Friday, January 30, 2009


M. Ravel: Dapnis et Chloé, Suite no. 2, La Valse, Pavane pour une infante défunte, Ma Mère l'Oye, Boléro; Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi; 1 SACD Hybrid Telarc 60601; 2+9/03 (63'00)

Paavo Järvi haben wir als einen Dirigenten kennen gelernt, dem jede Show abhold ist, der jede Üppigkeit meidet und lieber mit dem Prinzip 'weniger ist mehr' arbeitet. Nicht immer geht dieses Rezept auf, und manche seiner Interpretationen wirken zu zurückhaltend und unterkühlt. Nicht so diese außergewöhnlich gute Ravel-CD in einem fabelhaften Surround-Klang. Die Sensualität der zweiten Suite aus 'Daphnis et Chloé', die traumhafte Reihe der 'Pavane', die rassige Eleganz der 'Valse', die niedliche Klangnaivität von 'Ma Mère l'Oye' und ein rasanter 'Boléro' zeigen Järvi als einen überlegenen Ravel-Dirigenten und sein 'Cincinnati Symphony' als eine bestens motivierte und technisch hervorragende Mannschaft, die Järvis Sorge ums Detail so gut respektiert wie seinen Blick auf das Ganze. Die Natürlichkeit und die Transparenz des Klangbilds dieser meisterhaften SACD-Multi-Channel-Aufnahme sind kaum zu überbieten. Der künstlerische Gesamteindruck ist so hervorragend, dass wir für dieses Programm ohne zu zögern die Bestnote abgeben, auch wenn es im Konkurrenzumfeld so manche Einspielung gibt, die punktuell der aus Cincinnati überlegen ist. RéF


S. Rachmaninov: Symphonie Nr. 2; Scherzo & Tänze aus Aleko; Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi; 1 CD Telarc 80670; 2006

Aus jeder Note dringt Rachmaninov an unser Ohr, leidenschaftlich, lyrisch, mit einem schier unendlichen symphonischen Atem, packend bis zum Gänsehaut-Effekt. Im Orchester rumort es hier düster und unheilvoll, dort elegisch in ausgedehnten Melodienbögen. Eine Symphonie als symphonische Resonanz ja als Personanz ihres Schöpfers! Das hervorragend spielende 'Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra' bringt die raffinierten Klänge der Rachmaninov'schen Instrumentierung transparent und plastisch zu Gehör, und die Tontechnik hat das alles in einer sehr räumlichen Aufnahme festgehalten. Supersonic, ohne auch nur im Geringsten zu zögern. RéF

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Paavo Järvi and Bruckner

A Review of the new RCA Red Seal Release by Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony
By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Since becoming artistic director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony in 2006, Paavo Järvi has been exploring the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, a composer squarely within the orchestra's mainstream and tradition. The Symphony No. 7, first disc in an anticipated complete cycle (Nos. 9 and 3 have been recorded for future release), offers considerable insight.As compared with brassier, more foreceful versions, this one is aimed directly at the heart. There is no better illustration than the soft, opening bars of the first movement, which Järvi takes at a gentle, relaxed tempo, shaping them with exquisite care into something between searching and reflection. The movement as a whole occupies an exalted plane, ending with the greatest dignity on a broad, smooth E Major chord.The Adagio, completed in response to the death of Bruckner's idol Richard Wagner, is deeply felt, brushing the heavens at its cymbal-laced climax and ending with a soft, touching farewell.The Scherzo is classically balanced, with the kind of gleeful, planetary spin typical of the composer. The finale is bright, happy and affirmative, the way composer apparently felt when what became his most popular symphony was written and premiered. Recorded in surround-sound SACD format. Available at

Monday, January 26, 2009

Intense and Very Interesting (2008-11-08)
Jarvi and his Bremen forces give us intense readings of these two warhorses that I find extremely interesting in my first couple of hearings. The chamber orchestra digs into the scores with relish. Tempos are fleet and the orchestra sonority highlights woodwind and brass detail. The modern strings use reduced vibrato, resulting in tone color that is akin to period instruments. I don't know if small bore brass instruments are used, but they certainly produce some nice snarls and burrs. 

The Fifth gets a fast paced performance that reminds me of Benjamin Zander's Telarc reading. It is all very exciting and very exuberant - more the "Revolution" than the "Fate" Symphony. The first movement is fast paced and dramatic. The Andante con moto moves along at a good clip. It works in context but a little more relaxation would have been welcome. The Scherzo is handled interestly. The transition to the Finale is more spritely than spooky, a refreshing interpretive choice. The blazing Finale is played somewhat slower than the norm (again recalling Zander), an indication that Jarvi trusts Beethoven's metronome markings. 

The performance of the First is ear opening. This is not a Haydnesque reading, but one that looks forward to the future. It is a cheeky (almost raucous) performance, not courtly, and full of unbuttoned humor. The cross rhythms are well handled and there is a wealth of woodwind and brass detail here as well. The Andante con moto cantabile may be closer to an Allegretto and a little short on "singing" quality, but a fascinatingly different take. 

The SACD multi-channel sound is excellent. I am already looking forward to the release of the final two installments of the cycle. I have also collected Vanska's rival SACD cycle of the symphonies on BIS. Those performances are more traditional, large orchestra readings. Jarvi is more in your face. Both remind us of just how wonderful these repertory staples can be when played with commitment and freshness.

CSO Heads To Carnegie Hall


carnegie hall, new york
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is returning to New York's famed Carnegie Hall in February of 2010. Paavo Jarvi and the CSO will be joined by legendary pianist Radu Lupu.

Lupu is also performing with the CSO Friday and Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets for this weekend's concert start at only $12.

Full release below:

CINCINNATI—The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra will be part of the 2009-2010 season at Carnegie Hall in New York, performing on the Concertos Plus series on Monday, February 15, 2010 at 8 p.m. This will be the CSO’s 47th time performing at the esteemed venue. 

The program will feature pianist Radu Lupu performing Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3. The program also includes Ravel’s Suite from Ma Mère l'Oye (Mother Goose) and Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, both of which the CSO has recorded for Telarc. The program is rounded out by Bach’s Ricercare No. 2 from A Musical Offering, BWV 1079, arranged by Webern. 

“Performing to New York audiences at Carnegie Hall is always an honor and a special occasion,” said CSO Music Director Paavo Järvi. “All of the world’s top orchestras perform there and I’m particularly happy we are taking such an adventurous program and will be with a great friend of the orchestra — the legendary Radu Lupu.” 

The program also will be part of the CSO 2009-2010 season at Music Hall. Full season details will be announced March 8, 2009. 

Paavo Järvi and the CSO most recently performed at Carnegie Hall on January 24, 2005. The orchestra’s Carnegie Hall debut took place on January 9, 1917 with conductor Ernst Kunwald.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

January 24, 2009
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Nothing predictable in CSO’s program

Concert Review

By Janelle Gelfand

“The key is to allow yourself to experience the music,” conductor Paavo Järvi said in his pre-recorded notes, shown before Friday’s Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concert. 

Indeed, that was the best way to listen, because nothing was predictable about Friday’s program. It opened with a beautifully etched, late-romantic piece, “Slow Movement,” by Webern and continued with a highly individual interpretation of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 by Romanian piano legend Radu Lupu.

Then there was Bruckner’s Symphony No. 2, an early work with the quirky hallmark of frequent rests separating its phrases. A symphony of “heavenly length,” it was pared down from 66 minutes, the duration of orchestra’s last performance in 1985, to about an hour in a newer Carragan edition, which the orchestra played for the first time.

Bruckner was a deeply religious Austrian whose nine symphonies continue the thread of Beethoven’s Ninth. There is something radiant and spiritual about his Symphony No. 2 in C Minor, but it is also an enigma. There were climactic drumrolls and pointed brass fanfares, which suddenly dropped down to nothing, full-blown strings playing long themes which unexpectedly ground to a halt.

Somehow Järvi managed to make it hang together for a performance that was both refined and powerful.

His view from the outset was one of classical clarity, with lean textures, clear counterpoint and subtlety of expression. For the listener, there were glowing sonorities punctuated with moments of grandeur. You could revel in the atmosphere of the Andante, which featured a beautiful horn solo over pizzicato strings (Thomas Sherwood). The scherzo was earthy and power, contrasted with a trio of mystery and color.

The finale alternated between brilliant, blazing brass and moments of the most sublime atmosphere in the strings. The musicians turned in a polished reading.

Lupu, who performed in the first half, is known for winning the Van Cliburn and Leeds piano competitions early in his career. His view of Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4 in G Major was more about color and sonority than is often heard by today’s pianists. He stretched passages, illuminated inner notes and used the pedal liberally. His first movement cadenza had rumbles of thunder in the bass.

The slow movement, which is operatic in quality to begin with, had a power all its own. It was deeply interior, and Lupu made every note count.

The finale was uneven, and, despite its atmosphere and drama, I would have preferred a quicker tempo. His ideas were sometimes at the expense of precision, but it made one rethink Beethoven. In the end, it was a refreshing change.

The orchestra provided terrific color of its own in the tutti passages.

The evening opened with Webern’s “Langsamer Satz,” originally the slow movement of a string quartet, scored for string orchestra. Its flowing melodies reminded one of Mahler, and Järvi’s romantic approach gave it a touching beauty.

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

CONCERT REVIEW: CSO, Lupu-Beethoven Piano concerto 4

January 24, 2009

A Love Song, An Aristocrat and Music for Meditation at the CSO

Mary Ellyn Hutton

Cincinnati Symphony audiences can take orders.  At least they did at Friday night’s Webern/Beethoven/Bruckner concert at Music Hall.
   In his “First Notes” comments, screened before each of his performances, music director Paavo Järvi related how he feels just before he walks onstage to conduct Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.   He worries, he said, about “audience noise” and how an ill-timed cough might “ruin” the Concerto’s “soft poetic opening.”
   Not so Friday night.  It seemed that a collective breath was held as guest artist Radu Lupu sounded the gentle opening bars. Similarly, Järvi invited listeners to “become part of the journey” in Bruckner’s 70-minute Second Symphony and let the music “do its work.”  (Tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, he described Bruckner’s symphonies as “a perfect form of meditation,” a not inaccurate metaphor, since openness and clearing of the mind do give them a transformative power.)  This advice was heeded, too, by his listeners.  Response to the performance was enthusiastic, though without the automatic standing ovation, a gesture that has come to mean little in any case.
   Interestingly, there were many students in the audience, representatives of a dozen or so regional colleges and universities attending the CSO’s second “College Nite” of the season.  The assumption that young people’s pop-oriented attention spans are necessarily shorter than their elders’ is no doubt over-exaggerated.  In fact, they may have fewer preconceptions about what to like (or not) in classical music. 
   The concert began with a commitment of only seven minutes, Anton Webern’s “Langsamer Satz” (“Slow Movement”).  The 1905 work, originally for string quartet, was performed with acumen and tonal beauty by the full CSO string section (delicious violas).  A kind of love poem for the 21-year-old composer’s future wife, the music is lush and romantic, with deep echoes of Mahler.  The little sigh at the end found audible echoes out in the hall.
   Radu Lupu owns a magisterial skill and presence perhaps unmatched among today’s pianists.  His performance of Beethoven’s well-loved Fourth Piano Concerto was marked by purity and perfection unsullied by any hint of grandiosity.  The strings followed his opening statement with a soft, gauzy sound that carried the spell forward splendidly, and collaboration with Järvi and the CSO was excellent throughout.  The Andante, a dialogue between piano and orchestra, was vividly rendered, the orchestra’s bold, challenging statements answered softly and gently by Lupu.  The Rondo finale had a rollicking sense of fun, all with perfect deportment, set off by the exhilarating, presto conclusion.
   Less popular than his later symphonies, Bruckner’s Second is nevertheless overflowing with beauty and should be heard more often.  The performance was the CSO premiere of the new edition (1997) by Bruckner scholar William Carragan, now accepted as codifying the composer’s final thoughts on the work.
   Completed when Bruckner was 53, it is classically conceived, but filled with the distinctive mannerisms and traits that would blossom fully in his later symphonies (three-against-two rhythmic juxtapositions, prominent brass coloration, block-like structures, etc.).  There is a wonderful Scherzo, one of Bruckner’s cosmic rattlers that contrasts a hammer-like Scherzo proper against a gracious, mild-mannered Trio and for good measure, a really hammered conclusion (Coda) where the timpanist is called upon to play triple forte.  This sudden shock was ably administered by principal timpanist Patrick Schleker. 
    Most magical was the slow movement (Andante), a complex, melodic effusion which featured one of the heroes of the evening, associate principal French hornist Thomas Sherwood.  Historically, the horn part in this movement was considered so difficult that the final bars were re-scored for clarinet.   No problem for Sherwood, who handled the treacherous arpeggios which end the movement with pinpoint accuracy and a mellow, golden tone.
   The Finale was an opportunity to drench yourself in the composer, from the soft, tip-toe-like opening to the pell-mell, abrupt conclusion with its tattoo-like rhythms in winds and brasses.  The “pauses” (rests) for which the symphony earned its nickname “Pausensymphonie” seemed less evident in this new Carragan edition than in earlier ones, but were given clear demarcation by Järvi.
   Special mention should be made of the woodwinds who made stellar contributions throughout the entire Symphony, including bassoonists William Winstead and Hugh Michie, who had some occasionally quirky solo turns.
   Repeat is 8 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 24) at Music Hall.   Note: Järvi and the CSO will perform at Carnegie Hall in February, 2010, their first Carnegie appearance since 2005, with Lupu as guest artist in Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3.  

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 21, 2009

The Evening Standard

The maestros who will put Paris on top


For the first time in 100 years, the French capital is attracting the best conductors and most exciting talents and threatens to rival London's music scene...

This may be a longer-term forecast than you'll get from most economists but I'm ready to bet that, by the end of this year, Paris will join Berlin, Vienna, London and New York as a classical music capital.

This cultural quake will be felt most significantly in London, where deep-seated complacencies will be severely shaken. The British classical economy is in for a rude awakening, as the French renaissance looks to be unstoppable.

It has been exactly a century since Diaghilev and Stravinsky, Debussy and Ravel, last diverted the world's ears to the Champs-Elysées. That power surge was ended by the First World War and has never returned.

Paris went on to erect monuments of varying degrees of uselessness - a soul-chilling Bastille Opéra and the subterranean IRCAM (L'Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in which Pierre Boulez was meant to invent the music of the future. Famous maestros well past their peak were hired as music directors, and the public indifference was of such Gallic shruggery that it was possible for André Malraux, best-selling author and long-serving minister of culture, to declare without a blush that "France is not a musical nation".

That is empirically no longer the case. By the end of 2009, Paris will have three of the most exciting post-Rattle generation conductors at its helm. Philippe Jordan, 34, has taken over at the Opéra, which has gone five years without a music director. At the Orchestra de Paris, Paavo Järvi, 46, an Estonian-American of great achievements in Frankfurt and Cincinnati, promises a radical change of menu, while the National Orchestra of France has poached from London's Royal Philharmonic the high-octane Italian, Daniele Gatti, 47. All three ensembles have new managements and serious ambitions that hinge upon the energies and varied abilities of their conductors.

Contrary to popular myth, however, maestros do not make a musical city. There has to be something else, something organic, for a metropolis to take its place among the world's leaders, as London did in the Fifties and Munich is destined to do before long.

In the case of Paris, the driving force is a community of artists nurtured by three record labels that, in a multi-national industry, have cultivated a distinct French style, forging an unspoken bond between performer and audience.

The largest of these labels, with 22 per cent of the French market, is Virgin Classics, owned by EMI since 1996 but based in Paris under the control of Alain Lanceron, a veteran producer who trusts his own taste. Lanceron, who has just notched up the label's 20th birthday, has first call on singers of the calibre of Natalie Dessay, the first French soprano to conquer America, as well as the countertenor Philippe Jarousky, the Mozartians Vivica Genaux and Veronique Gens, and the conductors Emmanuelle Haim and Louis Langrée.

Lanceron's soloists are the violinist Renaud Capuçon and his cellist brother Gautier, the startling young pianist David Fray, and the Quator Ebène, which claims to be the cool quartet of the moment. These artists often work together or with Virgin's foreign roster, which includes Paavo Järvi, Patrizia Ciofi, Daniel Harding and Ian Bostridge. Nowhere else in the record industry does this form of house ensemble still survive.

Two other labels, Harmonia Mundi and Naïve, have yielded the cellists Jean-Giuhen Queyras and Anne Gastinel, the pianists François-Frédéric Guy and Cédric Tiberghien and the early-music conductors Christophe Rousset and Marc Minkowski. Here, too, Frenchness is emphasised throughout, whether in the chic lines of an artist photo or the post-Lacanian obtuseness of the programme notes.

Playing the Francophone card in disregard of market and global realities has long been state policy in France, no matter which party is in power. Most French arts projects are richly subsidised and few artists need to worry about getting the next gig in a country where every small town has a cultural programme and festival. But what has given today's artists the confidence to strut the world stage is the phenomenal support they receive from the French public.

Don't count the curtain calls, what matters here is the ringing of tills. CD sales are falling all over the world and classical is facing wipeout - everywhere except in France, where there is an upsurge. Last year, classical accounted for nine per cent of all French record sales. That is three times its UK proportion and six times the US share.

Classical, jazz and world music are regarded as fringe genres in most countries, no longer to be found in high street stores. In France they are absolutely mainstream and available in profusion. New concert halls are being built and old ones refurbished. The Cité de la Musique in Paris, a decidedly trendy hang-out, has taken over the management of the Art Deco Salle Pleyel, which has undergone an acoustic upgrade.

There is a swagger of success around the classical music scene. By the end of 2009, with three new music directors in the box, Paris will be delivering the higher voltage stream of performances that London expects as standard.

Where that leaves London is unprepared and under siege. Two orchestras, the Philharmonia and LPO, have new conductors but any uplift is shackled by the heavy hand of Southbank Centre bureaucracy, which controls concert dates and interferes at every juncture. The RPO, after Gatti, continues downhill. The LSO at the Barbican is marking time under an absentee music director. The two opera houses are doing well but, in recession, the box-office is taking a knock.

With Paris two hours away by train and Bastille tickets at half the ROH price, the London opera and concert-goer will find himself facing tough choices several times a season. The British capital's ranking as a music centre will be revised downward.

This is, of course, a worst-case scenario, darker than any immediate forecast. Paris is not yet in a position to tilt. It has no match to the BBC Proms, the Wigmore Hall and Glyndebourne. Its chauvinist bias reduces diversity and fosters, at times, an unpleasant supremacism. Too much subsidy attenuates the competitive edge. Nevertheless, there is no ignoring the significance of the Parisian renaissance, or the lessons to be learned.

If London wants to stay ahead, now is the time to start grooming artists - where are our under-30 cellists? - to cut the Southbank's tentacles on orchestras, to create one centre of excellence out of five so-so conservatories.

Music in London needs a wake-up call. In former times, the Arts Council would have struck a gong. Now it's up to each ensemble and every artist to start thinking.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

CONCERT REVIEW: Paavo and Matsuev with CSO

January 16, 2009

Matsuev masters Tchaikovsky

By Janelle Gelfand

Unknown works by famous composers are usually neglected for good reason. But on Friday morning, Russian pianist Denis Matsuev made a spectacular case for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2, not performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 30 years.With Paavo Järvi on Music Hall’s podium, the orchestra played for an enthusiastic audience of intrepid music lovers who braved the arctic cold. They were rewarded with a performance of warmth and heart, beginning with a United States premiere by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, and ending with Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan.”

Unlike Tchaikovsky’s much-loved Piano Concerto No. 1, a warhorse of the repertory, the Second is a curiosity. In the slow movement, the piece suddenly becomes a triple concerto for piano, violin and cello. Showy and brilliant, it harkens a bygone era of romantic excess, calling for technical fireworks as well as poetry from the pianist.

Matsuev, a 33-year-old native of Irkutsk, Siberia, was up to the task, and more. The first movement unfolded like a fantasy, including a delicate dialogue with flute (Jasmine Choi) and two cadenzas displaying every pianistic cliché.

Matsuev effortlessly tackled great fistfuls of diabolical figures, up and down the keyboard. It was like watching an athlete soar through a marathon, as he reached summit after summit with thrilling bursts of power.

The slow movement, opening with a gorgeous violin solo (Timothy Lees), was the gem of this concerto. The trio, which included cellist Eric Kim, gave it the full romantic treatment, with big vibratos in the strings and an elegant, sonorous touch in the piano. Järvi swept up the strings in the orchestra for a breathtaking collaboration.

The pianist exploded onto the sparkling finale with astonishing virtuosity, his hands a blur, head thrown back. 

Witnessing Järvi lead Mahler has been one of the joys of his tenure here. Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, like the later symphonies, is filled with military fanfares, hunting horns, nature sounds, funeral marches and other sounds of Mahler’s Austrian upbringing.

The sustained opening, with its offstage trumpets and birdcalls in the winds, had an atmosphere of veiled mystery. Bursting onto the first movement, Järvi propelled tempos and illuminated inner voices, creating a vivid and sunny tapestry. His view was fresh and galvanizing, and he spent little time lingering over its nostalgic tunes. 

The inner movements were rich with character. The second movement, a rustic “ländler,” was more earthy than usual. Järvi brought out the touches of irony in the funeral march, leading seamlessly into the klezmer-like “Jewish wedding music.”

Järvi attacked the finale with searing power, bringing out its contrasts in drama and beauty. Its harrowing quality and relentless momentum looked ahead to later Mahler. The orchestra responded with high-powered playing in the brass and brilliant winds and the strings played on the edges of their seats. The eight horns stood for the final surge, in a glorious summation.

Järvi, a champion of fellow-Estonian Tüür, opened with Tüür’s “The Path and the Traces,” the composer’s homage to composer Arvo Pärt. Scored for strings (with the second violins facing the first violins), the engaging piece began with an ethereal drone in the cellos, played against wispy, high glissandos in the violins. Its hallmarks were close harmonies, slow-moving chords and a cool, spare atmosphere.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in Music Hall. Tickets: 513-381-3300,

CONCERT REVIEW: Paavo and Matsuev with CSO

January 16, 2009

Järvi, CSO Not Business as Usual

Mary Ellyn Hutton

Mahler’s First Symphony is an often-heard work, and it would have been easy to expect to hear it as it is often heard Friday morning at Music Hall.  However, nothing is business-as-usual with Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
   Nor was the concert itself, which also featured Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in a once-in-a-lifetime performance by Russian pianist Dennis Matsuev -- once-in-a-lifetime for CSO audiences, who have not heard it since 1979, and for just about anyone, since it is hard to imagine a better performance, given the team assembled here.
   Not to be overlooked among these heavyweights was the U.S. premiere of Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür’s “The Path and the Traces” (2005), a 12-minute piece for string orchestra which cast an iridescent light into the New Year.
   Matsuev, 33, is a commanding pianist who met the Concerto’s bravura demands – two cadenzas in the first movement alone – with volcanic strength.  He drew a huge, cleanly articulated sound from the CSO Steinway (which may need a rest now).  He could be touchingly lyrical, too, as in the first movement’s contrasting theme, laced at one point with lovely commentary by flutist Jasmine Choi. The second movement features prominent solos for violin and cello, played here by concertmaster Timothy Lees and principal cellist Eric Kim.  Lees filled the gentle opening theme with exquisite beauty, answered in kind by Kim.  Matsuev gave colorful characterization to the more animated second theme, a yearning, typically “Tchaikovskian” melody. He took off in jolly good humor in the finale, where interaction with the CSO was superb and a spicy Hungarian-flavored theme provided tasty contrast.
   Tüür, 47, is among the vanguard of composers trying to find a rapprochement between the “cerebral” music that alienated audiences in the mid-20th century and more recent attempts to regain their allegiance.  “The Path and the Traces” was written as a memorial to Tüür’s father and to the 70th birthday of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who blazed a new path for music in the 1970s and 80s with his “mystical minimalism.” Tüür was inspired by a visit to an Orthodox cathedral in Crete and the music he heard there.  (The world premiere, by the way, was in Tartu, Estonia in 2005 by Tõnu Kaljuste and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, who performed with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati in November.) “Path and Traces” is deeply spiritual, using harmonic overtones as building blocks and evocative string sonorities (sliding between harmonics, etc.).  It began with faint, “icy” sounds, coalescing into an emphatic fundamental tone in the double basses (re-stated throughout, like a center of gravity).  Rapid figures and shifting harmonic textures built to a central climax, after which chant-like figures, beginning in the violas and cellos, made their way through the upper strings to a peaceful, unison ending. Järvi has recorded “The Path and the Traces” with the Estonian National Orchestra along with Tüür’s “Magma” featuring percussionist Evelyn Glennie (due here).  Also due in Cincinnati is Tüür’s opera “Wallenberg” about Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg, a natural for collaboration with Cincinnati Opera (or the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Northern Kentucky University or Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, given requisite support).
   To call the CSO’s performance of Mahler’s First Symphony a virtual biography is no exaggeration.  One could follow the unfolding of a young man's life here almost bar-for-bar, as the players translated Järvi’s vision into sound.  His vision was one of deep humanity, with youth stretching into manhood with its intimations of mortality.
   There was a primordial innocence in the first movement, where Järvi tempered dynamic levels painstakingly to achieve the utmost transparency.You could almost smell the blossoms of spring.  He prepared the climax carefully, slackening the tempo and letting the orchestra burst into riot of sound, like flowers carpeting a meadow. The second movement, a buoyant Austrian ländler, was full of self confidence and swagger, with a suave contrasting theme that was broadened liberally and given a big dose of schmaltz.  Järvi lingered over it, making the return of the opening theme that much more robust by contrast. Principal bassist Owen Lee sounded the morose “Frere Jacques” funeral march that opens the third movement.  The mood turned inebriated as the oboes sounded a klezmerish theme, bent ever so drunkenly into a kind of “let’s dance if we can hold each other up.”  Things got tearier and blearier as it went on (a cell phone in the audience broke the spell a bit).  A gentle, nostalgic mood crept in toward the end, turning bleak, however with the relentless return of the funeral march.  There was a brilliant segue at the end where chords softly colored by cymbal were followed by the triple-forte cymbal crash that opens the final movement. There was a feeling of wrestling an enemy to the ground here, as the CSO plunged into the fray.  However, there was time for a ravishing love song, capped by principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth’s gorgeous solo.  The fanfare that signals the triumph of hope began tentatively, with a sudden adrenalin-like rush to the climax.  Like scenes of youth flashing by, material from the earlier movements returned, often wrapped in gentle, drawn-out phrases.  The love song surged again, as if with knowledge it was the last time, cut short by rude interjections in the clarinet and violas. The final bars were a march to glory, as the horns stood to send Mahler’s message of hope into every crevice of Music Hall.
Repeat is 8 p.m. Saturday (January 17) and 3 p.m. Sunday (January 18) at Music Hall.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Financial Times CD REVIEWS

Financial Times

January 5, 2008


Symphonies 3 & 8 Paavo Järvi

RCA ****

Järvi and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen bring out the con brio component in the explosive opening allegros of both symphonies, each peppered with moments where accents, ritardandos and fermatas have clearly been rethought without disrupting the natural flow of Beethoven's argument. These are performances I will happily return to.

August 18, 2007

Tüür: Magma

Evelyn Glennie/Paavo Järvi

Virgin Classics 

The symphonic music of Estonian composer Erkki- Sven Tüür (b.1959) evokes the hard edge of rock, the textural colours of post- Impressionism and the tonal imagination of Nordic modernism. It's a tempting cocktail, though the music's atmosphere always seems more alluring than its argument. Magma is the title of Tüür's half-hour Fourth Symphony: it's really a many-splendoured percussion concerto for Glennie, who responds with dazzling virtuosity. The CD includes two less interesting choral works and a moody string tribute to Tüür's compatriot Arvo Pärt.

Andrew Clark

January 3, 2009

Financial Times


Symphonies 1 & 5

RCA Red Seal

Both these conductors - Järvi with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Boyd with the Manchester Camerata - are old enough to know their way round the Beethoven symphonies but young enough to have absorbed the stylistic fashions of our time. Boyd played oboe when Nikolaus Harnoncourt recorded his visionary Beethoven cycle with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, but as a conductor he eschews Harnoncourt's risk-taking in favour of a more classical approach: this doesn't sound like music intent on breaking boundaries. Too often the Camerata lacks energy and edge; string tone is thin. The upside is that the phrasing is sweet, notably so in the slow movement of the Seventh Symphony. In such a competitive field, more is required - and Järvi provides it. His readings, with a chamber orchestra no bigger than Boyd's, are weighty but nimble, energetic and refined, stylish and undogmatic. Revealing, too: in Järvi's hands the First and Fifth Symphonies lie closer to each other than tradition suggests. He and his superior orchestra crown this CD with an exemplary transition into the finale of the Fifth, passing with flying colours one of the key tests of the Beethoven canon. On this reckoning they deserve their invitation to give a complete Beethoven cycle at the 2009 Salzburg festival.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pianist Goodyear, Järvi and the CSO Kick Off Bartok Project Splendidly

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Jan 10, 2009
Stewart Goodyear

It was, of course, pure coincidence that Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra opened their first concert of 2009 with Haydn’s Symphony No. 82, subtitled the “Bear.”   But what a commentary on the state of the economy. It was a wholly amiable, even cuddly bear, so one can hope the stock market will play out similarly in the future. The concert had historical resonance for the CSO, since it featured Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 1, given its U.S. premiere by the CSO led by Fritz Reiner on tour at Carnegie Hall in 1928.  Bartok himself was at the keyboard, as he was when the Concerto was repeated later at Emery Auditorium in Cincinnati. 
Friday’s pianist was the remarkable Stewart Goodyear in the first performance of the work on CSO concerts since 1982, when pianist Malcolm Frager was guest artist with CSO associate conductor Bernard Rubenstein. The concert closed with Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”).

Bartok’s First Concerto is motivic, percussive and quite taxing for both pianist and orchestra.  It was a true collaborative effort, and Canadian born Goodyear and the CSO were well matched to each other.  Piano and timpani pounded out the opening bars, setting the stage for a horn motif right out of Stravinsky’s “Rite Spring.”  There was lots of imitative counterpoint, with piccolo and woodwind fillips echoing the piano at one point and lots of scalar motion creating a rather savage effect.  The Andante, an example of Bartok’s famous “night music,” is set for piano, percussion and winds.  It began softly, with sparse textures, just piano and percussion, before the winds entered to a soft tramping by Goodyear on piano and a kind of march that billowed a bit before subsiding at the end. The concluding Allegro molto followed without a pause, taking off on drumbeats and trombone slides and setting up quite a ruckus.  Goodyear sped over the keys and the CSO met him parry for joust in an exciting engagement of forces. Järvi, who led with zest, gave the members of CSO individual bows along with Goodyear, who earned a hearty ovation.

It was the beginning of a three-month Bartok Project by Järvi and the CSO, comprising four CSO concerts and one CSO Chamber Players concert and a multi-media presentation, “Bartok Revealed,” at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music with keynote speakers Joel Hoffman and Douglas Knehans.  Music to be heard will be Bartok’s “Dance Suite,” “Two Portraits,” “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta” (CSO) and Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (Chamber Players).  Further information may be found at 

Haydn’s “Bear,” so-called because the final movement of the symphony reminded someone of the folk-like music heard in shows and street fairs featuring dancing bears, was a gem to open the concert.  Järvi was at his musical and conductorial best, giving a subtle corporeal dimension to the music with scooping gestures of his arm and by hunching his shoulders and bouncing lightly on the podium. Textures and colors were just right and phrasing was exquisite.  The second movement, an Allegretto theme and variations, began with a feather-like statement of the opening phrase answered by an assertive response. The graceful Minuet was followed by a delightful Vivace finale with what’s this?  a drone and a merry melody as of Scottish highland vintage.  The CSO winds sparkled, with silver-edged horns on top, wide dynamic contrasts and a drone reinforced by horns and timpani at the end.  Definitely not your average bear (apologies to Hanna-Barberra). 

Robert Schumann’s “Spring” Symphony was composed quickly in mid-winter, when he was in love and anxiously awaiting Spring.  Järvi gave it an expansive opening fanfare (singable to the words of the poem that gave Schuman his inspiration for the symphony) followed by a wintry blast and a brisk Allegro molto vivace, as if to welcome the season’s arrival.  The violins skittered nimbly, but to this listener some of the elan was missing. The Larghetto was lovely and quite romantic but, again, with a palpable tinge of seriousness.  The Scherzo was quite brisk, almost impatient at times, a feeling that continued into the final Allegro animato e grazioso.  The strings stumbled a bit at one point (a transitional moment) but Järvi had fun with the movement and overall, it had a winning impetuosity quite compatible with that of a young man in love.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


January 10, 2009

Counterintuitive program; surprising synergy

By Janelle Gelfand • • 

Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra launched 2009 with a concert of music spanning three centuries. Under Järvi's baton, each work was full of surprises, and each performance was more invigorating than the last.

On paper, it might not have looked like it would work together: Haydn's Symphony No. 82, "The Bear," Bartok's rarely played Piano Concerto No. 1, and Schumann's Symphony No. 1, "Spring." But each work complemented the others wonderfully, from the brisk wake-up call of the Haydn, to the powerhouse performance of Bartok by Stewart Goodyear, and finally, an effervescent reading of the "Spring" Symphony.

Schumann's "Spring" Symphony will be remembered as one of the great performances of the season. From the brass fanfare that began the spellbinding introduction, the symphony's four movements unfolded in one beautifully shaped, energized and inspired arc. It was a stunning display of the expressive ability of this orchestra.

Järvi's tempos pushed ahead; the first movement was a seat-of-your-pants vivace. But the effect was refreshing, and the musicians responded with superb playing. The conductor led with affection, and every note was bursting with color. There was lightness in the strings, chortling winds, and tremendous warmth and virtuosity in the brass - notably the great horn fanfare in the finale (Elizabeth Freimuth and Lisa Conway).

Bartok played his first Piano Concerto as soloist with the CSO in 1928. It is rhythmic, driving and powerful - and an endurance test for the pianist. But it is also full of folk music and interesting rhythms. Calling for a large, colorful orchestra, it is showpiece for them as well as for the pianist.

Fortunately, Goodyear, a Toronto native, possesses a spectacular technique, but more than that, he is a pianist of depth, intelligence and lyricism. No matter how punishing Bartok's percussive pianistic figures became, the pianist's playing was insightful and lyrical. He barely broke a sweat, even when his hands were a blur as he flew through parallel octave runs and fistfuls of difficult figures, up and down the keyboard.

But he was also a master of touch and tone in softer passages, such as the exotic folk tune of the first movement, played entirely on the black keys, and the mysterious slow movement, with its angular, austere melody.

Järvi and the orchestra were perfectly in synch and provided wonderful effects - brilliant energy in the first movement, and chamber-like playing in the second. It was a study in contrasts, both brutal and beautiful.

Goodyear tackled the impossibly driving tempo of the finale with a burst of energy. It was a tour de force of artistry, and he looked up, as if surprised, when it ended.

The concert repeats at 8 p.m. today in Music Hall. 513-381-3300, What did you think? Review this concert at Cincinnati.Com/Entertainment.