Saturday, April 28, 2007

Review: Trumpet wows crowd

April 27, 2007

The Cincinnati Enquirer


Trumpeter Alison Balsom is a rare female soloist in the largely male world of trumpet playing. Friday morning, Balsom’s superior technique in the Haydn Trumpet Concerto – and possibly also her glamorous looks – wowed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra audience.
The twentysomething British virtuoso made her debut with Paavo Järvi on the podium, in a program that included Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 and two attractive tone poems by Sibelius.
Balsom’s star is clearly on the ascent. She already holds a rare record contract on EMI, and her awards include Best Young British Performer in the 2006 Classical Brit Awards.

The Haydn Trumpet Concerto is one of the world’s best-known works for trumpet. Its pitfalls don’t lie in great displays of virtuosity, but in the trumpeter’s control, expressiveness and respect for the classical style.
Backed by a reduced Cincinnati Symphony, Balsom sailed through its fanfares, projecting a silvery tone and persuasive musicianship. The slow movement was beautifully phrased, and the finale sparkled. Her agility, crisp articulation and the ability to color her phrases made this a memorable performance.
Järvi kept the orchestra light, and the collaboration was excellent.
For an encore, Balsom performed a nuanced “Old Swedish Folksong” by Oskar Lindberg, giving us another glimpse of what she can do.The orchestra’s first-ever performance of Sibelius’ “Nightride and Sunrise” opened the program. Nature sounds permeate Sibelius’ music, which in this piece, deals with a lone horseman riding through the forest gloom.The piece was a stunning discovery. Järvi and the orchestra created a majestic, almost visual canvas. The strings were clear and propulsive, and increased in atmosphere as the ride continued. There were beautiful contributions from the horns in the slow section (where the rider pauses to admire the view) and a glowing brass chorale at its finish. Another tone poem, “The Bard,” featured harpist Gillian Benet Sella. (The idea here was of a bard accompanying himself on harp as he wove his tales.) It was static, introspective and haunting, and Järvi made the most of its brass-filled climaxes.The conductor dedicated the performance of Schumann’s Fourth to Mstislav Rostropovich, who died Friday morning. Schumann wrote his symphony for his young wife, Clara, weaving a lyrical “Clara Theme” into the work. Its four movements were led in one unbroken span, with Järvi projecting a clear view of its architecture. Tempos were quick, and Järvi allowed its lyricism to soar, contrasting with moments that were sheer high-voltage. The “Romanze” was sweeping, and included refined solos from concertmaster Tim Lees, oboist Shea Scruggs and cellist Eric Kim. The scherzo was earthy and invigorating, and the finale ended in a breathtaking flourish.Fresh from its highly praised West Coast tour, the orchestra sounded polished and confident. The crowd was on its feet for the third time.The last symphony performance of the Haydn concerto was in 1986 with principal trumpeter Philip Collins, who was honored Friday. Collins is retiring after 31 years, and the trumpet section gave him a standing ovation after a moving tribute from percussionist Richard Jensen. Three other musicians, violinist Michelle Edgar Dugan, cellist Daniel Culnan and violist Steven Rosen, were also honored for 25 years in the orchestra.The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. 513-381-3300 .

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO back home and in fine form

April 28, 2007

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post music writer

Just back from a successful (and scenic) tour of Southern California, Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra painted some vivid soundscapes for the home audience Friday morning at Music Hall.
Two tone poems by Sibelius, "Night Ride and Sunrise" and "The Bard," had their CSO premieres on the concert, which also marked the CSO debut of English trumpeter Alison Balsom.
A star in the making, Balsom delighted the matinee crowd, a refreshingly large one with groups from several schools and retirement homes, with Haydn's sunny Trumpet Concerto. Final work was Schumann's Symphony No. 4.
Jarvi opened with "Night Ride and Sunrise," a magical work, which conjures a rider's trek through the forest into the rising sun. Soft, galloping figures in the strings followed an opening blast by the orchestra. Winds added their bustle, and snippets of bird calls were heard as streaks of light broke the darkness. A sudden upward flurry in the clarinets signaled the dawn, which waxed warm in a glow of brass and a long-held string E-flat echoed by horn and bassoon. (Jarvi recorded this work with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in 1996.)
Balsom, 28, named Best Young British Performer at the 2006 Classical Brit Awards, made a stunning entrance in fire engine red slacks and strapless black camisole. A striking blonde, she spun her own halo with her gilt-edged sound, tempering it to a soft opacity in the lovely Andante. Her performance was not totally assured, with a break in pitch now and then and less fluidity than might be desired, but her cadenzas were arresting and showed off some pealing high notes. She encored with Oskar Lindberg's "Old Folk Song," a tender hymn popularized by ABBA in the 1970s, and signed CDs for a long line of fans at intermission.
Brief and enigmatic, Sibelius' "The Bard" has no program beyond the suggestion of a folk poet strumming a kantele - exemplified by soft chords on the harp (a kantele is a Finnish zither). Principal harpist Gillian Benet Sella gave this exquisite voice against a yearning, three-note figure in the orchestra. The music grew more animated toward the end, with a pulse in the bass drum, then subsided as it began in a lovely wash of color.
Jarvi dedicated the Schumann to the memory of cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who died Friday morning in Moscow. (Cincinnati audiences will remember the legendary artist most recently for his performance of Tchaikovsky's "Rococo Variations" on the CSO centennial gala in 1995.)
The orchestra was in good form for the work, having honed its playing during a week of performances on the road. Jarvi positioned the French horns on the left side of the stage behind the second violins (for the entire concert). This put them in line with the trumpets and trombones, where their sound was clearer, more balanced and part of a unified brass section than in their customary placement in the center in front of the timpani.
The Romanze stood out for its soulfulness and beauty, captured in immaculate solos by acting principal oboist Shea Scruggs and principal cellist Eric Kim. The jaunty Scherzo was followed by an exhilarating transition into the finale, where all was well with the world. The strings delivered a blistering Presto at the end to seal the work.
After intermission, commemorative watches were presented to three CSO members who have served the orchestra for 25 years - first violinist Michelle Edgar Dugan, violist Steven Rosen and associate principal cellist Daniel Culnan. Orchestra committee chairman Richard Jensen gave a photo of the CSO signed by all the players to principal trumpeter Philip Collins, retiring from the orchestra after 31 years after suffering a lip injury. Jensen lauded Collins' performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 5 on the CSO's 2004 European tour. This listener also recalls a Mahler Third, where he performed a heavenly posthorn solo in the third movement.
Repeats are 8 tonight and 3 p.m. Sunday at Music Hall.

Californians 'bowled over' by week-long CSO tour

April 26, 2007

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Cincinnati Post music writer

"Cincinnati truly has it all," reads a headline in the April 23 Orange County Register.

The Reds? Bengals? Skyline Chili?

Nope. The reference this time was to Cincinnati's 112-year-old symphony orchestra, just back from a week-long tour of Southern California.

"Under its music director Paavo Järvi, this remarkable orchestra gave one of the most spellbinding concerts here in recent memory," wrote Orange County Register music critic Timothy Mangan, who pronounced himself "completely bowled over" by the CSO's performance Friday night in Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa.

Reviewing the same concert - which included Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 ("Inextinguishable"), Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Zeitraum" and Brahms' Violin Concerto with guest artist Leonidas Kavakos - Los Angeles Times critic Mark Swed called the Nielsen "riveting" and "an example of power perfectly directed."

"Segerstrom is a hall that has already hosted great orchestras. But neither the New York Philharmonic barreling through Beethoven's 'Eroica,' nor even the irrepressible Kirov playing Shostakovich had quite the visceral excitement of Cincinnati's 'Inextinguishable.' "

Sacramento Bee critic Edward Ortiz, commenting on the Nielsen/Tüür/Brahms program Saturday night in the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis, called the CSO "a must-see orchestra" with "an expansive and epic sound capable of sonic thunder and whisper."

Ortiz saluted Järvi's "adventurous programming" and "flair for 20th-century music," writing, "perhaps the greatest joy of seeing the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is the surety that you will get something you've never heard before."

Critics were struck by Järvi's close working relationship with the players:

Wrote Mangan: "Few (orchestras) can match the sheer verve and deep musicality of the Cincinnatians. The orchestra and its 44-year-old conductor seem to have formed an uncommon bond."

One of the goals of the tour, said Järvi, was to "show people that what we have on our recordings is true."

Weighing in on that, Swed added:

"Under him (Järvi), the orchestra has produced a series of recordings for Telarc - some, sumptuously recorded in Super Audio CD, that sound almost too good to be believed. In the acoustically adjustable Segerstrom, where the sound chambers were in a mostly closed position to give the hall less resonance, the evidence gave no lie to the CDs." (Check out the full reviews at, and

Järvi and the CSO performed in five cities: Palm Desert, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Costa Mesa and Davis. Alternating with the Nielsen on tour programs was Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique."

San Diego's Copley Hall, a restored movie palace seating 2,252, was a particularly booming venue. The offstage bell strokes in the finale of the Berlioz were not always perfectly synchronized with the orchestra, but principal clarinetist Richard Hawley's solo just before the fatal blow in "March to the Scaffold" has never sounded so gulp-in-the-throat-ish.

Sparkling, Cesar Pelli-designed Segerstrom Hall (2,000 seats) was a favorite of many of the players, but from an audience perspective, 1,801-seat Mondavi Center in Davis had greater balance and quality of sound. Timpanist Richard Jensen's walk-on from the audience to the stage in the Nielsen finale caused one listener to raise her arm as if trying to stop him.

Kavakos' Brahms stirred controversy on the tour, with observations ranging from "bloodless" (San Diego Union-Tribune) to "electrifying" (Sacramento Bee). These ears have never heard such an arresting performance, combining classical polish, integrity and heart with a buoyant, paprika-laced finale (Kavakos' father was a folk fiddler).

Audiences in every city were enthusiastic, with standing ovations and encores the norm.

Still, it remains an uphill battle for the CSO, which, with several other major American orchestras, must compete with the "Big Five" image that clings like moss to the orchestras of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago. (The term was born in the 1950s and remains a potent marketing tool.)

CSO reviews tend to include comments like "even if the Cincinnati Symphony isn't in the top artistic echelon of U.S. orchestras...." (San Diego Union-Tribune, April 21).

Järvi sees progress, however - even an advantage in terms of player attitudes.

"The orchestra is gaining ground in the way it's being perceived in the musical world. There's a kind of underdog mentality that I like. It mobilizes people to do more than they ordinarily would."

In addition to heightened visibility, the great benefit of touring, said Järvi, is "the orchestra becomes better. They improve and become closer."

Orchestra rankings are "a matter of perception," said Doug Sheldon, senior vice president of Columbia Arts Management in New York, organizer of the tour. "The Big Five don't always play equally well now. There are orchestras that are pushing their standards up, particularly San Francisco and Cincinnati. Frankly, I don't hear much talk abut the Big Five anymore."

The CSO traveled by bus between cities, with a flight from San Diego to Sacramento. Some people drove rental cars, including California natives Hawley, principal bassist Owen Lee, and contra-bassoonist Jennifer Monroe and her husband, Carlton, who had their 7-month-old twins, Jack and Catherine, in tow. Principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth got a surprise when she opened her Palm Desert hotel room door and found her husband there. (Ben Freimuth is bass clarinetist with the San Francisco Symphony.)

Second violinist and assistant personnel manager Scott Mozlin played poker when not attending to luggage, and first violinist Gerald Itzkoff and bassists Matthew Zory and Boris Astafiev did a photo shoot at Joshua Tree National Monument on their free day in Santa Barbara. Public relations director Carrie Krysanick hopped into a convertible with visiting CSO artistic planning manager Julie Eugenio for a quick ride to La Jolla during their San Diego stop.

A dinner was held in Costa Mesa for former CSO cellist Laura McLellan, who subbed with the CSO on the tour. McLellan, who took early retirement in 2005 and now lives in Santa Rosa, recently endowed cellist Susan Marshall-Petersen's chair (the two joined the CSO on the same day in June, 1978). Another visitor was former principal second violinist and personnel manager Rosemary Waller, also of Santa Rosa, who exchanged hugs with her former colleagues backstage in Davis.

Järvi's conducting teacher at Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music, Otto-Werner Mueller, greeted his former student at the post-concert CD signing in San Diego, where San Diego Symphony music director Jahja Ling also paid a call.

Other visitors included CSO board of overseers' member James Monroe and his wife, Ann, in Palm Desert, longtime CSO subscriber Peggy Kite in San Diego and CSO board chairman Rick Reynolds, board member Duck Wadsworth, board of overseers' member Norma Petersen and former Cincinnatian Herb Bloch and his wife in Costa Mesa.

The tour, budgeted at $400,000, was funded by presenters' fees and a Procter & Gamble endowment for touring.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW:Cincinnati delivers thunder to Davis

The Sacramento Bee

April 23, 2007

By Edward Ortiz - Bee Arts Critic

Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conductor Paavo Jarvi takes audiences on unexpected adventures.

Perhaps the greatest joy of seeing the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is the surety that you will get something you've never heard before.
Whether it's adventurous programming, the appearance of a maverick soloist, or the unique interpretation of a classic work, this orchestra, and its astute conductor Paavo Järvi, never fails to disappoint.
The orchestra's appearance Saturday night at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis was a stark contrast to another of this country's best orchestras that appeared here recently - the Pittsburgh Philharmonic. Whereas the Philharmonic was full of studied clarity and tonal shimmer, the Cincinnati was all about an expansive and epic sound capable of sonic thunder and whisper. This orchestra owns a burnished sound that qualifies it as one of the most Germanic-sounding orchestras in the United States. And under the baton of Järvi, it also has a great sensitivity and flair for 20th century music.

This was evident in its approach to the work of Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Zeitraum." This one-movement work, written in 1992, gives up its secrets through a series of crescendos, tension-filled passages and smartly placed silences. It's a masculine work full of almost menacing suggestion, as if the orchestra were a tightly wound spring threatening to uncoil. Tüür wrote some tricky dissonant passages in this work that were deftly handled by the unassuming but robust brass section.
The stunning dynamism of violinist Leonidas Kavakos proved well-suited to the unconventional nature of this orchestra. Kavakos delivered an electrifying performance of Brahms' Concerto in D Major for violin and orchestra. The opening violin passage of the first movement is a memorable one, and it became more so with Kavakos raising his bow like a sword before playing a blistering response to the orchestra's musical line.
To say that he was giving new meaning to the musical adage of "making a piece your own" would be an understatement. He did it with a hypervivid tone and an unusual, gritty technique where the power of the bow comes from holding the elbow below the violin. This is a refreshing musician with a unique stage presence.
Think of the brooding and unpredictable presence of Miles Davis. His cadenzas in the long first movement proved he's not afraid of using a folk approach to his instrument. Nor is he a shrinking violet when it comes to slowing down a solo moment to a quiet and finely honed dramatic point. It was during those moments that Kavakos was offering his take on the work while fully flirting with the audience's expectations.
It wasn't all flawless playing; some of Kavakos' work on the higher strings proved light and insignificant. But that paled to his inventive approach and sheer mastery of the concerto.
It's no mystery Järvi chose to end the concert with the epic Symphony No. 4 "The Inextinguishable" by Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Järvi is a confessed Nielsen fan and it shows in the way he approached this titan one-movement symphony. Nielsen wrote a work that still sounds as innovative today as it did in 1916. It's classical in theme, but modern in the way the music develops. The episodic passages make the most of contrasting burst of colors and intensity.
Navigating these was no effort for this orchestra, which showed a deep connection with what Järvi was asking of them. At the end of the work, Järvi made the most of the piece's dramatic bent by having a second of two timpanists stand up in a front-row seat and proceed up to the stage to bang out Nielsen's volcanic assault on the kettledrum.
The evening's second encore, Sibelius' "Valse Triste" spoke volumes about why this is a must-see orchestra. Järvi took a work that many conductors play as a show-ending trifle and made it mean something. He allowed the deep Finnish emotions of this work to bloom by coaxing the orchestra down to a whisper and later pumping up the sensual musical crescendo. Like the rest of the evening, nothing was trivial about the way the music played.

CD REVIEW:Rachmaninov Symphony No 2

Web magazine "Audiophile Audition"

RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27; Scherzo; Dances from Aleko - Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/ Paavo Järvi ****

By John Sunier

This is the 11th recording for Telarc the young member of the very musical Järvi family has made with his orchestra, and the label has a way of presenting the Cincinnati's sonically that fully equals their Cleveland counterparts. The sumptuous strings in this new release sound like the famed Philadelphia strings. Rachmaninoff's most popular symphony is known for the extremely romantic theme of its slow movement and its use throughout of a simple figure of a note followed by another just a half-step lower. Its design is almost Franckian cyclical, and perhaps that's why it's popular even with concert music newbies, a la the Symphony in d minor. (Ah hah, another opportunity to relate my tale of the tapespondence pal - remember tapespondence? - who spoke excitedly about his purchase of a knockout LP by "Cesar Frank and his Symphony.")True, the Second abounds in the expected very dark, very Russian Rachmaninoff moping-about, but it's also full of some wonderfully lyrical tunes. A large work, yet it doesn't seem overextended, especially in the glorious surround Telarc has provided for the Cincinnati musicians. Aleko was an early opera of Rachmaninoff, concerning a relationship between a wealthy young scion and a gypsy girl. The filler excerpts are two lively dances showing, also as expected, a gypsy influence.

CD REVIEW:Rachmaninov Symphony No 2

BBC Music MagazineMay 2007

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2; Dances from Aleko
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi Performance

By David Nice

Excessive emotions never runs wild in this Rachmaninov Second Symphony. Paavo Järvi keeps tight rein on the lyrical counter-subjects of the first and second movements, flowing along wholesomely with just the right degree of bloom from the keenly moulded if hardly lush Cincinnati Strings (the urgency of the Allegro moderato could easily encompass the exposition’s repeat, though like many interpreters Järvi doesn’t provide it). There’s time to expand, though not to wallow, in the great Adagio, where the counterpoint to the clarinet melody is as interesting and deeply-felt as the main melodic event, though ultimately the big tune of the finale could do with a little more of the heart-on-sleeve manner you find in the Andé Previn and Andrew Litton versions. There could, also, perhaps, have been more doom-laden room to manoeuvre at the heart of the first movement. What makes this a performance to enjoy from start to finish are the dynamic range and natural presence of the Telarc recording, from the silky first entry of lower strings to the clear, full textures of heady climaxes.
Järvi includes a rarity among his encores, a student piece indebted to dancing Puck from Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, though not at all bad for a 15 year old, and underlining the point that no Russian composer ever wrote a dull scherzo. Aleko’s gypsy dances – also the work of a talented fledgling – prove that Järvi junior runs his exuberant father close for taking delight in the nuancing of lollipops.

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO on tour: scary rides, standing ovations

April 20, 2007

By Mary Ellyn Hutton, Cincinnati Post music writer

Photo by Mary Ellen Hutton
Paavo Järvi signed programs and CDs after leading the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in concert in Santa Barbara.

Three time zones, four temperate zones.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra led by music director Paavo Järvi arrived in Palm Desert, Calif., Sunday afternoon for a weeklong tour of the Golden State.
The early contingent, including CSO principal librarian Mary Judge and public relations director Carrie Krysanick, disembarked in San Diego ahead of the main body of travelers and boarded a bus for the 120-mile drive to Palm Desert, first stop on the five-city tour.
"If you go the route we went, through the San Bernardino Mountains, you go up four temperate zones," said driver John Martin of Nada Bus Company. "We went all the way from desert to alpine, 4,000 to 4,500 feet. When we got to the stop, there were trees and it started to snow."
"I thought it was stunningly beautiful, but for me it was a white-knuckle drive," Judge said. "There were only two lanes. There were no railings and no pull-off lane on either side. You could see straight down from my window."
"She was hanging onto the hand rest like she was hanging onto a roller coaster," Martin said. "It was pretty funny."
All of the streets in Palm Desert (near Palm Springs) say Hollywood. Bing Crosby's Restaurant and Piano Lounge stood directly across from one of the two CSO hotels and every intersection has a glittering name: Ginger Rogers Road, Frank Sinatra Drive (which intersects Bob Hope Drive). The box office outside the concert hall, McCallum Theatre on Fred Waring Drive, is the Johnny Mercer Box Office.
The first concert on Monday - in 1,127-seat McCallum Theatre - was sold out months in advance. The evening was cool, definitely jacket weather (though temperatures during the days have been seasonally sunny and bright, reaching into the mid-60s). Audience members included singer and Cincinnati Pops favorite Toni Tennille. Violinist/tour guest artist Leonidas Kavakos gave a magisterial performance of Brahms' Violin Concerto (CSO audiences heard him in the same work at Music Hall in September 2005) and so impressed Tennille that she asked to be put in touch with his management.
The second half comprised Berlioz' "Symphonie fantastique," whose offstage effects - oboe and English horn in the third movement, church bells in the finale - were harder to achieve in the small hall. Oboist Lon Bussell performed from the rear of the balcony, but even there Järvi asked him to play more softly to try to create a long distance effect (no problem in ample Music Hall). The energy and drama of the performance were such that that the audience rose instantly to their feet in a sustained ovation. Järvi threw them an impish sidewise glance as he began the encore, a schmaltzy rendition of Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 2.
"It was a truly special concert," said Doug Sheldon, senior vice president of Columbia Arts Management in New York City, organizer of the tour. "The orchestra played on a truly high level, but on a musical level, it was pretty extraordinary. Together with Paavo, they did some special things."
The 122-mile drive to Santa Barbara took the orchestra through orchards and farmland, where workers could be seen bending over emerging crops. The smell of the sea woke some of the California natives as the buses drew near the coastal city, where small craft dot the coastline and flowers bloom everywhere. Someone spotted a giraffe on a hillside (denizen of the Santa Barbara Zoo).
The concert Tuesday took place in Arlington Theater, another smallish hall (2,010 seats) with a hacienda look, the interior having decorative balconies on either side with vines and flower pots and a ceiling speckled with stars.
The concert was even more charged than the first, with Carl Nielsen's Fourth Symphony (the "Inextinguishable") performed in place of the Brahms Concerto. There was no room onstage for timpanist Richard Jensen to make his dramatic entrance from the aisle during the final movement of the Nielsen, as he did on CSO concerts earlier this month. He and principal timpanist Patrick Schleker carried on their fierce duel side by side in the percussion section instead, with blows as sharp as gunfire.
Bussell performed his distant solo from the balcony again, but the bells had to be housed onstage where they made a bit too much of a din. The surefire work thrilled the crowd nonetheless, with many scooping up the CSO's Berlioz CDs afterwards and asking Järvi to sign them.
Wednesday was a free day for the orchestra. Players and staff ranged over the city, which sparkled in the sunlight and felt a hefty breeze (shutting off some cell phones late in the day). Violists Denisse Rodriguez-Rivera and Mark Cleghorn headed for the historic Santa Barbara Mission, French hornist Tom Sherwood and bassist Wayne Anderson went hiking in the mountains, violist Joe Somogyi checked out some choice brazil wood in nearby Bakersfield (he is a bowmaker), CSO president Steven Monder stole off with a good book (Voltaire's "Candide"), violist Steve Rosen went on a wine country tour and Krysanick and others fanned out over the shopping district.
Touring is important for the CSO, an orchestra which, unlike "a couple of the Big Five" (Cleveland, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and New York) is "pushing its standards up," Sheldon said.
"Art is about excellence. It's also about competition. You want people to know that you have achieved a certain level of excellence, that you're in the major leagues. When you are an orchestra like the CSO, which has spent so much time and effort to build something really fine artistically, it's better to be recognized in a national or international scenario than simply at home. They don't necessarily see the growth or realize what it is they have."
The CSO played Thursday in San Diego, then on to Costa Mesa today for a concert in the brand new Rene and Henry Segerstrom Hall in Orange County Performing Arts Center and to the Mondavi Center in Davis Saturday. The orchestra returns to Cincinnati Sunday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: Symphonic proof that music is 'Inextinguishable'

Los Angeles Times

April 23, 2007
By Mark Swed, Times Staff Writer

Paavo Järvi leads Cincinnati's finest in a rousing performance of Carl Nielsen's work. Too bad so few heard it.

Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, given a riveting performance by the Cincinnati Symphony on Friday night at Orange County's Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, is titled "The Inextinguishable."Things weren't looking good for the Danish composer when he wrote this amazing score between 1914 and 1916. Europe had all but collapsed in its attempt to destroy itself with World War I. Nielsen's marriage was on the rocks. Although one of the 20th century's symphonic greats, he was increasingly viewed, by a grim Copenhagen intellectual elite, as an irritant.
The Fourth is his epic, rousing and often quite weird I'll Show You. "Music is Life and, like it, is inextinguishable," he wrote in the score's preface. So, he put it to the test.He wrote peculiar, pliable folk-songish themes that permeated the four movements by often perversely polluting the harmonies. In the last movement, he set two pairs of timpani at war with the orchestra. Coming from both sides of the stage, their pounding suggests mortar rounds. But victory is at hand. The brass rebuilds a melody, and with strings swirling, the winds throw sonic confetti.The Cincinnati Symphony chose an interesting moment to take this piece on tour. The orchestra is old (founded 112 years ago) and excellent. The current music director, Paavo Järvi, began his first season three days after Sept. 11. He is a soulful conductor. The bond between this Estonian (son of Neeme Järvi, currently music director of the New Jersey Symphony, and older brother of the audacious, more pop-oriented conductor Kristjan Järvi) and Cincinnati's players and audience is said to have been instantaneous.The performances Friday — which included Erkki-Sven Tüür's "Zeitraum" (Time-Space) and the Brahms Violin Concerto with Leonidas Kavakos as soloist — were excellent. Paavo Järvi has built upon the orchestra's European tradition of warm, autumnal, rich sound but given it more bite.Under him, the orchestra has also produced a series of recordings for Telarc — some, sumptuously recorded in Super Audio CD, that sound almost too good to be believed. In the acoustically adjustable Segerstrom, where the sound chambers were in a mostly closed position to give the hall less resonance, the evidence gave no lie to the CDs. But despite being one of the few American orchestras regularly to record for a major commercial label, Cincinnati is said to have box-office woes at home.It certainly had them in Costa Mesa. Segerstrom may be in its first season, but it appears no attraction. I've not happened upon it full since opening night. On Friday, there were many empty seats, although that was good news for an unquenchable Nielsen enthusiast. Plenty of $200 box seats — the best vantage point for timpani tripping — were available for nabbing after intermission. That's right. $200!"Zeitraum" was written in 1992 and is the breakthrough orchestral work of a former Estonian rocker who has been trying to build what he calls a "metalanguage." His can be a noisy, angry music that forces tonal and nontonal styles into conflict. "Zeitraum" makes a lot of noise and gloomily comes to no conclusion.Since "Zeitraum," Tüür has branched out and written even more ominous multistylistic music. His 1998 Violin Concerto is particularly impressive, and perhaps that is the piece Kavakos should have attempted rather than the Brahms.The young Greek soloist is technically superb and played difficult music effortlessly. But his sleek tone is suited for more modern music or the Baroque. Whether he or Järvi chose the slow tempos, the audience had no way of knowing. But the snail's pace gave Cincinnati's gorgeous string section the opportunity to dig in deeply and articulate with powerful authority — too powerful, I'm afraid, for Kavakos' chamber-like subtlety.The performance of Nielsen's symphony, on the other hand, was an example of power perfectly directed. Segerstrom is a hall that has already hosted great orchestras. But neither the New York Philharmonic barreling through Beethoven's "Eroica" nor even the irrepressible Kirov playing Shostakovich had quite the visceral excitement of Cincinnati's "Inextinguishable."The playing certainly had something to do with this. Järvi's enthusiastic conducting had a lot to do with it.In an age more at home with Shostakovich's self-pitying, Nielsen's triumph is all the more gripping. He doesn't, by the way, say that man is inextinguishable. Just nature.

CONCERT REVIEW: Cincinnati truly has it all

The Orange County Register

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Under music director Järvi, the 112-year-old orchestra gives an impressive performance.

By Timothy Mangan, Classical Music critic

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, which appeared on Friday night in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, was uplifting for tired ears.
Under its music director Paavo Järvi, this remarkable 112-year-old orchestra gave one of the most spellbinding concerts here in recent memory.
There are orchestras that are perhaps more impressive in their technical sheen and behemoth, resplendent tone. (We heard one here earlier this year: the New York Philharmonic.) But few can match the sheer verve and deep musicality of the Cincinnatians. The orchestra and its 44-year-old conductor, director since 2001, seem to have formed an uncommon bond.
The program itself was reason for delight – opening with an attention-grabbing recent work by Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür and closing with a neglected masterpiece, the Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable," by Carl Nielsen. At solo time, Brahms' familiar Violin Concerto was played with such distinction by Leonidas Kavakos and the orchestra that no reasonable listener could mind hearing it again.
Järvi makes music with this ensemble in a friendly fashion. He seems to invite them to play, not dictate things. Self-aggrandizement doesn't appear to be his thing. He shows such an involvement in the progress of the musical narrative and such a concern for the telling detail that he has no time for glamorous poses. The orchestra responds to this commitment with enthusiastic playing from first chair to last. When these musicians really got going, they were feeling it. They rocked; they had fun.
The Cincinnati strings are a potent bunch, with a shiny ping in their sound as well as an athletic expressiveness. The woodwinds sing warmly. The brass section gets all excited without swamping its colleagues. Instrumental balances were at all times carefully and subtly gauged. A listener forgets about technical matters with this orchestra, though, because the music itself – its message, not its surface – remains the focus.
Nielsen's Fourth is a big musical battle. Its four interlinked movements are a clash of ideas and contrasts, of mixed messages and unsettled harmonies and strange instrumental combinations, and the dust doesn't settle until the end.
Järvi and his musicians laid into it as if it were a great adventure, like roller coaster riders raising their arms high and screaming gleefully. And like on a roller coaster, the fast stuff could be very fast, the slow stuff intensely anticipatory, but the view was clear at all times – they made it into a seamless ride.
Tüür's 1992 "Zeitraum" is also a battle of sorts. The composer calls it polystylistic, and he throws all sorts of things into the soup – minimalistic rhythmic grooves and chaotic blurs, booming sustained Cs and scat lines, Romantic melodies and dissonant eruptions. These elements play against one another on a kind of blank canvas, nudging and merging and bumping each other, like catalysts in a chemical reaction. It makes for a weird and fascinating drama, and the Cincinnatians played it elegantly.
Kavakos provided an unusually penetrating reading of the Brahms concerto. He savored the long line, coaxing it forward with an array of vibratos (and non-vibrato) and an ever- suave tone. His progress may have been leisurely, but it was also continuously gripping.
That's in part because he has a way of holding onto a note until the musical momentum almost forces him to the next one, like a storyteller who makes his listeners hang on every word. The Greek violinist is not nearly as well known as he should be – remember the name. Järvi and the orchestra followed his every move with uncommon lyrical grace.
At encore time, conductor and orchestra had a gear-shifting party with Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 6 and then luxuriated delicately in Sibelius' "Valse Triste." The concert, in sum, sent at least one listener home completely bowled over.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Music runs in the family

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

By TIMOTHY MANGAN, The Orange County Register

Paavo Järvi, whose Cincinnati Symphony comes to Orange County this week, was raised to be a conductor.

Paavo Järvi always knew he wanted to be a musician. Or, to be exact, he wasn't aware that people did anything else.
His father is Neeme Järvi, the widely traveled conductor, now music director of the New Jersey Symphony. When Paavo was growing up in Estonia the house was filled with his father's music. He would go to his father's rehearsals and performances (Paavo heard "La Traviata" several hundred times). Both his brother, Kristjan, chief conductor of Vienna's Tönkunstler Orchestra, and sister, Maarika, a professional flute soloist, caught the bug, too. His nonmusician mother, the friendly, deep-voiced Järvi said recently from his home in Cincinnati, is "the only normal person in the family."
Neeme, it seems, far from pushing his children, turned music into playtime. Paavo remembers vividly how it went. He would stand next to his father's chair, a little behind him and looking over his shoulder. His father would have a score in front of him and a record of it playing on the stereo.
"He would always ask me to point out, 'OK, where are we? Which instrument is playing?' He always asked me to follow the score and to be involved not only by listening but by looking at the score. ... It was a lot of fun.
"That's in essence why we all wanted to become musicians, because he managed to make it alive, he managed to make it so much fun."
Sometimes, Neeme would keep the name of the composer they were listening to a secret from his children.
"It was a game," Paavo says, "a question of what composer is it, can you recognize the composer? Can you recognize which period it comes from, is it Romantic, is it Classical, is it Modern, is it Baroque? If you can't tell that, then which country? Is it Italy, is it Russia or is it Germany?
Listeners can play the same game this week, when Järvi and his Cincinnati Symphony visit the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Their repertoire (besides Brahms's Violin Concerto, with Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos as soloist) is a little off the beaten path, evincing the enthusiasm that Järvi's father gave him for music outside the standard canon. Over the years, Paavo has made numerous recordings of music by composers such as Martinu, Stenhammar, Tubin, Sumera and Nystroem. To Orange County (reader, stop here if you don't want to know) he'll bring a piece by fellow Estonian and friend Erki-Sven Tüür, and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable."
He makes a point of programming such fare in Cincinnati, too, where he's served as music director since 2001. It's not always easy, Järvi explained. With a capacity of 3,500, Cincinnati's Music Hall is one of the largest in the United States, and there are pressures to fill it, he says, even though attendance figures are robust.
"We have the stats for every night of how many people come to the concerts, how many subscriptions are sold, you know. The paperwork is all very clear and the numbers are very clear and we have one of the highest average attendances of any orchestra in America. Meanwhile, when you come to the hall, and we have 2,300 people sitting in the hall, we have more than a thousand empty seats. And that translates to a normal human being who sits in the hall that something is wrong because we're not selling out the hall."
"In one way it has a danger of reflecting on our repertoire because it possibly can make us – and a lot of people encourage us – to create more popular and populist programs. Which I refuse to do. Because if we play 'Carmina Burana' every night here we would probably sell out the hall, but I can't play 'Carmina Burana' every night. I don't want to and I on purpose do a lot of music that has never been done here before because I think it is very important to stay current and to explore new music and not to become a kind of box-office-driven organization."
A fluent and eloquent conductor, Järvi, 44, is among the most highly regarded young conductors working today, and his many recordings with the Cincinnati Symphony (for Telarc) have helped spread the word. His own music-making philosophy is simple, if not simply accomplished.
"I suppose that every person is different," he says, "but for me it is not a question of bringing to the audience a sort of well-balanced, correctly executed piece. For me the piece has to come literally alive, like a human being. If that piece is not alive, then audiences will never, ever be able to get interested in it or never get involved in it.
"By alive, I mean the process itself has to be of the moment and very organic and very flexible because the magic moment that happened yesterday in that place might not happen today." He takes Leonard Bernstein, with whom he studied briefly, as an example.
"What Bernstein was doing is exactly what I think conducting is supposed to be, where you are the piece, but not you alone, you and the orchestra. ...You know, I'm not a coach on a football team who stands there on the sidelines; I'm part of the process and the musicians have to be part of the process."
Being part of the music – it's something he learned as a child. He recalls all those "Traviatas" many years ago.
"I remember hearing it over and over and knowing every detail and always anticipating Violetta's death and usually crying at the time."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Paavo Järvi: A conductor rocks

April 15, 2007

By Edward Ortiz - Bee Arts Critic

Paavo Jarvi, 44, leads the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, but he has a rock background.
Somewhere behind the focused and regal bearing of Cincinnati Symphony conductor Paavo Järvi is a glimmer of a young man wielding drumsticks to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man."
"I was playing in a rock band that had much less artistic aspirations than classical music," said Järvi, via the telephone from Orchestra Hall in Cincinnati.
The Estonian-born Järvi, 44, is part of a generational shift in the conducting world, and one for whom rock music was an important influence.

Now in his 12th year of conducting the Cincinnati Symphony, Järvi does not shy away from new works, including those that reference rock music.
But on the podium, it is his musical DNA that he's influenced by most of all. He's the son of highly regarded conductor Neemi Järvi, who was music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1990 until 2005 and now conducts the New Jersey Symphony.
Järvi is one of a younger spate of conductors in their 40s who include the Atlanta Symphony's Robert Spano and David Robertson, who conducts the St. Louis Symphony. This younger generation is keen on programming new and recent classical works by living composers, along with the standard repertoire.
That focus will be evident on Saturday night when the Cincinnati Symphony performs "Zeitraum" by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis. That work will share the program with Brahms' Concerto in D major for violin and orchestra, with violinist Leonidas Kavakos as soloist, and Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 "The Extinguishable."
Tüür's work shows how rock pervades the pieces written by many living composers.
"If you listen to this piece you will immediately notice that this is a composer who has a background in rock music," said Järvi. "The way he uses rhythms and percussion, it gives a certain groove to the music."
Tüür, like Järvi, grew up studying classical music while playing in rock bands. Tüür is one of the more prolific Eastern European composers, and he and Järvi have played in rock bands together.
Järvi describes Tüür's work as springing from an Eastern European modernism heavily influenced by not only rock music but by Russian composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke.
And as this modernism goes, it differs from the modernism of the West as embodied by the work of Arnold Schoenberg and Béla Bartók.
"Russian modernism has always had a certain emotional impact," said Järvi.
"Tüür's music engages the brain but it's also very emotional music," he said. "It's an interesting kind of study between what one would call active and passive music."
To counterbalance Tüür's work, Järvi has programmed a not-often-performed piece -- Nielsen's Symphony No. 4. This work cannot be accused of lacking in emotion with its bombastic opening and its darkish interior that skirts doom and tonality. The work offers a stream-of-thought musical development that ends on a hopeful note.
It's a concert program that acknowledges the distant and recent past as well as representing the present.
"What we do in Cincinnati is try to have as much new music as possible," said Järvi.
With Nielsen, Järvi seeks to cast a spotlight on Denmark's most well-known composer, who wrote six symphonies that are as brash as they are powerful.
"I consider him one of the two great symphonists of the 20th century along with Prokofiev," he said.
Järvi bemoans the fact that Nielsen's symphonies are not represented enough on concert programs. He blames that on the programming timidness of many U.S. orchestras.
"There's no reason to be a slave to 40 or 50 standard classical pieces," he said. "In a way, doing that is a dangerous path to go down because your repertoire begins to get more and more limited."
His focus on Nordic music comes as no surprise; he was born in Tallinn, Estonia. After studying classical music and playing in rock bands, Järvi left Estonia at 17 to attend Juilliard's pre-college program in percussion performance. Although he was focused on percussion, Järvi had larger goals in mind.
"I always wanted to be a conductor and all the years of playing percussion I knew that it was in preparation for a career in conducting," he said.
Järvi later attended the Curtis Institute of Music and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, where he studied under Leonard Bernstein. His first major conducting assignment was for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, and he later took a three-year post as principal guest conductor with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England.
Järvi's appointment, at the age of 36, to the conducting post in Cincinnati was seen as a bold and risky move by the 112-year-old orchestra, whose prior conductors include Leopold Stokowski and Fritz Reiner. Under Järvi's leadership the orchestra has carved a niche as having a robust sound, and is known as the biggest champion of Nordic music outside Europe.
The orchestra remains one of the few second-tier orchestras in the United States that record regularly. And it is one of the few that tour a program with a bent toward new music.
"I grew up in a musical family where there has always been a curiosity about new and lesser known music."
And if his inclusion of Tüür's "Zeitraum" on the Mondavi concert program is any indication, one of those curiosities also plumbs how rock music has seeped into the musical language of a living composer.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center, UC Davis
TICKETS $49-$69 general, $24.50-$34.50 students and children
INFORMATION: (530) 754-2787 ,

Sunday, April 15, 2007

CSO heads west for tour

April 15, 2007

BY JANELLE GELFAND, Cincinnati Enquirer
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and music director Paavo Järvi leave today for a five-concert swing through California.
Tour highlights include performances in two glittering new concert halls. Friday, the orchestra will make its debut in the 2,000-seat Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The hall, christened in a gala concert in September, is part of a $240 million expansion designed by Cesar Pelli for the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Saturday, the symphony will travel to the University of California at Davis, where it will perform in the 1,800-seat Jackson Hall, part of the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The five-year-old center is named for the Napa Valley winemaker and his wife.

The tour is more than just a chance to showcase the symphony and Pops recordings, Järvi says.
"One of the reasons it is important to go and perform in these halls is to prove that we can deliver it live," says the conductor. "Everywhere, people are telling me, 'We know the orchestra by their recordings.' I would like the orchestra to be known by more than its recordings."
The tour begins Monday at McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, followed by a stop Tuesday at Arlington Theater in Santa Barbara. The orchestra performs Thursday at Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego.
Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos will be tour soloist in the Brahms Violin Concerto. Repertoire includes Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique"; Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4, "The Inextinguishable"; and "Zeitraum" by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur.
Since 2001, Järvi has taken the symphony to Carnegie Hall and the East Coast, Florida, Europe and Japan. A five-country European tour is planned for 2008.

Friday, April 13, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO pursues a Nordic theme but with surprises

April 13, 2007

By Mary Ellyn HuttonPost music writer

Nordic was the theme of Thursday night's concert by Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony at Music Hall. Led by music director Paavo Järvi, the program had the familiar "one from column A, one from column B, one from column C" configuration. But there were surprises.
"Zeitraum" (1992), by Jarvi's fellow Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür, was a CSO premiere. Danish composer Carl Nielsen's Symphony No. 4 ("Inextinguishable"), which Järvi conducted on its most recent CSO performance in 1999, had a touch of theater.
Most surprising of all was the Violin Concerto by Sibelius, direct from column A. Guest artist Pekka Kuusisto, 30, first Finn to win the Sibelius International Violin Competition, gave it a fresh approach, which, if not completely convincing, kept one keenly attentive. It was his CSO debut. Kuusisto's soft, vibrato-less opening was startling off the bat, as if he were skimming lightly over ice. His hyper-expressive playing involved frequent variations in tempo and dynamics, rendering his successful collaboration with Järvi and the CSO that much more amazing. Watching Kuusisto sway side to side and bob his dark blonde hair conjured the image of a punk/folk fiddler, as if he would at any moment let the violin slip down onto his chest. However, some of his effects were overly clipped and tended to dissipate in over-sized Music Hall. The second movement was the most successful, a gentle, songful effusion involving gorgeous dialogue with the CSO. Kuusisto carried economy of bowing to an extreme in the final movement, which he began with the very tightest articulation. He tossed off virtuosic passages with abandon, disregarding a lot of notes in the process. Interestingly, much of the beauty of the concerto, here as elsewhere, lay in the orchestral passages, where Järvi brought out lines and colors with a painterly hand. Eccentric or not, Kuusisto's performance clearly pleased the audience, who awarded him a standing ovation and sparked an encore, a whispered, but very musical Adagio from Bach's Violin Sonata in G Minor.
Given its U.S. premiere by Järvi and the Chicago Symphony last spring, Tüür's "Zeitraum" is big, brash and percussion-rich. Musical time is Tüür's premise ("Zeitraum" means ""time period") and he pits flurries, eddies and assaults by various instrumental groups against each other and a more or less static background, announced with a bang by a low C on trombone and bassoon. Squiggles, oscillations, snatches of melody, tone clusters and patches of minimalist repetition interact, and there are passages recalling Arvo Part and Lepo Sumera
Järvi and the CSO presented it convincingly, and it was an apt pairing with the Nielsen, whose title and conception also have to do with time.
In Nielsen's Fourth, it is life that is timeless, forever renewing itself and "inextinguishable." Life involves strife, conveyed musically in the finale where two sets of timpani fight to the finish. Järvi repeated a dramatic touch from 1999 by having timpanist Richard Jensen, dressed in street clothes, dash to the stage from the audience and commandeer the second set of timpani. Jensen was placed in the foreground to distance him from principal timpanist Patrick Schleker.
Järvi crafted a stunning performance, soaring and assertive in the opening Allegro, cheerful in the jaunty Poco allegretto which showed off the CSO winds. The suddenly serious Adagio featured heartrending strings, eerie pizzicato, doubled by timpani, and winds sounding like alarms in the distance. The final Allegro took off on skittering strings for a tumultuous, life-affirming conclusion.
Järvi encored with a kicky Hungarian Dance No. 6 by Brahms. He and the CSO will perform the Nielsen and Tüür on their tour of Southern California.
The concert repeats at 11 a.m. today and 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Paavo Interview posted at

December 17, 2004

Interview with Paavo Jarvi from 2004 on WAIF on ChrisComerRadio website.

Let the podium races begin

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Posted by Janelle Gelfand

Suddenly, there seems to be a lot of baton-passing between American orchestras. People in the know are discussing the shortage of eligible conductors for major orchestras -- even as little-known "wunderkinds" are zooming to the top of the "most valuable player" lists.And what does all of this mean to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, whose contract with Paavo Jarvi is up at the end of the 2008-09 season? Read on.I'm talking, of course, about the big news this week that Esa-Pekka Salonen will leave the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the end of the 2008-09 season. His successor, announced by the LA Phil in Sunday's LA Times, will be a 26-year-old Venezuelan maestro named Gustavo Dudamel.The news must have been a surprise to John von Rhein at the Chicago Trib, who just named Dudamel as one of the hot potential candidates for the Chicago Symphony's music director vacancy. Chicago, which has a principal conductor (Bernard Haitink) and conductor emeritus (Pierre Boulez) on its conducting staff, has a parade of maestros visiting this season and next -- including Paavo Jarvi, who conducted Shostakovich's Tenth in October. Evidently each of the 11 coming between now and June, as well as the next 11 next season, is a potential candidate for music director.Even so, von Rhein, in his article of March 18, quotes a number of Chicago musicians who believe that in this, the first season without a music director since Barenboim left, the orchestra's musical standards haven't dropped at all. (Does that mean the musicians don't really want a music director at all?) And several other orchestras find themselves without music directors. For instance:1. In Detroit, where Paavo Jarvi's father Neeme Jarvi enjoyed a successful tenure before leaving for New Jersey, the DSO announced it had appointed Peter Oundjian (former member of the Tokyo String Quartet and CCM faculty member) to be its principal guest conductor and artistic advisor -- presumably until it finds Jarvi's successor.2. In Philly, the Philadelphia Orchestra, which will not launch a formal search to replace Christoph Eschenbach until this summer, named Charles Dutoit to the newly-created position of chief conductor and artistic adviser in a surprise move in February.3. In New York, Lorin Maazel will step down from the New York Phil in 2009. (Will that orchestra promote our favorite maestra, Xian Zhang, as a successor?)Meanwhile, Henry Fogel, CEO of the ASOL, points to the scarcity of high-level international superstars ready to take over major musical organizations. Where are the American conductors on these candidate lists?? In Dallas, Dutchman Jaap van Zweden (Jaap who?) will take over as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's new music director in the 2008-09 season.Salonen, 48, who will have been with the LA Phil for 17 years when he leaves, plans to remain with his family in LA, and concentrate on composing. The Finnish conductor was just 34 when he took over the orchestra. He has raised both its calibre and its profile with his forward-looking programming and dynamic leadership. In 2003, the Philharmonic moved into the new Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry, a spectacular and much-needed orchestra home. It has become the place to see and be seen in LA.Which brings us back to Paavo Jarvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Note that the year 2008-09 seems to be a popular year for musical chairs among major orchestras. Orchestras these days have to move quickly to nab -- and to keep -- the best and brightest talent.

Listen in...

April 12, 2007
The segment with Paavo will be aired beginning at 10pm (PST) on the evening of the 12th on KUSC; live audio streaming from KUSC can be accessed through the website.

Pilgrim With an Oboe, Citizen of the World

This is an interesting article where Paavo is quoted...

April 8, 2007
New York Times
Dressed in black, his oval face adorned with sideburns and an upturned lock of hair, the slender oboist looked like a New Wave Tintin as he took his seat on stage for an orchestra rehearsal.He turned and chatted with the bassoonist behind him, waved shyly to a violinist across the stage and exchanged words with the neighboring principal flutist, who threw his head back in laughter.The man in black, Liang Wang, all of 26, was only a few months into his first season as principal oboist of the New York Philharmonic. It is an enormous job: giver of the tuning pitch A, de facto leader of the woodwinds, a major solo voice. Around him were some of the toughest, most expert orchestra players in the world, several of whom had joined the orchestra long before Mr. Wang was born.By all accounts the players — most important, the woodwind section — have embraced him. For his part Mr. Wang said in an interview, he feels at home.“People are just so supportive of me, and allow me to express myself as an artist,” said Mr. Wang, who conveys a mix of self-assurance, unfeigned humility and amazement at where he has arrived. “They really welcome people who are trying to make something musical.”Although he does not want to sound cocky, Mr. Wang said, he has an inner security about his abilities. “If you don’t have the goods,” he added, “people aren’t going to put up with you.”It is an extraordinary place to be for a young man who just a little more than a decade ago was playing his oboe in a practice room in Beijing. But Mr. Wang’s hiring was also a clarion example of the strides musicians from China have made in the realm of Western classical music. They have become a powerful presence as soloists, orchestra members and conservatory students.Immigrants — Russians, Japanese and Koreans — have long filled out orchestral string sections and excelled as pianists. But Chinese musicians have to a large extent broken out of those areas, lending their talents to woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments as well, despite the generally lower quality of teaching of those instruments in China.Two of the finest students now in the Juilliard School’s precollege division, teachers there say, are a Chinese clarinetist and a Chinese marimba player.Mr. Wang’s rise has been meteoric.Orchestra auditions are grueling competitions to win coveted lifetime jobs. Hundreds of musicians often vie for a position. Winning a first chair in a major orchestra is like winning tenure at an Ivy League university.Mr. Wang’s touch on the audition circuit was golden from the start, so successful that he won jobs faster than he could take them, although it is also true that he came up at a time when an unusually large number of top jobs were open.He was appointed principal oboist at the Richmond Symphony in Virginia in 2003 but never showed up, having won an audition for the principal position at the San Francisco Ballet. Then came an appointment to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra as associate principal oboist. He lasted two weeks before grabbing the principal job at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.While there he was a finalist at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra. He won an audition for the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago, a summer job, which was rendered moot by an appointment at the Santa Fe Opera.“There’s an incredible combination of talent and personality,” said Paavo Jarvi, the music director of the Cincinnati Symphony. “Liang is a good example of what’s right with musical education here at the highest level.” The veterans of the Cincinnati woodwind section, some old enough to be Mr. Wang’s grandparents, immediately accepted him as a colleague, Mr. Jarvi said.After a season in Cincinnati, Mr. Wang won the equivalent of full professorships at Harvard and Yale, simultaneously. He received offers as principal oboist from both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.He used the Met offer to negotiate a better package from the Philharmonic, where he could play for a favorite conductor, the music director Lorin Maazel. The job would also be less grueling than the Met’s and more high-profile, offering a heavy weekly dose of oboe solos.“I enjoy being put on the spot,” Mr. Wang said. “I like the pressure.”He took some ribbing from his new colleagues for his flighty job history. “I became the ‘two-weeks guy,’ ” he said.Despite his extraordinary ability and success, Mr. Wang, like many Asian-born musicians, has had to confront preconceptions about his ability to connect with Western classical music. At the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied with Richard Woodhams of the Philadelphia Orchestra, a German conductor said he would be happy to show Mr. Wang how to play Brahms, since it was not in his culture, he recounted.“You don’t have to be German to play Brahms,” Mr. Wang said. “I was very hurt. People think that way? It never occurred to me.”Mr. Woodhams counseled him to work extra hard because some critics would blame stylistic failings on his nationality, Mr. Wang said. “I had to go the extra mile,” he added. “It may seem like I won a lot of auditions. But I worked harder.”Sometimes, Mr. Wang said, he gets naïve questions like, “Did you listen to classical music when you were growing up?”“There are things called CD players,” he said with some sarcasm. He pointed out that he probably grew up listening to far more classical music than most American youngsters. “The thing I don’t understand is why it should make a difference,” he said. “I am a Chinese guy when I look in the mirror, but I’m a world citizen of music.”At the Philharmonic players in the woodwind section praise Mr. Wang as having a tone easy to blend with, rock-solid intonation and great sensitivity and musicality.“He’s a very mature player, beyond his years,” said Judith LeClair, the principal bassoonist. “He’s a wonderful colleague. It’s just all music. He’s just very humble and wants to do his job.” Mr. Wang said he feels that acceptance when he senses the other members of the wind section following his lead when he makes subtle changes of character or color.Michael Tilson Thomas, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony, said he was frustrated that Mr. Wang did not take the job there after an extensive search but did not begrudge him the choice. Mr. Wang impressed him, he said, during a tryout concert performance that included Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto. The oboe part is notoriously extensive and difficult.“It was remarkable how quickly he grasped it,” Mr. Thomas said. “It became real music very, very quickly.”Mr. Wang auditioned for the New York Philharmonic in May 2005, having practiced for a month in his closet, where the dead acoustic laid bare the tiniest flaws. (“Trust me,” he said, “it doesn’t sound good at all.”) He played for two trial periods, including a concert with no rehearsals. Mr. Maazel wanted to see if he could handle the pressure, it seemed to Mr. Wang. “I like excitement like that,” he said.For the Met audition, he learned 34 excerpts from 18 operas, then listened through the operas to understand the contexts of the excerpts.He was offered the Philharmonic job last June and now occupies the Alice Tully Chair as principal oboist. “The hard work paid off,” he said.MR. WANG is from Tsingtao, which is in the province of Shandong, the home of Lao-tzu and Confucius. As a former German and Japanese colony, Tsingtao is the cradle of many fine Chinese musicians. His mother was a singer but could not pursue a career because of the Cultural Revolution; his father was a government official overseeing business interests. His family is well off now, but Mr. Wang said he grew up middle class, living in a one-bedroom apartment and sleeping on the living-room couch for seven years.He was introduced to the oboe at 7 by his uncle, an oboist with the Tsingtao orchestra and now a woodwind instrument dealer in Beijing. “I heard him play ‘Swan Lake,’ the oboe solo,” Mr. Wang said. “I fell in love with the sound of the oboe.” He was drawn, he added, by the instrument’s personal, vocal timbre. He began studying with his uncle.At 13 he won a rare oboe scholarship at the Central Conservatory in Beijing and left home for good, moving there to share a dormitory room with six other young musicians. He also shared practice room No. 256 with Lang Lang, now a superstar pianist.Two years later Mr. Wang was visiting an exhibit put on by Lorée, the French oboe maker. A man there heard him play and invited him to his hotel — the Olympic, Mr. Wang still remembers — for an audition. “He said, ‘Do you want to come to the United States?’ ” Mr. Wang recounted. “For a Chinese kid this is impossible. It was too good to be true.”The man turned out to be a Taiwanese Lorée dealer with ties to the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, a high school program. Within months Mr. Wang was there. “It was a Cinderella story, really,” he said.By 2003 he had graduated from Curtis in Philadelphia, where he said he attended every Philadelphia Orchestra program for four years. Mr. Woodhams was a major influence. “He taught us how to be musicians rather than audition takers,” Mr. Wang said.After three years of constant moving Mr. Wang now lives in a sparsely furnished one-bedroom apartment on West End Avenue and 63rd Street, where, like most other oboists, he spends endless hours painstakingly carving reeds from cane. He has bonded with other young members of the Philharmonic, including the Spanish Pascual Martinez Forteza, the second-clarinetist since 2001, and the German Markus Rhoten, the principal timpanist, who also joined the orchestra this season.Mr. Wang has a proud streak. While at Curtis, he applied for an audition to the Los Angeles Philharmonic but was turned down because he was too inexperienced. He pressed, was given permission and won through to the finals but did not get the job — again, he was told, because he was not ready.When the orchestra reconsidered and asked him back for a tryout last year, he declined. Esa-Pekka Salonen, the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said he could not recall the matter. “Auditioning for an orchestra and hiring is not an exact science,” he said. “It really is as much about the kind of fit.”In February, Mr. Salonen appeared as guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic in a program that included Ravel’s “Tombeau de Couperin,” which has a prominent and difficult oboe part.Mr. Wang said he felt awkward greeting Mr. Salonen but felt a measure of satisfaction as well. And as the audience applauded after the performance, Mr. Salonen gave him a solo bow.Thomas Stacy, the veteran English horn player, also noticed. He sent Mr. Wang a bottle of sparkling wine afterward and a note praising the “myriad colorings and spontaneous subtlety” of his performance, closing with, “Damn, what a talent!”

Bremen Ahead of New York, London, and St. Petersburg

February, 2007

"Ongaku-no-tomo" magazine, Japan.

Bremen Ahead of New York, London, and St. Petersburg

The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen's Beethoven cycle with Paavo Järvi in Yokohama is among the Top Five on the list of best concerts of the year selected by Japanese music journalists. Japan's leading music critics traditionally nominate their favorite concerts of the year. The results for 2006 have just been published in the February issue of the classical music magazine "Ongaku-no-tomo." The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Paavo Järvi are high on the list, in fifth place.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO's emotive Berlioz draws roar of approval

March 26, 2007

By Mary Ellyn Hutton Post music writer

You might hear it in a stadium or a basketball arena, but the roar that went up at the end of The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra's performance of Berlioz' "Symphonie fantastique" was out-of-the-ordinary for Music Hall.
It was unanimous and sustained, and, when the crowd refused to stop, CSO music director Paavo Järvi led a fitting encore, the "Rakoczy March" from Berlioz's "Damnation of Faust."
The concert was a huge success, with the hall full enough to sell out most concert halls, here or in Europe. Music Hall's size, on the other hand, contributed to the power and atmosphere of the performance.
Oboist Lon Bussell performed his part of the shepherds' dialogue in "Scene in the Country" from the hallway outside the upper gallery, giving it a truly faraway sound. Similarly, it was like real thunder in the distance when a second set of timpani sounded forebodingly from the wings.
Jarvi's "fantastique" was direct, hyper-emotive and probably the most realistic this listener has ever heard. Written in response to Berlioz's real-life infatuation with actress Harriet Smithson, it depicts a lovesick musician tormented by means of a musical idée fixe - a recurring theme - of his beloved. Järvi and the CSO acted as one, with a conviction and response time conducive to the highest level of music-making (they will perform it on tour in California in mid-April).
Snarly horns, drooping winds and a slow, prayer-like ending marked the opening "Reveries, Passions," while runaway swirls and Doug Lindsay's carnival-like cornet characterized "A Ball."
"A Scene in the Country" opened with fresh, cool strings before turning dark and ominous. "March to the Scaffold" was relentless and raw, with savage brasses and grotesque, chortling bassoons.
The final "Dream of a Witches' Sabbath" slithered in softly, clarinetist Jonathan Gunn's cackly E-flat clarinet representing the beloved as a mocking hag. The concluding round dance and Dies Irae (with offstage bell) joined in a brawl to the finish, with almost painful string effects (bowing on the bridge and tapping with the stick of the bow) and a long-held, fortissimo chord.
Guest artist was pianist Piotr Anderszewski in an exquisite performance of Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3. Anderszewski voiced lines with amazing clarity, sometimes tailoring his sound to that of the accompanying instruments, as in the Adagio religioso, where he matched the piccolo's sharp, bright sound on the high keys of the piano. The outer movements exuded good humor, charm and a welcome perfusion of Hungarian flavor.
Järvi opened with a picture postcard reading of Smetana's tone poem, "The Moldau." He indulged in some of his most picturesque conducting here, with flowing, dipping motions, pointed accents and sudden, hands-at-his-sides stops to signal a fall off in dynamics. The work's rustic wedding (polka), water sprites (silvery, muted strings) and turbulent St. John's Rapids were expertly conveyed.

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO, Bronfman showcase the dynamic Russians

Cincinnati Enquirer
by Janelle Gelfand
March 10, 2007

"The 20th-century belongs to the Russians," said Paavo Jarvi preceding Friday night's Cincinnati Symphony concert at Music Hall.
"Look at the real giants, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, Shostakovich."
It is hard to argue with him, especially when he goes on to demonstrate it so convincingly, and so did the evening's guest artist Yefim Bronfman in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3.
The fearsome "Rach 3" (remember Geoffrey Rush in "Shine?") held no terrors for Bronfman, though the Music Hall Steinway may need a rest. Bronfman's commanding performance galvanized the audience, who rose in one collective, noisy ovation in tribute to his power and passion. They even demanded an encore, Chopin's turbulent "Revolutionary Etude" (Jarvi watched from behind the second violins).
Rachmaninoff was one face of Russian music presented on the concert. The others were Prokofiev in his delightful "Lieutenant Kije" Suite and Alexander Scriabin in his Symphony No. 2, a 1902 work not been heard on CSO concerts in 35 years (Friday's performance was only the second in the CSO's 112-year history). Scriabin, said Jarvi, is "real Russian music," which he described as less organized, less polished and less "sophisticated" than the German symphonic tradition. but direct, brimming with emotion and completely over the top.
"Lieutenant Kije" (to be recorded by Telarc with Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5, scheduled for next weekend's CSO concerts) got a splendid reading by Jarvi and the CSO. Visiting trumpeter Mark Ridenour, associate principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony, was Kije himself, sounding his lilting theme offstage at the beginning and end and performing the carefree trumpet solo in "Kije's Wedding."
(For the record, "Lieutenant Kije" was written for a 1930s Russian film about a fictitious Russian officer whose identity must be manufactured in order to please the Czar.)
Kije in love was meltingly captured by principal bassist Owen Lee, with felicitous contributions by violist Marna Street, cellist Eric Kim and saxophonist James Bunte. Jarvi emphasized the falling-down drunk aspect of "Kije's Wedding," which ended in a sodden mosh of low brass, and also in the "Troika," a wild ride with raucous twists and turns. The lieutenant that wasn't was fondly recalled in "Kije's Funeral," where the various chapters of his made-up life were summarized.
Jarvi and Bronfman were not on the same wavelength at the beginning of the Rachmaninoff, where Bronfman favored a more subdued dynamic and could not be heard over the CSO. This was soon overcome, however, as they let the volume and expression swell. Amazingly, there was always a feeling of tenderness beneath the roiling passions and volleys of notes, especially in the heart-on-sleeve Adagio.
There was no sagging of momentum in the finale, either, which Bronfman built to an overwhelming conclusion.
Scriabin, a megalomaniac with a mystic bent (he planned a sort of mass rapture in the Himalayas triggered by his music, but died too soon to carry it out) wrote some gorgeous music nonetheless. Jarvi is a champion of the Symphony No. 2 and he led a convincing, inspired performance. The dark Andante unfolded on low clarinet (principal Richard Hawley), setting a pensive mood. The Allegro featured catchy, syncopated rhythms in combination with a sweeping theme and hefty brasses. The slow movement, "a garden of delights," said Jarvi, began with bird calls in flutes and piccolo and a warmly romantic violin solo by concertmaster Timothy Lees. Its yearning quality was reminiscent of Scriabin's best known orchestral work, "The Poem of Ecstasy," and Jarvi built it to frankly orgasmic heights.
A thunder-and-lightning Tempestoso followed (clashing cymbal, tam-tam, shudders of brass), then an all-stops-pulled Maestoso finale of Hollywood proportions (now we know where they get it). It was Wagner on vodka, with its triumphant theme repeated over and over, a stuporous pause, then double-time rejoicing to the slam-bang end.
Don't miss today's 8 p.m. repeat (and Jarvi's "Classical Conversation" at 7 p.m.)

Friday, April 06, 2007


November 25, 2006

Pingpong mit TönenErkki-Sven Tüürs Klavierkonzert in Frankfurt uraufgeführtJunge Gesichter, lautlose Konzentration, mitreißende Begeisterungsfähigkeit: Die Jugendkonzerte des hr-Sinfonieorchesters in der Alten Oper Frankfurt haben ihre ganz eigene Atmosphäre. Die Programme aber sind die gleichen wie bei den Abonnementskonzerten an den folgenden Tagen, von der Moderation abgesehen. Diesmal hieß dies schwere Kost für die Jugendlichen. Mit "moderner Musik" war nicht Pop, Rap, Techno oder Disco gemeint, sondern die Uraufführung von Erkki-Sven Tüürs Klavierkonzert und Anton Bruckners mehr als einstündige siebte Sinfonie. Doch es stellte sich bald heraus, daß die Jugendlichen im Saal gut auf diesen Abend vorbereitet gewesen sein dürften - womöglich durch das "Netzwerk Musik und Schule", das Juliane Stahl während der geschickt zwischen Information, Witz und Suggestion vermittelnden Moderation des hr-Redakteurs Stefan Hoffmann vorstellte. Und für das Klavierkonzert steuerte der Komponist im Gespräch mit Hoffmann Verständnishilfen bei, die das hr-Sinfonieorchester unter seinem neuen Chefdirigenten Paavo Järvi mit drei Klangbeispielen veranschaulichte. Ohne sich bequemen Hörgewohnheiten anzubiedern, eignet sich Tüürs einsätziges, gut zwanzigminütiges Klavierkonzert, ein Auftragswerk des Hessischen Rundfunks, dank seiner dramatischen Ereignisfülle, der dichten Zwiesprache zwischen Solist und Orchester, seines weiten instrumentalen Farbspektrums und seiner Einprägsamkeit als Einstieg in die neue Musik - gerade auch für Jugendliche. Der Beginn ist ein Ideen-Pingpong zwischen dem Pianisten, der impulsgebend die ganze Tastatur von ihren Baß- und Diskantzündern her erkundet, und dem Orchester, das die solistischen Einfälle aufgreift und variiert dem Solisten zurückspielt, der sie seinerseits verarbeitet und dem Orchester zuwirft. In kontrastreichen, im hochdifferenzierten Ensemble klangvariabel beleuchteten Wellen bauen sich so drei aggressive Höhepunkte auf. Der zweite dynamische Gipfel braut sich im lichteren, ruhigeren Mittelteil zusammen und mündet in eine rhythmisch zugespitzte Jazz-Episode. Nach dem dritten Dynamikgipfel endet das Werk kontemplativ bis hin zum tonlosen Hauchen in die Hörner, resonanzartig unterstützt vom bogengestrichenen Becken, wie schon zu Beginn der Komposition.Der Pianist ist fast pausenlos höchst virtuos, aber ohne avantgardistische Techniken aktiv. Thomas Larcher, selbst ein renommierter Komponist, stürzte sich so lustvoll in die Kontrast- und Klangerforschungen seines Kollegen, als ginge es um eine experimentelle Selbstbefragung. Spannend gerieten dabei nicht zuletzt die Wechselwirkungen mit dem Orchester, das dem Klavierklang immer neue Resonanzräume öffnet oder mit ihm verblüffende, manchmal synthesizerartige Farbmixturen bildet. Dem geradezu in lauter Solisten aufgesplitterten Orchester bietet die Partitur eine ungeahnte Vielfalt an Farbfächerungen, spannungsgeladenen Klangfeldern und Überlagerungen unterschiedlicher Schichten - ähnlich wie beim ebenfalls vom Hessischen Rundfunk beauftragten Violinkonzert, das Isabelle von Keulen und die hr-Sinfoniker unter Järvis Vorgänger Hugh Wolff am 16. September 1999 am selben Ort uraufgeführt hatten. Wie damals erwies sich das Orchester als reaktionsrascher, plastisch "erzählender" Führer durch die Klangarchitekturen des estnischen Komponisten.Exemplarisch glückte hernach auch Bruckners Siebte im eindringlichen Aufriß, Fluß und in ballastfreier Durchhörbarkeit. Durch die vorangegangene Uraufführung hellhörig geworden, erkannte das Ohr auch in diesem monumentalen Viersätzer die Kontrastdramaturgie, wenn auch aus anderen Gründen als bei Tüür: orgelregisterartig statt als Spannungsentladungen gegensätzlicher Energien, Zeiträume, Kompositionstechniken. Die überwiegend jungen Zuhörer reagierten auf den gewiß anstrengenden Abend, den sie diszipliniert, aufmerksam und während der Pause grüppchenweise diskutierend verbracht hatten, spontan zustimmend: Vielleicht ist für die altehrwürdige, immer wieder junge "klassische" Musik doch noch nicht aller Tage Abend.

CONCERT REVIEW: Mahler 9 Symphony

April 2, 2007
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nr. 78, S. 44
Radikale Klangexegese Paavo Järvi dirigiert Mahlers neunte Sinfonie mit dem hr-Sinfonieorchester Kaum ein Werk Gustav Mahlers ist ein ganzes Jahrhundert lang so nachhaltig mit außermusikalischen Spekulationen befrachtet worden wie seine letzte vollendete Sinfonie. In der Tat sind Schmerz, Trauer und Resignation in dieser Neunten unüberhörbar, doch dürfte eine zu unbekümmerte Verknüpfung der Musik mit dem letzten Lebensabschnitt des 1911 an einem Herzleiden gestorbenen Komponisten ins Leere greifen. Nimmt hingegen ein Dirigent die an dritter Stelle stehende Burleske in ihrer Klangradikalität wirklich ernst, so gibt er damit einen Hinweis nicht nur auf eine zeitgemäße Entfesselung orchestraler Möglichkeiten bis hin zu einem damals - 1909 - kaum für möglich gehaltenen Aufbäumen aus dem Geist quasi polyphoner Stimmenbehandlung, was vor allem für die Anforderungen an Blechbläser zu dieser Zeit eine völlig neue Qualität bedeutete. Überdeutlich wird dabei vielmehr auch, wie sehr Mahler am Ende seines Lebens dem Geist des 20. Jahrhunderts verpflichtet war. Die neunte Sinfonie markiert einen Gattungsendpunkt in vielerlei Hinsicht: Die unkonventionelle Satzfolge, von Satz zu Satz wechselnde Tonarten, allgemeine Entstofflichung des musikalischen Materials, motivischer Zerfall in scheinbar isolierte, in Wahrheit kunstvoll miteinander verknüpfte Partikel - Kennzeichen einer Ästhetik "neuer Bahnen", die immer wieder verblüffen und hier konsequenter markiert werden als im vorangegangenen "Lied von der Erde".
Paavo Järvi hat beim Freitagskonzert des mit Mahlers Musik traditionell vertrauten hr-Sinfonieorchesters in der Alten Oper den modernen Aspekt mit äußerster Konsequenz verdeutlicht. Sein schnörkellos sachliches Dirigat beschränkte sich einerseits fast asketisch auf eine größtmöglich transparente Nachzeichnung der für diese Sinfonie wesentlichen Kompositionsmittel, jedoch unter Berücksichtigung und - im Vergleich zu anderen Interpretationen - Intensivierung der Kontrastcharaktere.
In Järvis Darbietung erscheint der dreimalige jähe Abbruch der musikalischen Entwicklung nicht als Einbruch der "Katastrophe" im spätromantischen Sinne, sondern viel sachlicher als thematische Demontage, in deren Zusammenhang exponierte Schlagzeugpassagen allerdings andere Aufgaben erfüllen als noch in den Mahler-Sinfonien Nr. 5 und 6. Im Vergleich zu einer derart illusionslosen, melancholiefreien, lediglich durch dezente Selbstzitate auf die Person Mahlers verweisende, doch auch deprimierend wirkende Musik sind Olivier Messiaens Orchester-Meditationen "L'Ascension" von 1933, die auch in einer Orgelfassung vorliegen, geradezu überschäumend lebens-, mehr noch glaubensbejahende Aufgipfelungen von geradezu domartiger Unmittelbarkeit, auch wenn das Ende den Hörer zärtlich umschmeichelt. Doch auch diese Musik, von Järvi geschickt als Pendant gewählt, setzt Mahler recht eigentlich voraus.
Järvis bestechende Sachlichkeit und differenzierte Klangexegese ermöglicht spannende, intensive Hörerlebnisse, dürfte in puncto Anforderungen an die Musiker aber in dieser Weise partiell auch Neuland sein. Eine gewisse, in leichten Konzentrationsschwächen sich offenbarende Nervosität war diesmal nicht zu überhören. In diesem Punkt werden der neue Chef und sein Orchester sicher noch perfekter zueinanderfinden.

Radical sound-exegesis Paavo Järvi conducted Mahler’s ninth symphony with hr-Sinfonieorchester. Hardly any of Gustav Mahler’s works has been loaded as much with extra-musical speculations for a whole century as his last finished symphony. And indeed, pain, sorrow and resignation are very present in the ninth. But a reckless linking up of the music with the last phase of the composer’s life who died 1911 of heart problems would definitely grasp at nothing. If on the other hand a conductor takes the Burleske – the third movement – in its radical sound really seriously, he not only highlights the contemporary liberation of orchestral possibilities up to that rebelling that comes from the spirit of the quasi polyphonic treatment of the different voices – at that time, 1909, hardly anybody would have thought something like that is possible –, which especially has a completely new quality regarding the demands for the brass section of those times. Moreover, it is becoming more than clear how much Mahler was bound to the spirit of the 20 th century in the end of his life. The ninth symphony marks a final point of this genre in many regards: the unconventional order of the movements, the key changes between the movements, the general dissolution of the fabric of the musical material, the break-up of motives into seemingly isolated particles that are in fact artfully connected with each other. All these are signs for a new aesthetic (“Neue Bahnen”) that can amaze again and again and are more obvious here than in the preceding “Lied von der Erde”.
In the concert on Friday with the hr-Sinfonieorchester that is traditionally familiar with Mahler’s music, Paavo Järvi clarified the modern aspect with extreme consistency. His unemballished, factual conducting style on the one hand was almost ascetically restricted to showing the essential elements of this composition with maximum transperency – but also focussing on the, in comparison with other interpretations, intensification of the contrasting characters. In Järvi’s interpretation, the three moments when all of a sudden the musical development breaks off are not an irruption of the catastrophy in a late romantic sense. They are much more factual a thematic disassembly – though in this context the exposed percussion passages have other functions than even in Mahler’s 5. and 6. symphony.
In comparison to the affect of this music – without illusions or melancholy, but also depressive, only sometimes hinting in self-quotes to the person of Mahler - , Olivier Messiaen’s orchestral meditation „L’Ascension“ from 1933 that also exists in an organ version is really exuberant with positive attitude of life and faith, pinnacles of cathedral-like immediacy – even if the ending softly heaps flattery on the listener. But this music that Järvi cleverly chose as a pendant actually presupposes Mahler. Järvi’s captivating relevance and highly differenciated exegesis of sound allows an exciting, intense listening-experience, but this is probably partially new ground for the musicians in terms of his demands. A certain nervosity that came across in moments of litte weaknesses in concentration was obvious. In this point, the new chief and his orchestra will definitely find a common way even more perfectly in the future.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Rock Years archive interview WNKU


February 17, 2007

Engelsmusikfür eine frühVerstorbene
Der Geiger Thomas Zehetmair wirkte beim jüngsten Rundfunkkonzert in der Alten Oper als Solist in Bergs Violinkonzert.Es ist ja eine Art Engelsmusik, die uns Alban Berg mit seinem Violinkonzert hinterlassen hat: „Dem Andenken eines Engels“ – gemeint ist hier die Tochter Manon der befreundeten Alma Mahler. Und man glaubt, die Verzückung und den Schmerz zugleich herauszuhören, den der sensible Komponist beim Gedanken an das so früh an Kinderlähmung gestorbene schöne Mädchen verspürt haben musste. Der Geiger Thomas Zehetmair brachte beim Abonnementkonzert mit dem HR-Sinfonieorchester (Donnerstag) diese musikalischen Gefühle opulent zur Wirkung und demonstrierte einmal mehr seine technisch-virtuose Meisterschaft. Das ist Zwölftonmusik der ersten Stunde, die den tonal geprägten Zuhörer einmal nicht erschrecken lässt. Chefdirigent Paavo Järvi wirkte sorgfältig und souverän und konnte das Orchester im besten Sinne motivieren.
Dem Berg-Konzert war Schuberts dritte Sinfonie gewissermaßen als verlängerte Ouvertüre vorausgegangen. Auch hier zeigte das Orchester erfrischendes Temperament und feinen Zusammenklang gut disponierter Bläser und dicht agierender Streicher. Klanglich besonders hübsch garniert war vor allem das Menuett. Beide Werke zusammen wurden an Länge bei weitem von Strauss’ „Heldenleben“ übertroffen, das den gesamten zweiten Teil des Konzertes einnahm. Natürlich horchten die Zeitungsleute besonder im Abschnitt „Des Helden Widersacher“ auf, denn das ist ja die Abrechnung des jungen Komponisten mit den alles schlechtmachenden Kritikastern. Kraftvolle Akkorde und sattes Blech versöhnten am Ende („Des Helden Weltflucht und Vollendung“) auch jenen Zuhörer, dem diese Art der Selbstdarstellung zwischendurch ein wenig lang geworden war. (Ge)

Translation courtesy of babelfish ...

The Frankfurter
Violonist Thomas Zehetmair worked in the recent broadcast concert in the Alte Opera as soloist in monumental Violinkonzert. It is a kind angel music, which left us Alban mountain with its Violinkonzert: "To the memory of an angel" - meant for the daughter Manon of his friend Alma Mahler. And one believes at the same time to hear the hitting a corner and the pain which the sensitive composer must have felt with the thought of such young beautiful girl dying of child paralysis. The violonist Thomas Zehetmair brought these musical feelings with the subscription concert with the HR symphony orchestra (Thursday) opulent to the effect and demonstrated once more its technical virtuose championship. That is twelve-tone music of the first hour, which does not let the tonally tuned listener to be frightened once. Principal conductor Paavo Jaervi worked carefully and sovereign and motivated the orchestra in the best sense.
Schubert's third symphony had preceded the monumental concerto to a certain extent as extended ouverture. The orchestra also showed here recreating temperament and fine zusammenklang well disposed blaeser and closely acting Strings. Particularly pretty was above all the Menuett. Both works together were exceeded in length by far by the "Hero's life", which took the entire second part of the concert. Naturally the newspaper people particularly horchten in the section "of the hero adversary" up, because that is the account of the young composer with all the bad-making criticism asters. Strong chords and full sheet metal reconciled that listener, who had become a little long this kind of the self-manifestation occasionally at the end ("the hero world escape and completion") also.