbison's Double Bass Concerto, Erkki-Sven Tüür's Zeitraum and the world premiere of Charles Coleman's Deep Woods.

From the standard repertory come Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 4 ("Italian"), Respighi's Pines of Rome, Tchaikovsky's Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, Berlioz' Symphonie fantastique, Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 3, Schumann's Symphony No. 4 and Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 ("Pastorale").

Two Shostakovich symphonies - the 7th ("Leningrad") and 11th ("The Year 1905") - appear as well, in honor of the centennial of the Russian composer's birth.

For more details, visit the CSO web site at

Finding "balance" is a goal in every area of Järvi's life right now, he said. A notorious workaholic, he is all over the globe, guest conducting and meeting his commitments to other ensembles. In addition to the CSO, he is artistic adviser of the Estonian National Orchestra, artistic director of the DK and in October, will become music director of the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra.

Järvi, 43, whose hair shows traces of gray, said he is "trying very hard to find that balance, but I know that has never been my forte. I've never been really good at finding a good balance. I am somebody who is interested in many things - or at least, not just one thing.

"I will always be in America, I will always be in Japan and I will always be in Europe. It's the way this profession works.

"I must say that when I'm in Cincinnati, I love it, and Tania, who was always very skeptical about living in America, loves it. I am completely committed to Cincinnati. Logistics are complicated now, even more complicated because we have a second child coming."

The couple's second child, a daughter, was born here Tuesday. Their daughter Lea, 2½, was born in London.

One of the reasons for Järvi's peripatetic existence is his keenness to assimilate and record a wide variety of repertoire. He does Nordic composers in Estonia (his recording of Sibelius cantatas with the Estonian National Orchestra won a Grammy in 2005), he is recording the complete Beethoven symphonies with the DK, and he plans to focus on Bruckner in Frankfurt. Maintaining that pace is something he simply accepts.

"If there is something to do, then you get up in the morning and you do it. I feel that when you are in this kind of ongoing motion all the time, then you are in it. You don't start from the beginning. You just continue. Sometimes the most difficult thing is to get the momentum going."

Järvi is full of ideas. Among them is having the Estonian National Orchestra spearhead a festival in the city of Narva on the Russian/Estonian border. "It would have a dimension that we so much need of unifying and finding connections" (Estonia was occupied by the former Soviet Union until 1991).

He would also like to take the CSO to Estonia, the homeland he is so proud of (touted on the New York Times op-ed page Sept. 5 as "New Europe's Boomtown").

The most practical way to do that would be as part of a CSO tour of Europe.

"I'm actually quite disappointed that in the next (unannounced) European tour we're not coming. It wouldn't cost that much, but if we are going to have a capital campaign, and in the middle of that we have a tour, and in the middle of that we have contract negotiations (the CSO contract expires in Sept. 2007).... You understand."

This weekend's CSO concerts featuring Franck's D Minor Symphony and the Mozart Bassoon Concerto are 11 a.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets are $18.50-$77, $10 for students, half-price for seniors Saturday only. Call (513) 381-3300 or visit

Baltic Sea Festival, Part 2

Thanks to our friend Mary Ellyn Hutton for sharing Part 2 of her article about the Baltic Sea Festival, appearing in this week. The full, unedited version will appear on her own website, Music in Cincinnati. Here is the excerpt pertaining to Paavo and the Estonian National Symphony's performance:
STOCKHOLM -- Founded in 2003 by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Valery Gergiev and Michael Tyden (general manager of Stockholm's Berwald Concert Hall), the Baltic Sea Festival has lofty goals -- cultural, environmental and political.

"A new Hanseatic League" is what Tyden jokingly called it at this year's opening night reception at Berwald Hall. The hope is to involve all nine countries that touch the Baltic: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark, plus Scandinavian neighbor Norway.

The political and the environmental work may take some doing. Artistic director Salonen remembers how his kids once asked him, " 'Why can't you call the police if somebody is polluting the Baltic?' " And there is lingering animosity toward Russia, particularly in the Baltic states occupied by the former Soviet Union until little over a decade ago. Salonen hopes that the festival's success will be a catalyst for progress in the other areas as well.

The second half of the this year's event included two concerts by Salonen -- one all-Nordic, with the Swedish Radio Orchestra, and the festival finale, Mahler's Eighth Symphony with the Helsinki Philharmonic -- and one by Paavo Järvi and the Estonian National Orchestra performing Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür's Magma with percussionist Evelyn Glennie....

The Estonian National Orchestra, an ensemble re-constituted since the country threw off Soviet occupation in 1991, has achieved a new level of visibility with its recordings under Järvi, the orchestra's artistic adviser since 2002.

Tüür's aptly named Magma made a volcanic impression at Berwald Hall Aug. 25 on a program kindled even further by Stravinsky's Firebird Suite and Symphony No. 6 by Estonian composer Lepo Sumera (Tüür's mentor and teacher). Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun opened the performance

A former rock star in Estonia, Tüür, 46, has mastered an array of compositional techniques on his way to crafting his own style, which is deeply intellectual though without necessarily sounding so. Written for Glennie, Magma is not a concerto but a 30-minute symphony with solo percussion (Tüür's Symphony No. 4). Glennie moved among three sets of instruments -- metallic on the left in front of the first violins, wood facing the cellos and a jazz/rock drum set in the middle. The two movements, Andante furioso and Andante, reflected the outer groupings, with a sizzling improvised cadenza separating them.

The impression, as implied by the title, was of hot energy under pressure bubbling up from time to time. Performing the work in a new hall with limited rehearsal was a challenge for the ensemble, with the hearing-impaired artist picking up vibrations through her bare feet, but Järvi kept a tight rein on things and the result was impressive. Firebird also unfolded vividly....

The music-loving Baltic region brims with festivals, but this one appears poised to conquer them all. Salonen and his colleagues are committed; Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra are on board through 2009 and the announcement of a major sponsor for 2007 is expected soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

French Music on the CSO Menu this week

Oktoberfest is over and now the Cincinnati Symphony moves on to offer you a program with a different kind of continental flavor, with concerts this week at 11 am Friday, September 22 and 8 pm, September 23 at Music Hall.

William Winstead, CSO Principal Bassoonist, takes center stage for performances of Mozart's dazzling Bassoon Concerto. Two luminous works by Frenchmen Maurice Duruflé and César Franck complete the program.

"William Winstead is a master bassoonist with a beautiful tone and amazing technique," said Paavo Järvi. "He will bring out all the nuances of Mozart’s charming Bassoon Concerto. The Three Dances by Duruflé are lovely, light pieces that are almost never performed, and Franck’s D Minor Symphony is an essential, as well as familiar, staple of the repertoire."

Listen to Paavo's Notes via MP3 here. And read this week's Program Notes before you go.

Audiences are invited to learn more about the music at Classical Conversations with CSO Associate Principal Bassoon Martin James one hour before the performances. Classical Conversations is presented by Joseph-Beth Booksellers.

Principal Bassoonist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra since 1987, William Winstead is also an accomplished soloist, chamber musician, educator and composer. He is professor of bassoon at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, a post he has held since 1989.

This program will air via streaming audio for the rest of the world on 90.9 FM, Classical WGUC on Sunday, December 17, at 7:30 pm ET.

Tickets are $18.50-$77 and are available by phone at (513) 381-3300, on the Internet at, and in person at:

* CSO Sales Office in Memorial Hall, 1229 Elm Street, next door to Music Hall, Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm.
* Music Hall Box Office 2 hours prior to the performance.
* Half-price ZIPTIX for “A” to “D” seating are available for CSO concerts only in person from 11 am to 2 pm on the day of the concert at the CSO Sales Office. For Friday morning concerts, ZIPTIX are available on Thursday, and for Sunday concerts they may be purchased on Saturday.

Ushering in the New CSO Season

Some photos from last week's opening to add a little bit of flavor for those of us who couldn't be there in person:

You just know something good's going to happen when you see the new Paavo/CSO banners streaming from the balustrades of Music Hall's balcony promenade!

To go with that "Get Your Beethoven On" T from last season!

And The Maestro, a man of few words, takes the stage with guest artist, Gil Shaham, to thank the crowd after the concert (and, no doubt, BEFORE having some of that German chocolate cake!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And Baby Makes Four!

Paavo and his beautiful wife, Tanya, welcomed a new addition to their family this afternoon at a Cincinnati hospital. This exceptionally pretty, as-yet-unnamed baby girl will, no doubt, receive an excited welcome home from her big sister, the very grown-up, almost 3 year old, Leah!

Paavo's thoughts on Music Hall

Janelle Gelfand at the Cincinnati Enquirer has just blogged about last night's meeting of the Society for the Preservation of Music Hall. Here are Paavo's thoughts:
"Every time I approach this hall, whether driving to work or stepping onstage, I feel a tremendous sense of history. We read in the news every day about the creation of new venues, all over the U.S. and Europe. My thoughts are, you cannnot build an old hall. ... We have sometimes been less than thoughtful about history. Our downtown is an example of how we're not taking care of our treasures.

"But our hall is magnificent. But then comes the question: How do we take care of it and what of our role and responsibility? Cleveland and Chicago (concert halls) are examples of what can happen when an old hall is preserved with a future in mind. You feel the fantastic history and realize the historic integrity that is completely intact. At the same time, modern needs are addressed.

"One of the great hopes of mine is to do something here similar, to create a modern environment where everyone feels at home. I'd like it to be the living room of Cincinnati -- a comfortable place to a modern concert goer.

"It's important to see the other tenants, the opera and the May Festival comfortable, as well.

"This hall makes me feel very small, because I know that real giants have walked on that stage, such as Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff. It takes work and continuous dedication to be worthy of the people we are following."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

CD REVIEW: Grieg: Peer Gynt/ERSO

Just found this piece on the Austrian website for OE1 Webradio. I think it's a review, but you know me. My knowledge of German is essentially non-existent!

"Peer Gynt" von Edvard Grieg
Grieg: Schauspielmusik zu Ibsens "Peer Gynt"

Edvard Grieg war 31 Jahre alt, als er von Henrik Ibsen gefragt wurde, ob er nicht für Peer Gynt eine Theatermusik schreiben wolle - so wie Mendelssohn für eine Aufführung von Shakespeares Sommernachtstraum. Ibsens Werk war ursprünglich ein "dramatisches Gedicht", ein Versdrama, das 1875 als Bühnenstück umgearbeitet werden sollte.

Grieg zierte sich ziemlich und schimpfte eigentlich mehr auf das ganze Projekt, als dass er begeistert war: "Es ist ein entsetzlich unflexibler Stoff, einzelne Stellen ausgenommen, zum Beispiel da, wo Solveig singt; das habe ich auch schon alles gemacht. Auch zu 'In der Halle des Bergkönigs' habe ich etwas gemacht. Ich kann es buchstäblich nicht mehr ertragen, das zu hören, weil es derart nach Kuhfladen, Über-Norwegianismus und Selbstzufriedenheit klingt", so Grieg in einem Brief an einen Freund am 27. August 1875.

Spannungsbögen bei Paavo Järvi
Aber auch in langsamem Tempo kann das anders klingen. Etwa in der Aufnahme mit dem Estnischen Nationalen Symphonieorchester unter Paavo Järvi. In ähnlichem Tempo klingen diese Melodien in sehr schönem Spannungsbogen. Es wird sehr agogisch musiziert, mit Zieltönen und Durchgangstönen - wie ein Tuch oder Band, das an einem festen Balken an verschiedenen Punkten angeheftet ist und dazwischen nach unten hängt.

Kurt Mazur mit schweren Schritten
Die Interpretationsunterschiede der verschiedenen Aufnahmen sind nicht allzu groß. Dennoch: Bei der Morgenstimmung zu Beginn des vierten Aktes, die nicht in Norwegen, sondern in Afrika spielt und wohl das berühmteste Stück aus Griegs Schauspielmusik geworden ist, lassen sich einige Unterschiede erkennen.

In schweren langsamen gewichtigen Schritten lässt Kurt Mazur die berühmteste aller Peer-Gynt-Melodien erklingen. Die Flöten- und dann Oboenmelodie zu Beginn der berühmten "Morgenstimmung" kann in langsamem Tempo ihre Spannung leicht verlieren, dann wird das ein buchstabiertes Nebeneinander von Tönen und keine fließende spannungsgeladene Melodie.

Spannungsbögen bei Paavo Järvi
Aber auch in langsamem Tempo kann das anders klingen. Etwa in der Aufnahme mit dem Estnischen Nationalen Symphonieorchester unter Paavo Järvi. In ähnlichem Tempo klingen diese Melodien in sehr schönem Spannungsbogen. Es wird sehr agogisch musiziert, mit Zieltönen und Durchgangstönen - wie ein Tuch oder Band, das an einem festen Balken an verschiedenen Punkten angeheftet ist und dazwischen nach unten hängt.

Zu diesen Höhepunkten kehrt die Melodie immer wieder zurück, um dazwischen eine Schleife nach unten zu machen. Diese "Bewegung" wird in der Aufnahme des Estnischen Nationalen Symphonieorchesters unter Paavo Järvi sehr schön nachgezeichnet. Paavo übertrifft hier in einigen Bereichen seinen Vater Neeme Järvi.

Gestaltung: Hans Georg Nicklaus

Edvard Grieg, "Peer Gynt", Estnisches Nationales Symphonieorchester, Paavo Järvi, Virgin Classics, B0007Z47JI

Ö1 Klassiker Vol. 26, "Grieg + Sibelius", Göteborger Symphoniker, Neeme Järvi, erhältlich im ORF Shop

Edvard Grieg, "Peer Gynt", Konzertfassung, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Kurt Mazur, Philips (Universal), B00000E3UT

Saturday, September 16, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Despite cavernous hall, opening night a success

Mary Ellyn Hutton of the Cincinnati Post offers a different view of opening night in her review today. (And visit her newly redesigned website, Music in Cincinnati for new features and articles written for other publications.)
Despite cavernous hall, opening night a success
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post, September 16, 2006

Those "Bravo Paavo" billboards that went up all over town when Paavo Jarvi become Cincinnati Symphony music director in 2001 did not speak.

Over the course of the next five years the CSO audience learned that Jarvi in the flesh did not speak either - at least not at concerts (he is quite loquacious in other settings).

Addressing the audience at concerts breaks his concentration, he says, which is perfectly understandable and his decision to make as a performing artist.

Many of today's conductors do speak to their audiences, however. It breaks the wall of separation between them, as well as providing insights into the music. The CSO unveiled a compromise solution at its all-Brahms season-opener Friday night at Music Hall. Before the concert began they were shown a video of Jarvi discussing the music to be performed, projected onto screens mounted on either side of the stage.

Nice try, but it isn't going to help much. The screens are quite small (perhaps 3 x 5 feet) and the images are so far from most listeners that there isn't much to be gained except the sound of Jarvi's voice - a delightful experience in itself, which can be had on WGUC-FM's "Paavo Perspectives" and at his CD signings, etc. Judging from audience response, a respectful, but short round of applause, they didn't get much out of it.

The only way to break down the distance of the CSO Music Hall experience is to attack the real problem: Music Hall itself. The CSO must downsize it or get out. Otherwise, it will see week after week of half-full houses, as it did Friday night.

All-Brahms is a grand way to start a season and the concert itself was quite satisfying. Guest artist in the Brahms Violin Concerto was Gil Shaham. Jarvi opened with the Academic Festival Overture and closed with Brahms' First Symphony.

Shaham cultivated intimacy in his performance, favoring a sweet, lilting tone, often speaking in a very soft dynamic. This, plus his habit of turning away from the audience (listeners on the left side of the hall saw only his back at times) tended to blunt his intentions, but there was no denying the consummate skill of his playing. Though awarded a standing ovation and called back for several bows, there was no encore.

Brahms First Symphony proved an excellent opportunity to introduce two of the CSO's newest members, principal French hornist Elizabeth Freimuth and principal timpanist Patrick Schleker. Schleker laid into the tolling eighth notes that open the symphony with grandeur and presence, and he was handsomely showcased throughout in the symphony's many "timpani" moments. As principal hornist, Freimuth soared in one of the symphony great moments, the majestic horn solo in the introduction to the finale.

The symphony also provided a demonstration of Jarvi's formidable non-verbal skills. He is one of today's most communicative conductors and he was in particularly good form Friday, showing the CSO players what he wanted through swoops, shivers, waving motions and occasional leaps on the podium.

(Video projections of the conductor as the players see him - as was tried and regrettably discarded during former music director Jesus Lopez-Cobos' tenure - may be due for a Jarvi inning.)

The CSO warmed to their task over the course of the evening, turning in an energetic but fairly routine Academic Festival and a sympathetic collaboration with Shaham, despite some too-heavy moments. Acting principal oboist Lon Bussell (former principal oboist Liang Wang has been named principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic) turned in a radiant solo in the concerto's slow movement.

The moment it all came together was the finale of the symphony. Jarvi turned it into a drama of the first order, taking the opening pizzicato at glacial speed from the faintest sound to a rapid, resounding "plunk," followed by a sharp timpani rattle. The complex rhythms and huge build-up during the development section left the orchestra sounding exhausted (figuratively speaking) and the galloping figures of the coda led into a magnificent final chorale.

Repeat is 8 p.m. tonight at Music Hall.

CONCERT REVIEW: A CSO twist on traditional Brahms

Here's Janelle Gelfand's review of the Cincinnati Symphony's opening night:
"Music, just like a human being, is unpredictable," said conductor Paavo Järvi in pre-recorded "First Notes" projected on plasma screens flanking Music Hall's stage Friday night.

Like the video, Järvi opened the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's 112th season with all-Brahms performances that were indeed not in the traditional vein. There was something urgent, individual and almost experimental about his reading of Brahms' Symphony No. 1 that concluded the evening. And in the opening Academic Festival Overture, he turned pomp on its head, with a lighthearted look at Brahms' music that, after all, quotes from college drinking songs.

If one were to single out the evening's truly majestic interpretation, it was Gil Shaham's performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D. Shaham, a regular visitor to the Cincinnati Symphony, is a young violinist with an old-school sound, whose playing is full of personality, and who can toss off the most demonic feats with a smile.

His view was unabashedly romantic, sliding into notes and using a big vibrato to produce a gorgeous, glossy sound on his 1699 Stradivarius. From the first note, the violinist projected an ease and a sweetness of tone that was mesmerizing.

The cadenza, by Joseph Joachim, was expansive, punctuated by breathtaking bits of dazzle. He projected a beautiful line in the slow movement, and turned gypsy violinist in the finale, playing with flair and injecting its inner themes with wit and sparkle.

Järvi and the orchestra were in perfect communion.

Järvi's reading of Brahms' First was also in a romantic vein - with such dramatic contrasts of mood, the effect was a bit like getting a "deconstructed" meal at your favorite restaurant. You either like it or not.

He elicited a dark, full-bodied sound from the orchestra, pressing ahead with immense intensity, and then pulling back for moments of glowing lyricism. There was much to admire in the playing.
But in Brahms, too much freedom can come at the expense of the classical structure. It didn't work in the slow movement, where the beauty lies in its simplicity.

Still, the musicians played wonderfully, with clean attack, velvety sound in the strings, and expression in the orchestral solos (kudos to the new principal timpanist, Patrick Schleker, 25). The finale, with its great brass chorale, was electrifying, and the strings played its familiar theme with bracing color.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just remember...

Music Hall, Opening Night, September 2005 (photo by Sandye)

...even though I'm not there tonight, sitting in a box and madly rattling my jewelry, I am there in spirit. If such things matter.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Conducting Brothers

I would like to send my heartfelt thanks to our friend Friederike Westerhaus of Radio Bremen for sending us this transcript of the program she did today for Nordwestradio. In it, she spoke with both Paavo and his younger brother, Kristjan, about the ways they each go about conducting -- particularly having had such an influential father figure to grow up with!

And, as a reminder: Kristjan will make his Cincinnati conducting debut next July for the Cincinnati Opera where he will conduct the local debut of John Adams' Nixon in China.
Dirigieren als Familienerbe: die Järvis

Sie ist eine wahre Dirigentendynastie: die Familie Järvi. Der 69jährige Neeme und sein verstorbener Bruder Vallo - beide Dirigenten, Neeme international höchst erfolgreich. Seine beiden Söhne, der 43jährige Paavo und der 34jährige Kristjan, sind ebenfalls Dirigenten. Paavo ist Künstlerischer Leiter der Deutschen Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, und Chef in Cincinnati und Frankfurt. Kristjan leitet das „Absolute Ensemble“ und das Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich. Kürzlich sind sich die beiden in Bremen begegnet: Paavo probte mit der Kammerphilharmonie, Kristjan gab mit seinem „Absolute Ensemble“ einen Meisterkurs und Konzerte beim Musikfest. Ist ein Järvi wie der andere? Friederike Westerhaus hat den beiden bei der Arbeit zugeschaut und mit den Brüdern über ihr musikalisches Familienerbe gesprochen.

Atmo Singen Rhythmus

Bremer Musikhochschule. In einem kleinen Raum dirigiert ein Student ein imaginäres Orchester. Kirstjan Järvi singt den komplizierten, jazzigen Rhythmus mit, guckt etwas skeptisch auf die ausladenden Bewegungen seines Schülers. Dann grinst er breit, setzt sich auf einen Stuhl und mimt einen Schlagzeuger.

Kristjan: ... good R & B drummers, it’s like, you can feel the power, and the movements are small. But when they hit the drum, it’s like „Bum“, so same thing with a conductor. Drumming and conducting in this type of music it’s basically the same thing.

Bei guten R & B-Schlagzeugern, da spürt man die Kraft, dabei sind die Bewegungen ganz klein. Aber wenn der Stick die Trommel trifft, dann „Bumm!“. Genau wie beim Dirigenten. Schlagzeug spielen und Dirigieren – das ist bei dieser Art von Musik eigentlich dasselbe.

Ein paar Straßen weiter probt Paavo Järvi mit der Kammerphilharmonie. Mit fließenden, eleganten Bewegungen leitet er eine Beethoven-Sinfonie.


Wie Vater Neeme und Onkel Vallo hat Paavo vor dem Dirigierstudium ein Instrument gelernt: Schlagzeug.

Paavo: I learned everything from my father. Most important thing about conducting is acutally the skills, and these things he is extremely good at, he was constantly teaching us the technical issues. With me, he was constantly asking when music was playing: stand there, conduct, is music in three or in four, no your ellbow is too high, your wrist is too low. And that was happening when I was six years old. But it was almost like a game.

Ich hab alles von meinem Vater gelernt. Beim Dirigieren geht’s vor allem um die technischen Fertigkeiten und mein Vater hat uns darin ständig unterrichtet. Wenn bei uns Musik lief, hat er zu mir immer gesagt: Stell dich dahin, dirigier das mal; ist das in drei oder vier? Nein, dein Ellenbogen ist zu hoch, dein Handgelenk ist zu tief. Und das war schon, als ich sechs Jahre alt war. Aber das ganze war wie ein Spiel.

Für ihn sei es deshalb ganz natürlich gewesen, nicht nur zum Drum-Stick, sondern auch zum Taktstock zu greifen wie sein Vater und Onkel vor ihm. Auch der zehn Jahre jüngeren Kristjan spürte den starken Drang, Dirigent zu werden. Doch für ihn war es eine etwas sensiblere Angelegenheit.

Kristjan: For me to become a conductor actually was a very intimidating thing. I have a father who is very well known and respected, and I have a brother who is very well known and respected. And it is a situation where I don’t want to be not well known and not well respected. They are huge mentors. I went through a process of copying, and then I tried to do exactly opposite of what they did and then I finally understood, wait a minute, I have to do be myself..

Dirigent zu werden, war für mich ne ziemlich furchteinflößende Angelegenheit. Ich habe einen Vater, der sehr bekannt ist und geachtet. Und einen Bruder, der sehr bekannt ist und geachtet. In so einer Situation will ich natürlich nicht unbekannt sein und un-geachtet. Die beiden sind wichtige Mentoren für mich. Ich hab versucht sie zu kopieren, dann wollte ich das genaue Gegenteil sein und dann hab ich kapiert, Moment, ich muss vor allem eins sein: ich selbst.

Konkurrenzdenken? Das sei in der Järvi-Familie überhaupt kein Thema, sagt Paavo.

PJ: We don’t have that kind of a problem. Not only, because we are very close as a family but also because there is enough age-difference really. And with conducting, it’s all about experience. I constantly talk to my father, he gives me a lot of advice to this day, but then he calls me and says, I have never done this piece, tell me about it. And if you have a source who knows it, not to use it for some sort of pride-questions, would be impossible, stupid, unwise.

Das Problem haben wir nicht. Nicht nur, weil wir uns als Familie sehr nah stehen, sondern auch, weil der Altersunterschied groß genug ist. Und Dirigieren hat ganz viel mit Erfahrung zu tun. Ich rede übrigens ständig mit meinem Vater, er gibt mir bis heute viele Ratschläge, aber er ruft genauso mich an und sagt, dies Stück hab ich noch nie gemacht, sag mir was dazu. Wenn man jemanden hat, der die Musik kennt, wäre es unmöglich, ja, dumm, den aus Überheblichkeit nicht zu fragen.

Jeder geht musikalisch seinen eigenen Weg. Aber etwas haben die Järvis gemeinsam: ihre ungebremste Begeisterung für die Musik. Und sie dirigieren ganz und gar präzise, natürlich und organisch – auch wenn es bei jedem von ihnen anders aussieht. Was zählt, ist die Persönlichkeit.

Kristjan: What I am actually trying to achieve with the conductors in this course: get comfortable within their own shell which is their body. To not feel like conducting is an external element that’s only reflected by beating time with their hands. And that’s something that my brother and father both convey in their conducting and I try to as much as I can in mine.

Das will ich auch den Studenten in dem Kurs vermitteln: man muss sich in seiner eigenen Haut wohlfühlen. Das Dirigieren darf nicht irgend so ein äußeres Element sein, was sich nur darin zeigt, das man mit den Händen den Takt angibt. Und das ist was, was auch mein Bruder und mein Vater mit ihrem Dirigat rüberbringen – und ich versuch das so gut ich kann auch.

Kristjan Järvi ist noch zweimal beim Musikfest Bremen zu erleben: Am Donnerstag, 14. September, dirigiert er um 20 Uhr die Bremer Philharmoniker in der Glocke, am 16. September tritt er mit seinem „Absolute Ensemble“ im Pier 2 auf. Paavo Järvi ist in Bremen mit der Kammerphilharmonie das nächste Mal im Dezember zu erleben.

Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie to appear at Ravinia

According to John von Rhein's recent piece in the Chicago Tribune, Paavo will conduct his Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen next summer at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's summer home at Ravinia. (Ooooo, and I see my favorite, viola da gamba master Jordi Savall, will also be appearing there with his early music ensemble Hesperion XXI!)

Season brochures will be mailed to donors in March and to the general public in April. Tickets go on sale April 19 at the festival's Web site, For further information, phone 847-266-5100.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Well, I mean, it is the 21st century!

The Cincinnati Enquirer's Janelle Gelfand has a piece in today's paper titled iTune into the symphony; Cincinnati's venerable orchestra bows to modern technology. I found it to be a positive development, following in the steps of other American and British orchestras which have been experimenting with new ways to develop alternative (read - always: younger) audiences.

But, there is one point in the article in which I must take issue with Paavo's point of view. "Still, entering a multimedia world for an orchestra steeped in old-world tradition is tricky, Järvi says.

" 'Music often does not benefit from being seen. It's one of those things that needs to be heard. We are not theater - the drama happens in the music.' "

In the old world, where people could only here the music by radio or on recordings, that was certainly true. And there are those special recordings which will always bring a thrill or a tear or other dramatic emotion to a listener. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing like being present in the hall and experiencing that music live - as the magic happens - and being able as well to see that grimace or surreptitious wipe of sweat on a forehead or the look of sheer delight in musicmaking that the conductor emanates to his players, as they reach for those indefinable moments of veritable communion. And what would be wrong with having some subtle colorful lighting behind the orchestra, enhancing the mood of a piece? We're not talking psychedelic light show here, but the type of lighting for television which was used on the very concert that the CSO will be releasing soon on DVD. It was soft and unobtrusive and lovely, yet the next time I can remember the CSO using something similar was fully five years later, last season during the performance of Rhapsody in Blue (and guess what color it was then? ;-)) I mean I ain't no teenybopper, but there's something so old thinking in maintaining that boring white wall!

I'll get really excited when I finally read about the CSO following in the footsteps of the London Symphony Orchestra's text messaging offerings!
The 112-year-old Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is updating its old-world image and going high-tech.

This season, which opens Friday, you can:

+ Download Cincinnati Symphony and Pops CDs from iTunes
Subscribe to a free series of podcasts featuring music director Paavo Järvi
+ Own the orchestra's first DVD of a live performance of the orchestra (Järvi's inaugural concert as music director)
+ Watch Järvi reveal his personal feelings about the music he's about to lead on huge, 65-inch plasma screens flanking Music Hall's stage.

"What we want to do is to constantly stay in the media and forefront of people's minds," says Järvi. "Very often, the image of the symphony anywhere in the United States is a kind of old, tired entertainment that doesn't really connect with young people. That is not really the case."

As Järvi, 43, prepares to lead the downbeat of his sixth season, the orchestra is launching several new technologies that he hopes - along with an eventual renovation of Music Hall - will create "a modern, more up-to-date, more audience-friendly environment."

On opening night, concert goers will get a first look at a new experiment in the concert format, with a video projection of Järvi delivering comments about the music before he conducts it. The idea is to illuminate his personal thoughts on the music - whether it's a symphony by Brahms or dances by Duruflé.

"It's to share my personal point of view about the piece, or the composer, or my experience with those composers. It's not something they can read in the program notes. It is very personal, and not academic," he says. "Sometimes, it's why I put those works together, or why I like this piece. In all cases, the music I perform is somehow connected to me. It's a personal choice, and there's a reason to do it."

Why not just talk directly to the audience?

"Personally, I love one-on-one conversation. But before I conduct Mahler's Ninth, it takes me hours and hours to concentrate and get into the Mahler world. I can't turn around and tell a funny story. The quality of the performance will suffer," he says.

The orchestra will test-run the experiment for three weeks and wants feedback from the public. Directions Research Inc., a downtown firm, will conduct market research to determine audience opinion of the "video program notes."

Symphony and Pops recordings are already available for purchase on iTunes, where subscribers can listen to 30-second previews.

And the orchestra is moving into podcasting - audio and video content on the Internet. Alvatech, a podcast agency based in Blue Ash, will create a podcast series that fans can subscribe to for free, featuring the conductor, symphony musicians and guest artists throughout the year. They will be available later this fall on iTunes, as well as the orchestra's Web site,

"The podcasts will provide an inside look into the heart of the CSO," says Jay Hopper, president of Alvatech. "(Symphony fans) will go behind the scenes to explore all the moving parts that make the symphony work - in a very real, raw and candid way."

Also coming this season, the orchestra's first DVD of a live performance of Järvi's inaugural concert. Recorded live in Music Hall in Sept. 2001 - three days after 9/11 - the concert includes Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" substituted in memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks, as well as the world premiere of Charles Coleman's "Streetscapes." The DVD, originally a PBS telecast, is produced by WCET, with Brandenburg Productions Inc., and the Cincinnati Symphony.

Järvi and the orchestra will continue their rare relationship with Telarc, recording Russian masterpieces: An all-Tchaikovsky album and a Prokofiev album.

It's a chemistry that works. In May, a disc featuring Bartok and Lutoslawski debuted on Billboard's Classical Chart at No. 9.

Behind the scenes, the orchestra will be using new arts enterprise software called "Tessitura," that will allow enhanced Web offerings, promotions and eventually allow patrons to print out tickets at home.

With the giant video board atop Macy's overlooking Fountain Square opening next month, there could be other high-tech options on the horizon. Would Järvi like to do a live simulcast?

"I would love nothing more, and that's something that is exactly what we should be doing," he says.

Still, entering a multimedia world for an orchestra steeped in old-world tradition is tricky, Järvi says.

"Music often does not benefit from being seen. It's one of those things that needs to be heard.

"We are not theater - the drama happens in the music."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Smells like...teen spirit? Nah - more like Oktoberfest!

Photo Credit: Sheila Rock

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of September again and already time for the Season Opening weekend of the Cincinnati Symphony - and to celebrate Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, we hear that German beer and wine will be on hand at the cash bars and complimentary German soft pretzels will also be offered, all to the tune of a strolling accordianist. We wonder if he will be playing any of those old German drinking songs which inspired Johannes Brahms to write his Academic Festival Overture? And don't forget to check out those cute little Brahms t-shirts and bobble heads on sale in the Bravo Shop!

This all-Brahms Opening Weekend takes place on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16 at 8 pm. This week's concerts feature Johannes Brahms' Academic Festival Overture; the Violin Concerto in D Major (Gil Shaham, violin); and the Symphony No. 1 in C Minor. Click here for ticket information.

To celebrate the beginning of Paavo's sixth season as CSO Music Dirctor, don't forget to stay after the concert for some complimentary German chocolate cake in the lobby where Paavo will say a few words and you can be the first in line to have PJ sign your new Britten/Elgar CD! (It's not officially released to the public until September 26, so you'll have bragging rights for a couple of weeks.)

CSOEncore!, the young professionals of the CSO, celebrates Brahmsfest with a post-concert party on Saturday, September 16 in the Critics Club at Music Hall. Young professionals are invited to join in a rousing, Jeopardy-style trivia party. Complimentary appetizers, cash bar, door prizes and special prizes for the winning team are included. The cost is $40 for the concert and trivia game. For reservations please call (513) 744-3590. Deadline is September 14.

Like to hear Paavo's tips on this concert? Listen to Paavo's Notes via MP3. And, hey, be cool like us and read the Program Notes before you go so you can relax in your best bling and stargaze the rest of the crowd!

These concerts will end at approximately 10:10 pm. The program will air via streaming audio for the rest of the world on 90.9 FM, Classical WGUC on Sunday, December 10, at 7:30 pm ET.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

CONCERT REVIEW: Baltic Sea Festival

Here's another review of the ERSO and Paavo's performance at the Baltic Sea Festival by Sofia Nyblom of The Svenska Dagbladet published on August 28, 2006:
Vulkanutbrott i Berwaldhallen

Om torsdagens konsert gick i vattnets tecken, var programmet för fredagskvällen tematiskt präglat av elden som metafor: den glödande lava som forsar genom Erkki-Sven Tüurs Magma, och den symboliskt laddade fabeln om Eldfågeln i Stravinskys populära gestaltning. Efter förra årets gästspel i Tallinn - där såväl Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester som Helsingfors Stadsorkester uppträdde under båtturnén - var det alltså Estniska nationalorkesterns tur att besöka sina värdar.

Varje kväll under festivalen är det lika slående hur mycket också konsertbesökarna färgas av nationalism, och Berwaldhallen blir en fysisk och andlig mötesplats för människor som befinner sig i frivillig eller ofrivillig exil från sina hemländer runt Östersjön.

Nu var kanske Claude Debussys Förspel till en fauns eftermiddag kanske inte det optimala öppningsverket. Det var ett avslaget, förbryllande elegiskt framförande av
denna franska sagorapsodi som föga förberedde publiken på Evelyn Glennies fräsande heta spel i huvudnumret, Erkki-Sven Tüürs Symfoni nr 4, Magma.

Möjligen kunde man i den skimrande textur av flöjt och harpa, de "kristalliniska moln" (tonsättarens egna ord) som inleder symfonin ana en själslig gemenskap mellan Tüur och Debussy.

Verket är skrivet för detta skotska slagverks-fenomen - påtagligt framstod Glennie också som den drivande kraften såväl genom den turbulent aggressiva första satsen, som i den lyriskt avsvalnade andrasatsen med sin rapsodiska duett mellan soloviolinen och marimban - förlöst i congas-parets jazziga synkoper, där lavan tycks bubbla upp till ytan igen i hennes bländande spel.

Som konsertens mest gripande ögonblick framstod efter Glennies vulkanutbrott den forne estniske kulturministern Lepo Sumeras testamente - Symfoni nr 6, uruppförd bara några dagar innan hans bortgång för 6 år sedan.

Ett verk mättat av sorg, så passionerat och innerligt i sitt uttryck att åhörarna i salen tycktes närmaste bedövade när det sordinerade slutackordet klingat ut.
Stämningen påminner om en av Mahlers adagio-satser - med den avgörande skillnaden att Sumera inte löser upp tragiken i tillkämpad heroism. Stravinskys förrevolutionära Eldfågeln - här i 1919 års orkesterversion - med sin trosvisst stegrade final efter besegrandet av ondskans makter var därför rent tematiskt den perfekta avrundningen av kvällen. Även om denna publikfavorit återgavs en smula spänningslöst av Paavo Järvi, så var den entusiastiska åskådarskaran uppenbart förlåtande i sitt mottagande.

Anyone out there have a photo to share with us? :-)

CONCERT REVIEW: Baltic Sea Festival

Thanks to the Dagens Nyheter of Sweden, we have this little review of Paavo and the Estonian National Symphony's recent world premiere of Erkki-Sven Tüür's new symphony, guest starring Evelyn Glennie, from the article Stjärnspel och ångestladdat djup.

Here we bring you the pertinent part, but we warn you: it's in Swedish, so you're on your own from here! ;-)
Inte heller kan de verk som Estlands Nationella Symfoniorkester och Paavo Järvi förde med sig till fredagens konsert sägas tillhöra de klatschigas skara. Trots att Evelyn Glennie bjöd på stjärnspel, inklusive ett häftigt trumsolo, så var Erkki-Sven Tüürs fjärde symfoni en närmast ångestladdad historia, med skurar av bleckdisonanser och hörselhärjande cluster-bomber.

Tüür går uppenbarligen mot strömmen och blir allt kärvare, och nog var själva kraften imponerande. Men i likhet med andra symfonier med solistiskt slagverk, exempelvis av Sallinen och Aho, smälter de olika klangkällorna inte samman, vilket går ut över framställningen.

Kärvheten dominerade också i Lepo Sumeras sjätte symfoni, den sista och mörkaste i en ojämn rad där den andra tydligast anknyter till det havstema som i övrigt präglat festivalen.

Orkestern hade bränt sitt bästa krut då det var dags för "Eldfågeln", men Paavo Järvi lyckades efter hand skapa spänning också här.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Festival Catches on in the Baltics

Cincinnati music critic Mary Ellyn Hutton has a new article titled A Festival Catches on in the Baltics in today.

From it, we discovered what happened to the concert that Paavo had been originally scheduled to conduct there with the Mariinsky Orchestra:
[The Festival] began as a glimmer in [Managing Director Michael] Tyden’s eye during a visit to the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg in 1999, when he met [Valery] Gergiev and invited him to conduct in Stockholm. Later meetings with [Esa-Pekka] Salonen and Gergiev led to the first festival in August, 2003.

"It’s not easy. I know now," said Tyden, who was forced to cancel one of this year’s concerts (Aug. 23, with Järvi and the Mariinsky Orchestra) for lack of funding.

"We started by talking to the European Union but we didn’t get any money. So the first year became a loss. It was only ticket income. The next year we had meetings with the ministers of Russia and Sweden. They gave us money, then last year we received money from Poland, Finland, Russia and Sweden." The picture is pretty much the same this year, minus Poland and plus the City of Stockholm. There is some sponsorship now (Scandic, Audi), which Tyden hopes to increase in a big way in 2007.

In theory, that shouldn’t be difficult, for the festival has much to recommend it. Its goals – such as helping to preserve the environment and fostering closer relationships among the Baltic countries – are timely, laudable. “We are re-creating in a way a new Hanseatic League,” said Tyden at the opening night reception. In partnership with the festival, the World Wildlife Fund held a seminar on illegal fishing in the Baltic, plus 30-minute sessions on a variety of ecological topics before each concert at Berwald Hall.

CONCERT REVIEW: Pulbitsev “Magma” Berwaldhalleni koopas

Photo: Ott Vaiknemets Thanks to the Estonian culture magazine, SIRP, we have this review by Mirje Mändla of the ERSO's recent Baltic Sea concert with superstar percussionist Evelyn Glennie. And, of course, it is in Estonian:
ERSO ja EVELYN GLENNIE (löökpillid)
Läänemere festivalil Berwaldhallenis (Rootsi) PAAVO JÄRVI dirigeerimisel 25. VIII.

25. augustiks sõitis üle Läänemere samanimelisele festivalile Berwaldhalleni kaljukoopasse kontserti andma Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniaorkester. Festivali kunstiline juht Esa-Pekka Salonen ootas juba aastaid festivalile dirigent Paavo Järvit, rootslased ilmselt aga igatsesid näha oma silmaga laval legendaarset löökpillimängijat Evelyn Glennie’t. Orkester sai taas tuule tiibadesse ja võimaluse ennast proovile panna eriliselt keeruka kavaga. Paavo Järvi soovis kõrvutada XX sajandi tuntud meistrite Debussy ja Stravinski loomingut eesti heliloojate Erkki-Sven Tüüri ja Lepo Sumera teostega.

Millegipärast usun, et kontserdi ettevaatlikule algusele vaatamata suutis lummata ERSO rootsi publikut Läänemere festivalil nii klassika kui eesti muusikaga. Usun, et suureks abiliseks oli siin ka löökpillivirtuoosi Evelyn Glennie särav ja mitmekülgne löökpillipartii, kuid orkestri võime esitada tipptasemel interpretatsioonis ja viimistletud soolode ning ansamblimänguga niivõrd kuulsat teost, nagu seda on Igor Stravinski “Tulilind”, on omaette saavutus.

Paavo Järvi dirigenditee on tõepoolest arenemas sügavuti. Üha vähem mängib rolli väline kirkus ja sära, pigem on rõhk kammerlikul täpsusel. Sellest annab tunnistust enamik viimasel ajal valminud plaate, see on omadus, mida eriliselt toovad esile kriitikud üle maailma. Tundub, et põhirõhk on üha enam süvenemisel igasse fraasi ja sel kombel on järjest kasvanud nõudlikkus ka orkestri suhtes – kuulata ära iga fraasi tekkemoment ning areng. Võimet tasakaalustada orkestrit kriitilisel hetkel oli tunda selgi kontserdil, kui dirigent andis orkestrile hingetõmbepausi Debussy “Fauni pärastlõunas”, mis võimaldas muusikutel ennast koguda, et viia kontsert edasi täiusliku finaalini.

Berwaldhalleni saalis näis olevat ka nooruslikke rock-muusikat austava taustaga kuulajaid, kelle jaoks oli nauditav kuulata Tüüri sümfooniat “Magma”, mille Glennie’le kirjutatud löökpillisoolo annab virtuoosil võimaluse näidata ennast parimast küljest. Nii võis ka Berwaldhalleni laval näha eestlastele juba tuttavat paljasjalgset liuglemist ühe löökpilli juurest teise juurde, mis moodustas laval ka visuaalseid efekte. Sellele lisandus rock’ilikult temperamentne soolo esimese osa kulminatsioonihetkel, mil paljude rootslaste silmiski peegeldus lavalt kiirgav ekstaas. See kõik muidugi tiheda orkestripartiiga paralleelselt, milles Tüür on ette võtnud keerulise ülesande eriliselt rõhku panna tämbriharmooniale ja sonoristliku kontseptsiooni ühildamisele harmoonilise tunglevuse kontseptsiooniga. Usun, et rootslased said elamuse. Tahan aga lohutuseks öelda, et need, kes kuulsid teose Eesti esiettekannet 2004. aastal Estonia kontserdisaalis Olari Eltsi dirigeerimisel, said tõenäolisel osa teose täpsemast versioonist. Täpsem interpretatsioon jõuab kindlasti ka albumile, mille salvestamisega tegi orkester tööd tänavu juunis, ja seda jäämegi ootama. Samas mõjus solisti energia ja publiku soe vastuvõtt lõpuks ka orkestrile nii sulatavalt, et kontsert hakkas Tüüri “Magmast” kulgema n-ö tõusvas joones.

Sumera keeruline, suhteliselt vaoshoitud toonides ja kindlasti ka rootsi publikule suhteliselt tundmatu teose kõlavärvid helilooja viimases, VI sümfoonias moodustasid intensiivse piano-toonides imelise terviku, milles logisevaid kivikesi ei märganud teraseimgi kõrv. Elamus ka valla paiskuvatest forte’dest, mis dirigendi kindla käe all olid ikkagi sordiiniga näidatud, et mitte takistada teose loomulikku arengut ning salapärast meditatiivset meeleolu, andis teosest hea kõlaelamuse. Ja puudutas hinge.

Ning siis saabus kontserdi finaal. Muinasjutulise kirkusega jutustatud lugu Tulilinnust, Kaštšeist, kaunitest vangistatud tütarlastest ja kangelasest Ivan Tsareevitšist ei vajanud mitte mingisugust koreograafiat. Muusika pildilisus ja dramaturgia oli antud edasi niisuguse täpsuse ning meloodiad sellise vene temperamendiga, et tahaks ettekannet võrrelda hiljuti kogetud elamusega Šostakovitši “Mtsenski maakonna leedi Macbethi” partituurist Helikoni orkestri esituses. Kui võrrelda “Tulilinnu” augustikuiseid maailma ettekandeid, siis sarnast sära nagu äsja Berwaldhallenis ei suutnud näiteks sugugi esile tuua BBC Šoti SO käesoleva aasta ühel tippfestivalil BBC Prom’sil.

Tähtsusetu pole ka fakt, mis juba ajakirjandusest läbi käinud, et see kontsert jõudis Euroraadio vahendusel neljateistkümnesse rahvusraadiosse, ja milline element selles valemis – kas Evelyn Glennie, Paavo Järvi, ERSO või kava – seda kõige rohkem mõjutada võis, jääb juba igaühele endale sobivas variandis ära arvata.

Ja lõpetuseks ei tasu unustada festivali algset ideed, mille tähendus läheb aasta-aastalt lausa koormavalt raskeks. Nimelt avastas Salonen ennast 1999. aastal selgitamas oma lastele, miks nad ei tohi Läänemeres ujuda. Just sel hetkel sündis idee pöörata muusikaliste vahenditega tähelepanu Läänemere olukorrale ja tuua selle ääres elavad inimesed üksteisele lähemale. Ja muide, festivali aegu toimusid kontsertide eel ka rahvusvahelisel tasemel keskkonnateemalised seminarid. Ning kontserdijärgses pidulikuski õhkkonnas toonitati veel kord, et kahjuks näitavad mereanalüüsid seda, et Läänemeres suurenevad nn surnud piirkonnad, kus elusorganisme enam ei leia.

CD REVIEW: Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 and No. 8/DKAM

Here is a review by Friederike Westerhaus for NDR Kultur of Paavo's recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 and No. 8, recorded with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and previously released in Japan during their tour there in May. It's European release is scheduled for October 6.
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen & Paavo Järvi mit Beethoven-Sinfonien

1995 hat Paavo Järvi die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen zum ersten Mal dirigiert - mit 33 Jahren, noch weitgehend unbekannt. Die Chemie stimmte sofort, persönlich und musikalisch - das sagen beide Seiten. Und so hat man sich gemeinsam auf die Suche gemacht nach dem eigenen Beethoven.

Paavo Järvi: "Er gehört weder ins eine noch ins andere Extrem, sondern in die Mitte, wo es ein großes Verständnis für die Aufführungspraxis gibt, aber auch Wissen um die Tradition; eine Offenheit und auch ein bisschen Respektlosigkeit. Wir haben einen freien Geist in diesem Orchester. Und das ist einer der Gründe, weshalb ich hier so gern arbeitete - speziell an Beethovens Musik."

Beethovens zügigen Originaltempi zu folgen, ist für Järvi eine Selbstverständlichkeit, zuweilen schießt er sogar minimal darüber hinaus. Aber in der Besetzung gehen Paavo Järvi und die Kammerphilharmonie Kompromisse ein: die Streicher spielen auf modernen Instrumenten - weder mit Darmsaiten noch mit Klassikbögen - mit Ausnahme der Kontrabassisten. Sie haben sich bewusst für Klassikbögen entschieden, um ein schärfer markiertes Fundament liefern zu können. Die Bläserriege ist ebenfalls modern - bis auf die Trompeten und Pauken. So wird der Gesamtklang härter und trockener, die Artikulation sprechender.

Ein weiterer Aspekt ist die Größe der Streicherbesetzung. Mit acht ersten und sieben zweiten Geigen, fünf Bratschen, fünf Celli und drei Kontrabässen fast kammermusikalisch anmutend. Genau das beabsichtigt Järvi: ”Die ganze Einstellung ist eine kammermusikalische. Es geht nicht nur um die Anzahl der Streicher, sondern auch darum, wie sie spielen und wie die Balance mit den Bläsern ist. Und jeder fühlt sich hier persönlich verantwortlich, weil das Orchester so klein ist - jeder Tutti-Spieler fühlt sich sehr exponiert."

Historisch informierte Spielweise trotz moderner Instrumente, eine kleine, feine Besetzung, ein transparentes Klangbild: Die musikalischen Aussagen Beethovens neu zu präsentieren - darum geht es Paavo Järvi und der Kammerphilharmonie. Und deshalb haben sie sich entschieden, die neun Beethoven-Sinfonien auf CD aufzunehmen - allen Unkenrufen zum Trotz.

Aber Järvi und die Musiker befinden sich hörbar auf dem richtigen Weg. Eine CD, die vor Vitalität und Energie nur so strotzt. Und eine Interpretation, die der "Eroica" bei aller Seriösität die oft vernachlässigte Leichtigkeit und der 8. Sinfonie bei aller Spritzigkeit die notwendige Tiefe verleiht.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Paavo Speaks!

The Cincinnati Enquirer's classical music critic Janelle Gelfand has just posted an extensive interview with Paavo about the upcoming Cincinnati Symphony season on her blog. It isn't clear how much of it will be published in her story about him next Wednesday, but usually her blog contains the uncut version of things. Unfortunately, most people aren't aware of it, so I wanted to make sure to call attention to it here. Some highlights:
Janelle: It’s an eclectic season: What are you trying to accomplish overall?

PJ: Eclectic is exactly the right word. For me to focus only on narrow repertoire would be, in a way, shortchanging the audience here in Cincinnati. But it’s not just about the audience, it’s also the way I function. I like to have a broad spectrum, and it’s good for the agility of the orchestra. It makes their life more interesting, for audiences, musicians and myself...

Janelle: OK, how about Messiaen's L'Ascension: four meditations symphoniques (Nov. 10-11)?

PJ: It’s originally an organ piece, and I thought it was a sensational, unbelievably spiritual and touching piece. I perform it a lot, and when I was looking for something to couple with Mahler 9 – that’s another piece that doesn’t need a coupling. And yet I wanted to create a connection to audiences here.

Messiaen's L’Ascension is about the Ascension. It’s a religious piece by a supremely religious person. It’s a way to see an end.

Mahler 9 is about the end, as well. So the whole program has a Christian and Jewish way of seeing the end. And it's a soul-searching, typically Jewish way of looking at what it all means. Then Messiaen who sees the end of life on earth in a very Christian way. I thought it would add an intellectual angle to it, to those who realize it. To those who don’t get this kind of connection, it still works musically very well.

Janelle: Many of us know Scriabin's piano music, but have never heard Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.

PJ: That’s my favorite symphony. Everybody loves the 3rd and 4th, but I love the second symphony, because it’s truly a Russian symphony. He’s already starting to go alittle bit mystical and French, but it’s still basically Russian.

There is a kind of Germanic Russian music, that is following a strict symphonic master plan, like Tchaikovsky. There’s a certain classical clarity about them. Then there’s a real, Borodin, Glinka, and Mussorgsky (style). Scriabin is a descendent of this group, where there’s more emphasis on color and flavor.

So there’s something beautiful and Russian about it. I fell in love with the symphony when I was a small boy in Estonia and my father was conducting it, and I thought it was so beautiful. I’ve done it many times, but it is not well known.

Read the whole entry here.

CD REVIEW: Britten/Elgar, Cincinnati Symphony

Here's what must be called a rave review (I mean what else would you call a 10 out of 10 in both Music Quality and Artistic Quality?) by David Hurwitz of for the newest release by Paavo and his Cincinnati Symphony:
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra; Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes
Enigma Variations
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi
Telarc- 80660(CD)
Reference Recording - Guide: Britten (Decca); This One; Enigma: Jochum (DG)

This is a spectacular recording, not just in the "blockbuster" sense of containing four big, splashy orchestral works, extremely well recorded, but also because Paavo Järvi brings a real point of view to music that many listeners (with good reason) assume has been done to death. Good as the sound is, and despite Telarc's reputation for same, this disc is not noteworthy primarily for its sonics. In regular and SACD stereo the engineering is indeed stellar, but the multichannel version is curiously low-level and diffuse. It's remarkable what variable results SACD technology still produces, even in the hands of the most experienced labels. So for the purposes of this review, I am limiting my comments to the standard stereo release.

Järvi without question offers the finest Young Person's Guide since Britten's own. It has similar energy and freshness, allied to similar continuity and flow. Often the work breaks up into individual bits, sounding too much as though the original narration is missing between the variations. Järvi insures that you hear the piece whole--but more to the point, and also like the composer, he does it by paying great attention not just to the timbre of the highlighted instrument but equally to Britten's sensitive and imaginatively colored accompaniments. Witness, for example, the atmospheric variations for horns, or harp, or the gutsy rhythms underpinning the violins. This permits the music to make its didactic points without a trace of pedantry, and the final fugue combines raw excitement with exceptional textural clarity to an amazing degree.

The Four Sea Interludes, which Britten never actually recorded in their concert versions, also reveal a strong sense of the conductor's individuality while being played as persuasively as anyone ever has. "Dawn" never drags but still preserves a certain dreaminess in its treatment of the brass chorales. "Sunday Morning" features a daringly quick tempo, but the Cincinnati players rise effortlessly to the challenge. "Moonlight" is the essence of cool stillness, and the final "Storm" erupts at an unusually measured tempo, the better to give the timpani and brass a chance to really articulate their ferocious rhythms. You will hear things in this performance that no one else realizes in quite the same way, and that makes listening a constant source of joy.

Telarc has done itself proud with Elgar's Enigma Variations. The label's earlier release, featuring Zinman and Baltimore, surprisingly earned a rosette from that paragon of the English critical establishment, the Penguin Guide. It will be interesting to see how those grey worthies react to this version, which is no less appealing and quite different. Within the context of basically swift tempos, Järvi offers a reading of high contrast. The more boisterous variations, particularly Troyte and G.R.S., erupt with phenomenal energy, but there's no lack of delicacy in, say, the beautifully realized accompaniment to C.A.E., or the charming Dorabella. Nimrod finds Järvi well-attuned to the need to create a real triple-forte climax without a trace of harshness from the brass.

The finale is uncompromisingly grand. Indeed, some listeners might wish for a less stately approach, but with the organ beautifully integrated yet still ideally "present", the overriding impression is of a triumphant apotheosis well-earned. There have been many superb performances of this piece: Boult and Barbirolli, of course, for the traditional English view, but also Monteux, Jochum (arguably the finest of all), Litton, Mackerras, and a handful of others. Järvi's performance certainly belongs in these upper echelons, offering plenty of special moments without ever violating Elgar's clear intentions. That is what a great performance is supposed to do, and these are, all three, great performances. Listen, and judge for yourself.