Monday, March 29, 2010

Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony a Unity

Mary Ellen Hutton
March 27, 2010

Friday morning’s Cincinnati Symphony concert at Music Hall was a stunning demonstration of corporate virtuosity – as well it should be, with an all-orchestral program.

The star of the show was the CSO, and it shone all the brighter for the leader on the podium, music director Paavo Järvi. In their nine years together, Järvi and the CSO have become a unity. The empathy and communication between them is so profound that when he gives a signal, it is as if he is producing the sound himself. The orchestra is truly his instrument.

The program, entitled “Musical Seduction,” was well chosen to exemplify this. Not only did the music have to do with seduction in a literal, programmatic sense, but the way in which it was performed was -- to use an even stronger word -- ravishing.

Opening number was Mozart’s Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” which deals with intrigues in a Turkish harem. Paul Dukas’ tone poem “La Peri” concerns a Persian myth about a monarch who seeks the flower of immortality, only to find it on the bosom of a beautiful fairy whose charms ensure that he does not get it. Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” is based on “Tales of the Arabian Nights” in which a sultan’s wife forestalls her post-bridal execution by telling him stories -- a kind of literary seduction. Each of these colorful works, and the 100 musicians who performed them, embodied the splendor of the symphony orchestra and the power of music to enrich, ennoble and transform.

Järvi took Mozart’s Overture at a light-footed, lightning-fast clip. Textures were pellucid, ensemble was pinpoint, and percussionists Richard Jensen, Bill Platt and David Fishlock applied bass drum, cymbal and triangle expertly to give the music its delightful Turkish flavor.

Dukas’ “La Peri” (“The Fairy”) is a rare product of the famously self-critical composer who destroyed much of what he wrote. As its premiere in 1912, it was preceded by a two-minute Fanfare, which Järvi repeated here. It made a crisp, sonorous introduction, with the CSO brasses standing in a row behind the orchestra. “La Peri” itself had an eerie beginning, momentarily reminiscent of the opening of his famous “Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” It soon turned lush, with alluring melody and moments of surging passion. The Peri took wing (on Joan Voorhees’ agile piccolo?) and the music subsided into lamentation and a final, pale echo of brass, as the king succumbed to his mortality.

“Scheherazade” is one of the all-time favorites of the symphonic repertoire, as well as a showpiece for the solo violin. Concertmaster Timothy Lees, as the voice of Scheherazade, filled his lines with nuance and perfume, rendering an irresistible image of the woman who lived to be a legend instead of a one-night stand dispatched on the executioner’s block. "Sinbad’s Ship" in part one of the suite rocked almost theatrically (aided buoyantly by principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn).

Part two, “The Tale of Prince Kalendar,” began with Gillian Benet Sella channeling Jarvi’s gestures with uncanny precision. Everything about this movement was sexy, the CSO woodwinds with sinuous, cadenza-like moments (principal clarinetist Richard Hawley and principal bassoonist William Winstead) and neat handoffs, one to another. The CSO is blessed with wind players who, individually and as body, play with consummate skill and something even more rarely encountered -- even among the world’s big-name orchestras -- character. You find yourself hanging on every note.

Speaking of character, principal flutist Randolph Bowman’s ascending and descending scales in “The Young Prince and the Princess” conjured a lovely image and its reflection in the water. Lees’ cadenza conveyed both tenderness and passion, and principal hornist Elizabeth Freimuth floated a soft, golden solo at the end.

The final section, “Festival at Bagdad, The Sea and The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock,” brought the brasses strongly to the fore. The trumpets’ rapid staccato, twice repeated, opened onto a great plateau of sound, held to thrilling effect by Järvi. The trombones soared here, with the winds whistling above, for one of the big moments of the work.

Lees’ last solo was transcendentally beautiful, ending on a long-held, dream-like harmonic as the sultan succumbs to Scheherazade’s charms, her tales and finally, sleep.

The audience was carried away, rewarding Järvi and musicians with lusty bravos and sustained applause.

Friday, March 26, 2010

CSO, soloists shine again with "Scheherazade"

Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
March 26, 2010

You’ll never hear the soloists of a great orchestra displayed any better than they were in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s “Scheherazade,” performed Thursday night in Music Hall.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite based on the tales of “The Thousand and One Arabian Nights” placed concertmaster Timothy Lees in the spotlight. But it was also a showpiece for many other orchestral soloists, and it was all delivered with a freshness of spirit and lyrical beauty that lingered long after the performance ended.

With Paavo Järvi on the podium, this was a gem of a program on exotic themes, which brought back rarely heard ballet music by Paul Dukas – “La Peri” – as well as Mozart’s scintillating Overture to “The Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade,” which came after intermission, is a suite of fantastic tone pictures, ranging from the sea and Sinbad’s ship to a love story of a prince and princess. It is the solo violinist who plays the role of the sultana Scheherazade, who weaves her magnificent tales for the murderous sultan, thus saving her own life.

Lees, 41, who joined the orchestra in 1998, was masterful as he wove his narrative connecting each tale. He projected a sweet, pure tone on his instrument, a J.B. Vuillaume violin, and summoned a range of emotion from his beguiling opening, to moments of intensity and passion. He communicated wonderfully with his colleagues, who added their own moments of color and expressive beauty.

Järvi’s canvas was seamless and gripping, and he interpreted the magical score with a combination of feeling and flair. He created drama in the sweeping waves in “The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship,” and pulled back to allow for stunning dialogues between soloists. He allowed the winds complete freedom in the second movement, “The Tale of Prince Kalendar,” which gave it an improvisatory flavor.

Clarinetist Richie Hawley provided a soaring cadenza, and harpist Gillian Benet Sella provided her own impressive flourishes.

It was all vividly portrayed. The orchestra played with enormous precision and virtuosity, yet there was also a lightness and transparency to the strings that made this truly memorable.

Dukas’ “La Peri,” written to a tale from Persian mythology, was substituted after the Norwegian cellist Truls Mork was forced to cancel his entire season due to illness. It proved to be a fine choice.

The work opened with a terrific brass fanfare. The 11 brass players, who stood, delivered a superb, bold curtain-raiser to the ballet score, which was composed for the Ballets Russes. Dukas is more known for his tone painting, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and immediately, one was in a familiar sound world that was magical, delicate and colorful. Järvi was a master at creating sumptuous textures while managing to illuminate subtle details, and the orchestra responded with beautiful playing.

Mozart’s comic opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio,” is an example of Viennese interest in the “exotic” Turkish culture. The Overture made a witty, exuberant opening.
It’s another winner.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thibaudet, Järvi, CSO Magnifique

Mary Ellen Hutton
March 13, 2010

If you think you’ve heard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, think again.

As performed by guest artist Jean Yves Thibaudet with Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Friday night at Music Hall, it was a completely new experience.

This was Grieg with the cobwebs stripped away. Thibaudet made this clear in his dramatic opening statement -- a sweeping pronouncement cast in bold primary colors. It seemed calculated to pin his listeners’ ears to the wall – and it did. Järvi and the CSO followed with an exquisitely lyrical opening theme that “cushioned the blow" with sweetness. Yet there was nothing mushy or slushy here, just precise affect. Thibaudet’s power-charged cadenza was followed by a true “Paavo Järvi moment,” a closing statement unlike any I have ever heard in this Concerto. It was a blend of sonority that beggars words, an otherworldly serenity within a texture that “felt” like taffeta.

Thibaudet kept the contrast going in the Adagio. Jarvi’s lovely, romantic introduction was taken up by Thibaudet, who then gave a sudden surge to the movement’s contrasting theme. The final movement conjured trolls as well as Norwegian vistas, with associate principal flutist Jasmine Choi sounding the lustrous theme that intrudes on the happy goings-on. Soloist and conductor worked together with hair’s breadth precision throughout. At the end, the music rolled like a wave over Music Hall and earned hearty bravos, a standing ovation, a dozen roses for Thibaudet and a gentle encore, Brahms’ Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2.

There was much more on this enlightening program, which opened with 94-year-old Henri Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 1 and closed with the Symphony in C Major by Georges Bizet. Dutilleux’s 1951 Symphony was a CSO premiere. Composed when he was all of 17, Bizet’s only symphony has not been heard on CSO Music Hall concerts since 1989. In all, it made for a hugely engaging program, a trademark Järvi mix of the known-and-loved, the known-but-less-heard and a touch of spice.

To call Dutilleux a touch of spice does him no justice, however. His half-hour Symphony is full of ear-teasing invention and gave the concert much of its “Magnifique” billing. Dutilleux has had an inning in Cincinnati over the past two seasons. The visiting Juilliard String Quartet performed his string quartet “Ainsi la nuit” in February, 2009 to an enthusiastic reception. Both it and his Symphony No. 1 are masterpieces and assured of taking their place in the standard repertoire. In fact, anyone who may have been “frightened” by the little known Frenchman’s name on the program should take tonight or Sunday’s repeat as a golden opportunity to get to know him.

Järvi, who becomes music director of the Orchestre de Paris next season, has been much engaged with French repertoire recently, and rightly so. The CSO has profited, too, and they performed Dutilleux’ Symphony with considerable skill and conviction. The opening bars called to mind the Passacaglia of Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra, another CSO premiere performed by Järvi and the CSO at Music Hall and Carnegie Hall last month (a Passacaglia is a variations form utilizing a continuously repeated bass line).

Dutilleux opens his Symphony with a Passacaille and like Lutoslawski’s, it begins with the theme uttered softly pizzicato by the double basses. The composer’s coloristic arsenal is set off immediately with repetitions handed up through the orchestra, a large one with four percussionists, celesta, piano, harp and a full complement of strings, winds and brasses. Influences of Bartok, jazz and Stravinsky made themselves felt here, too, but the most transforming moment came after the big climax, where the music suddenly flew off into a kind of starry, ethereal space with glitters of harp, xylophone and celesta (welcome to the Milky Way).

The Scherzo, which followed without a break, took off on muted, scurrying strings, working up its own seismic tremors, interspersed with swirls of melody. The music ran up to a final, exhilarating major chord. The third movement, Intermezzo, seemed the most “French” of the four, with a wealth of tone color, long lines of melody and an occasional lounge-lizard feel. Heather MacPhail on celesta and Michael Chertock on piano shared an extraordinary moment together as it wound down at the end.

Perhaps most engrossing of all was the finale, a variations movement with subject matter derived from the Scherzo. It began with huge chords, then exposed myriad colors, kind of like stripping away layers of paint. But just as you felt you are “getting it,” it moved on to yet another take. You could detect echoes of Stravinsky (“Rite of Spring”), even a Messiaen-ic moment or two, but above all, you could bask in a wealth of instrumental beauty recalling the French legacy of Berlioz, Ravel and Debussy. It ended softly and graciously, with perfect decorum.

Bizet, composer of “Carmen,” doubtless the world’s most popular opera, wrote one of its most engaging symphonies, too, though it wasn’t discovered until 60 years after his death (at 37, before he knew how immortal “Carmen” would be). The CSO delivered a polished and spirited performance, with precise ensemble (kudos to the strings) and excellent solo work. Principal oboist Dwight Parry shone brightly in the Adagio, where Bizet’s gift for song is clearly evident.

Järvi has already recorded this work as part of an all-Bizet disc with the Orchestre de Paris. His affection for it was shown in this delightful performance by the CSO. The Allegro vivo was bright, cheerful and quite vivo indeed. The big string episode in the Adagio soared to the heights, with a cats’ paw transition to the movement’s gentle beginning. The interface between raucous and sweet was well drawn in the dance-like third movement, where the violas’ brawny drone opened the Trio section. The perpetual motion finale was just plain fun, simultaneously suave and a barrel of laughs. Järvi signed off with a characteristic body twist and flick of the baton.

Repeats are 8 p.m. tonight (Saturday) and 3 p.m. Sunday at Music Hall. Tickets are $10-$95 (discounts for students and seniors, 62 and over). Tonight is also “Pride Night” at the CSO in honor of the LGBT community, with special pricing and a backstage party immediately following the concert. There will be live music, food and drink and appearances by Thibaudet and Järvi. Tickets for the concert and the party are $50, $20 for students.

The March 14 Sunday matinee is shortened, with the Grieg Concerto and Dutilleux Symphony (no intermission) followed by an interactive “talk back” session by Järvi and Thibaudet moderated by Suzanne Bona of WGUC-FM. As part of the American Symphony Orchestra League’s “Feeding America” initiative, all tickets are $10 with a canned food donation to benefit the Freestore Foodbank.

Pianist Thibaudet thrills with romantic flourishes

Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer
March 12, 2010

Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is a national treasure of France. A frequent visitor to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Thibaudet brought an unexpected calling card this time: Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. With his combination of showmanship, artistry and daredevil technique, this was Grieg like you have never heard it before.

Thibaudet nearly stole the show in Friday’s Gallic-flavored concert, even treating the audience to a rare encore (Brahms’ Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2). But there was much to savor in the two French symphonies that framed the concerto, as well, both exuberantly led by Paavo Järvi.

Grieg’s Piano Concerto, which came after intermission, is one of the gems of the piano literature. One might have guessed, from Thibaudet’s opening flourish, with his head thrown back, that this would be a reading in the grand romantic tradition.

And so it was. Thibaudet put his magical touch to work in the poetic themes, and brought dash and excitement to the fireworks. The first movement’s cadenza was thrilling and splashy, like a joyride with the wind in your face. Fresh and bracing, it inspired bravos before the piece concluded.

The slow movement was beautifully felt, and the pianist’s dialogue with Thomas Sherwood on French horn was one of many glowing moments in this collaboration. But no one seemed to be having more fun than Thibaudet, who communicated sheer joy in the finale, as he balanced romantic themes against electrifying double-octave runs and cascades of virtuosities – all performed without breaking a sweat.

Järvi anticipated every note, and the orchestra supported the pianist wonderfully. His Brahms was a sumptuous contrast, all about rich sonority and ringing tone.

The evening opened with the Cincinnati Symphony’s first performance of Henri Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 1, written in 1951. A work in four movements, this was also something unexpected, echoing forebears such as Debussy and Berlioz, but also evoking ‘50s film music. The first movement, a passacaglia, unfolded in varied moods and colors, with bold brass and flourishes in the percussion.

Järvi went for clarity, precise attack and unflagging intensity. The scherzo had a kind of driving power, as the strings scurried at a frenzied tempo, and themes ricocheted between the instruments. The least convincing movement was the third, which sagged, but the finale was magical, with sweeping, impressionistic colors in the strings, finally leaving the listener with a beautifully shaped violin solo (Timothy Lees).

It has been two decades since the orchestra has played Bizet’s Symphony No. 1 in C Major, which concluded the evening. Even though the composer wrote it at age 17, Järvi made it apparent that this is the composer of “Carmen.” The operatic touches were undeniable – the singing quality of the oboe (Dwight Parry) the lush, romantic melodies in the strings, the echoing horn calls, and the red-blooded scherzo. This, too, was fresh and galvanizing, and it was brilliantly played and conducted.

Don’t miss it.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pariis ootab Paavo Järvit oma esindusorkestri ette

11.03.2010 19:40

Tiina Väljaste, Pariis, kultuuriajakirjanik

Kontserdihooaeg 2010/11 tuleb nii dirigent Paavo Järvile kui Pariisi orkestrile eriline. Järvist saab kolmeks aastaks muusikakollektiivi peadirigent.

Eestlastel on, mille üle rõõmu maitsta. Koostöö vilju saame peagi maitsta ka meie. Eesti Rahvusmeeskoor sõidab septembris hooaja avakontserdiks Pariisi, et esitada võimsahäälselt Jean Sibeliuse sümfooniat «Kullervo». Novembris plaanitakse 2400 kohaga kontserdisaalis Salle Pleyelis Arvo Pärdi uue heliteose «Silhouette» maailma esiettekannet.

Hooajal 2011/12 soovib dirigent koos orkestriga Eestisse esinema tulla. Nii et senisest tihedamad sidemed kahe maa muusika ja muusikute vahel.

Järvi võtab dirigendikepi üle sakslaselt Christoph Eschenba­chilt, kes juhtis l’Orchestre de Paris’d kümme aastat. Varem on kuulsat kollektiivi juhtinud Georg Solti, Daniel Barenboim ja Herbert von Karajan, keda The New York Times on tituleerinud maailma tuntuimaks dirigendiks ja üheks klassikalise muusika mõjuvõimsamaks persooniks.

8. märtsil pressikonverentsil Pariisis ütles Paavo Järvi, et loodetavasti kujuneb tema koostöö orkestriga loominguliselt otsinguliseks ja edukaks. «Ma ei kavatse peale suruda oma visiooni,» lisas ta, «esialgu kavatsen kuulata muusikuid ja kuulata orkestrit.»

Ometi on uue juhi maitse juba programmi lehitsedes tunda: palju põhjamaade muusikat – Sibelius, Grieg, Pärt; märkimisväärselt ka vene heliloojate töid – Rahmaninov, Šostakovitš, Prokofjev.

Hooaeg tuleb eklektiline, lubas Järvi, põhjendades: «Armastan žanrilist mitmekesisust: klassika, avangard, minimalism, spiritualism... Nii tugeval muusikakollektiivil ei tohiks olla žanripiire.»

Vahva taustaloo jutustas dirigent Pärdi uudisteose valmimise kohta: «Kuuldes, et asun juhatama Pariisi orkestrit, mainis helilooja, et talle meeldiks luua midagi teemakohast. Kui tal külas käisin, hakkas laual silma kuhi pakse raamatuid fotode ja dokumentidega – kõik Eiffeli tornist ja selle loojast Gustave Eiffelist.

Pärt ütles, et soovib pühendada teose Eiffelile ja seeläbi Pariisi linnale ning komponeerida läbipaistvust ja õhulisust, milles ei puudu vägevus ja tugevus.»
Jääme lootma, et ka kodupublik ei pea armastatud helilooja Eiffeli-nägemust kaua ootama.

Kui palusin Paavo Järvil iseloomustada Pariisi sümfooniaorkestrit ühe sõnaga, ütles ta kaks: solistide orkester. Ühest küljest väljendab see hinnangut muusikute tasemele. Teisalt seab see orkestrijuhile lisaootusi – sulatada isepäised andekad isiksused kõrgetasemeliseks muusikaorganismiks.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Release on EMI

Brahms : Piano Concerto no.2 - Piano works opus 76
Nicholas Angelich, Paavo Järvi, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
Catalogue Number

To order:

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral”

Paavo Jarvi embraces the original metronome marks for this inscription, a wild exquisitely chaste reading of the first order.

Published on March 10, 2010

Audiophile Audition (

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” - Christiane Oelze, soprano/Petra Lang, alto/Klaus Florian Vogt, tenor/Matthias Goerne, baritone/Deutsche Kammerchor/The Deutschephilharmonie Bremen/Paavo Jarvi

RCA multichannel SACD 88697576062, 63:55 ****:

Extending his Beethoven cycle to the Ninth Symphony (rec. 22-26 August 2008 and 20-22 December 2008), Paavo Jarvi embraces the original metronome marks for this inscription, placing him among those conductors--like David Zinman and Nikolaus Harnoncourt--who embrace historical and modern perspectives, that thinning of the musical texture that produces a more “authentic” sound. The microphone placement, so as to include the tympani’s (Stefan Rapp) vivacious part in the first movement, adds an energetic dimension--along with the accelerando strings--quite galvanizing in its nervous clarity. String and trumpet figures leap out in asymmetrical units, rife with volcanic fury. The flute and bassoon work equally compels our attention, as the interior lines contribute to the harmonic tension that transpires on a brisk cosmic plane.

The rhythmic ambiguity of the second movement Scherzo comes quite alive in this New Urtext Edition, the pungent beats convincing us that quadruple time rules in the midst of triple meter. Paradoxically, the timbres, moving through the woodwinds, produce a curiously intimate effect despite the often raging fury of the leaping figures. Having opened with a fugato, Beethoven often utilizes all sorts of sonic separation to rivet us to the otherwise obstinate nature of his musical materials. Wicked attacks and sfozati urge us to a state of heart-pounding involvement, the D Major trio then exposing the trombones along with the mischievous bassoon. Nice oboe work here. The legato aspects of the “chorale” tune sail by diaphanously, without sentimentality. The da capo then reverberates with even more crisp force, almost jabbing the staccato notes into our eyes as well as our ears.

The transparent spaciousness of the Deutsche Philharmonie allows the three key centers of the slow movement--B-flat Major, D Major, and G Major--to resonate in lofty, even fluttering harmonies as the double theme and variations unfolds in majestic repose. The flutes work their magic along with no less plastic alchemy from the violas. The harmonic motion remains animated, the 12/8 sequences urged forward relentlessly, a tad manic. The “dry” approach to the clarion trumpet sequence makes for a startling contrast to the pedaled string line that creates a wiry tension to the resurgence of the three-beat tattoo of resigned heroism and lyric outpouring that resolves this exquisite movement.

Attacca to the whirlwind Presto that opens this movement, what Charles Rosen calls “a symphony within a symphony.” The spare vibrato makes for a “dry recitative” response from the cellos and basses as they systematically reject the former motifs as appropriate to the new movement’s intentions. Once the main theme wins acceptance, the cellos and basses (and accompanying woodwinds) amplify the tune in a self-effacing but dramatically fluid manner, a dancing, graceful chorale. At bar 208 an elegant Matthias Goerne quite begs our pardon as he dismisses “absolute” music for an overt plea for brotherhood. The vocal quartet projects its own luminosity, pointedly ardent, the diction etched in ringing German. A glorious epiphany of sound and--Attacca--to the Scherzo a la janissary march and tenor Vogt’s spirited ode to joy. Is Wagner’s Loki present here? A fleet fugato transitions to the wonderful 6/8 variation of the main theme, the chorus and brass radiant. The Andante maestoso (bar 594) invokes the slow movement’s decided air of mysticism. The colors point directly to passages in the Brahms Requiem. The transcendent vocal counterpoint that begins at bar 654--Allegro energico, sempre ben marcato--provokes celestial metaphors, the effect quite equal to my original heartbreak at this music at the hands of Jascha Horenstein. Light feet and inspired voices take us to final pages (at bar 763), another reminder that all men are brothers in hushed yearning tones haunted by compassionate magic. Soprano Oelze’s voice sails into the stratosphere while Goerne’s plangent bass tones echo the humanity we had in his teacher Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Another janissary rush to judgment, and this wild music ends, spectacular, breath-taking, ineffable in its ever-renewed totality of feeling.

-- Gary Lemco

Original post here:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Mad About Music: Paavo Järvi

Airs on the first Sunday of every month at 9pm on 105.9 FM WQKR, The Classical Music Station of NYC

Paavo Järvi

Sunday, March 10, 2010

Paavo Järvi serves as music director of no fewer than four orchestras – the Cincinnati Symphony, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, and later this year L’Orchestre de Paris. Along with acclaimed concerts, he has won many awards for his recordings -- not bad for someone who started out as a drummer in a rock band.

In a wide-ranging conversation with host Gilbert Kaplan, Järvi explains:

- Why he admires conductor Carlos Kleiber and Wilhelm Furtwängler
- Why Haydn is his favorite composer
- Why a music director in America has to spend more time on fundraising than on music
- Why some of Richard Strauss’s major works, Alpine Symphony and Heldenleben, “are empty” and “lack substance”.
- Why in his fantasy, he would be a composer

His music selections include works by Beethoven, Verdi, Haydn, Bach and Tüür.

Click here to read a transcript of the interview.

Beethoven mit dem Ferrari der Orchester

Ruhr Nachrichten
Von Julia Gaß am 5. März 2010 18:50 Uhr

Die Beethoven-Sinfonien mit Paavo Järvi am Pult waren und sind nun auch auf CD eine Sensation: so frech und rasant sind die Tempi, so energiegeladen, transparent und spannungsvoll der Galopp durch die Musik.

Am Donnerstag spielte die Kammerphilharmonie im Dortmunder Konzerthaus das Publikum mit Beethovens Zweiter, Fünfter und der dritten Leonoren-Ouvertüre in einen Rausch.

Wie ein Rennpferd vor dem Start begannen die Bremer die Ouvertüre - mit versammelter Kraft, hochkonzentriert und einer zum Bersten gespannten Dynamik. Und dann ließ der 47-jährige Estländer seine 50 Musiker von der Leine, ließ sie lospreschen, Feuer entfachen, Herzblut zeigen. So mitreißend, mit so viel Tiefenschärfe Beethoven zu hören, macht einfach Spaß.

Ein Hörvergnügen Aber Järvis Orchester fegt nicht einfach so durch die Musik. Sie gab ihr auch in der zweiten Sinfonie Kontur, Kraft und Schärfe. Makellos spielt das Orchester nicht, aber das spielt keine Rolle, weil man spürt, dass da Streicher und Bläser sitzen, denen Musizieren Spaß macht, die mitreißen, Beethoven quicklebendig klingen lassen und mit den rasanten Tempi viel riskieren (müssen).

Zigmal werden die Bremer ihren Parade-Beethoven gespielt haben, auch die Fünfte, das populärste Klassik-Werk. Im Konzerthaus erklang die Sinfonie übrigens zum ersten Mal. Und mit den Bremern wie gerade erfunden, sehr authentisch. Auf CD hat Järvi ein flotteres Tempo angeschlagen, im Konzerthaus klang die Fünfte besonders im zweiten Satz mehr nach "Heroica", aber überaus farbig, kantig, knackig - ein Hörerlebnis und -vergnügen.

"Valse triste"

Alle Brahms-Sinfonien hat die Kammerphilharmonie in der Eröffnungssaison des Konzerthauses gespielt, zurzeit widmet sie sich Schumann. Wie differenziert Romantik unter Järvi klingt, hörte man in der Zugabe, Sibelius' "Valse triste", dem Zuckerbrot für das Bremer Rennpferd.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Concert Review/ Radu Lupu & Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra & Paavo Järvi

By Patrick P.L. Lam
March 6th 2010

Live at Carnegie Hall, New York City, February 15th 2010.
Ravel: Ma Mère l’Oye Suite (1908-1910; orch 1910)
Bartók: Piano Concerto No.3 (1945)
Bach-Webern: Ricercare No.2 from The Musical Offering (1747; orch. Webern. 1934-1935)
Lutoslawski: Concerto for Orchestra (1950-1954)

Appearing as part of their annual guest appearance at the Carnegie Hall, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is one of America’s proudest orchestras currently on the international map. Led by Estonian-conductor Paavo Järvi, who recently announced his departure as music director of the CSO beginning in June 2011, is a well-liked persona by his musicians, generous in nurturing young-and-rising artists, and with the use of the baton, generates a sort of magnetism that sways audience from any distractions except music on the podium. On this evening celebrating Amercia’s President’s Day, Järvi and the CSO brings with them from Cincinnati a gift disguised in a multi-varied music programme: Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye Suite, Bach’s Ricercare No.2 from The Musical Offering arranged by Webern and Lutoslawski’s post-World War II magnum opus, Concerto for Orchestra. This would generally had been sufficient to please the subscriber audience. However, to make concert into an extra special evening, Bartók’s Piano Concerto No.3 was featured, with a soloist that performs with sublime beauty – Radu Lupu.

Based on five fairy tales, Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye Suite demonstrates the composer’s exceptional talent writing music for the children. This claim can be further supported by the success of another musical fantasy written by the composer a decade later in L'enfant et les sortilèges. The CSO opened with immediate impact and brilliance in the first Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty, with the sweet timbre of the woodwinds that resembled a child-like innocence. In the subsequent two tales, Tom Thumb and Laideronnette-Empress of the Pagodas, Järvi demonstrated himself as a conductor who is versatile with the language and vast expanse of Impressionism. Visually, it was a real pleasure to see his conducting - how his baton communicated with his musicians to achieve clarity of expression in order to develop the delicate, pointillist touch of Oriental colors. In the Conversations of Beauty and Beast, “Beauty” is represented by the clarinet, while the “Beast” is represented by the contrabassoon, and together, they conversed and blended together with ethnic colors. Then finally, in The Enchanted Garden, Järvi once more brought aestheticism onto the forefront, with the beautiful and adagio melody brought to full display by the CSO. Throughout this overall performance, the percussion emerged like beams of light that refracted into a million of lustrous colors.

Bartók s Piano Concerto No.3 is a “new addition” to many Lupu fans. Nonetheless, the interpretation that stemmed from the Romanian pianist was one of masterly insights, coupled by an overall rhythmic integrity and demonstration in self-assurance. Written during the summer of 1945, at a time when Bartók himself was succumbed to serious illness, the Piano Concerto No.3 was eventually performed by fellow countryman György Sándor and the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy in 1946. Mr. Lupu gave a beautiful opening melody that started off the Allegretto movement, his fingers danced along with the elements of folk themes that mingled with tastes in the classical tradition. Järvi, on the other hand, was instrumental in accommodating Mr. Lupu with the needed platform to bring about the music to its whimsical ending. The Adagio religioso movement was essentially a hymn of praise coming from Mr. Lupu – and how serene and vocational was the playing. Coupled by the ambiance of the Carnegie Hall, it created the necessary atmosphere to sustain the simple chords echoed on the piano. The solo dialogue between the CSO winds and xylophone, appearing later in this movement, reminded audience to the references that Bartók based his writings on Beethoven's String Quartet in A Minor Op.132. The Finale was an outpour of rich rhythmic and melodic ideas, fostered by a busy dialogue between Mr. Lupu and the CSO musicians. Together, the two forces brought this final movement to a delightful close.

Following intermission, Bach`s Ricercare No.2 from the Musical Offerings provided a musical painting in Baroque style disguised under a highly original arrangement by Anton Webern in 20th century writing. Immediately recognizable, the strings of the CSO soared with a tonal sonority that was complemented harmoniously by the CSO wind players. Together, they joined in unison to transform this work into a canvass of orchestral beauty. But, arguably, the highlight to this evening's concert was saved till the very end with Lutoslawski's highly-demanding Concerto for Orchestra. What is foremost required in this piece, aside from the need of an extended orchestra, is discipline and unity amongst the players in order to deliver the dense counterpoint and rhythmic subtlety to their fullest effects. This proved not to be a challenge at all for Järvi and his CSO musicians, for as sophisticated a work of art as this piece may be, the musicians made one bold statements after the next to testify to all present that this was to be their tour de force piece.

Even without any prior knowledge to the underlying historical context behind this piece, the performance delivered by the CSO would have filled any “intellectual void” needed for an association with the post-World War II years. Having previously recorded this piece with the CSO, Järvi was a champion in his handling of the Intrada first movement, defined by a bed of string playing of raw energy and charged timpani playing. The Capriccio and Arioso in the second movement is in fact a Scherzo and Trio in disguised, and this was rendered by the CSO with remarkable clarity and vivid coloring. But the high-point came with the Passacaglia, Toccata and Chorale that defines the third movement. Here, the astonishing command of orchestral color, at times even to create a focused blur of sound, signified an Orchestra of utmost skill and mastery. As the music moves from the Toccata to the Chorale, so did most audience, finding themselves sitting closer and closer to the edge of their seats.

The build-up to the final climax was absolutely powerful and traumatic, analogous to a volcanic eruption that laid quiet in anticipation. It is therefore no surprise that the house was in heated-excitement when the music reached its triumphant close. This concert given by Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra witnessed a promise at birth that transcended into a triumph at close. It can't be more wonderful.