Monday, February 28, 2011

The son also rises
by Harry Rolnick

New York
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center
02/24/2011 - & Feb. 25, 26, March 1, 2011
Erkki-Sven Tüür: Aditus (New York Premiere)
Benjamin Britten: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 15
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony Number 5 in C Minor, Opus 67

Janine Jansen (Violin)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (Conductor)

Parent/child inheritance are not uncommon with composers (Bachs, Mozarts), violinists (the Oistrakhs) and pianists (the Serkins). But the success of Neeme and Paavo Järvi is the only example I know where two outstanding conductors are father and son.
Both share the same excitement on the platform (though father Neeme is understandably more sedate these days). Both have an affinity for Beethoven, and Paavo’s performance of the Fifth Symphony last night with the New York Philharmonic shared his father’s preference for Beethoven as tough, exciting, and fiercely muscular.
Obviously, both men take especial pride in their Estonian background, and have brought to international light some exceptional composers, like Arvo Pärt and Eduard Tubin. (Neeme had once recommended to a friend his son’s recording of Tubin as being the “perfect comforting music after a serious operation”.)
Last night, Paavo Järvi unveiled another Estonian composer, well known in his homeland but new to America. Yet the nine minutes of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Aditus (a word meaning, in the composer’s words, “approach, access, entrance, beginning, chance”) showed a daring and exciting craftsmanship in a stunningly colorful exercise.
Like so many others of his generation. . Tüür started as a rock keyboard-vocals man, then went to Tallinn Conservatory. Like his idol Frank Zappa, his love of rock later encompassed love of Renaissance and Baroque music, and while studying with Lepo Sumera, his music took a more modern turn.
It was in memory of Professor Sumera that he wrote Aditus, and I wold love to have space to explain Tüür’s exegesis on “vectorial…meta-language” music. This involves “a source code…a gene which, as it mutates and grows, connects the dots in the fabric of the whole work.”
His subsequent words are more specific, but Aditus, on first hearing, is a tense volcanic series of scales running up and down the orchestra (mainly in the brass). Those scales start in the first measure, become louder and louder, but never slow down or cease their tension. This, after all, was supposed to be a celebration of Tüür’s mentor, and the waves of sounds were as joyous as they were weaving on the cusp of hysteria.
Only in the final measures did the orchestra hush down to a softness, to a recognition, perhaps, that the man had died.
Even without the composer’s musical explanation, Advitus was a dazzhing introduction to his music, and Mr. Järvi got the Philharmonic to pump up their own excitement, making the “meta-language” meteoric.
Ironically, the second work, written 70 years before, also ended on a soft note after half an hour of pyrotechnical playing. In a concerto,an understated ending is unforgivable, and perhaps that is why Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto is played so rarely here. Yet in the hands of the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen and conductor Järvi, the piece had some truly vital moments.
Ms. Janine has proved in the past to be an most poetic performer, giving lyrical readings of Sibelius and Mozart concertos. The Britten Concerto was a tragic piece, influenced both by the terrible end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Second World War, but little of this comes through until the last two movements.
The whole work is dominated by a Spanish tapping rhythm. It is clever, possibly politically inspired, but could divert from the tragic meaning itself. Ms. Jansen played with lyrical finesse in the opening and the short Vivace, and in the devilish cadenza, she showed her command of the Stradivarius.
But after that cadenza, Messrs Jansen and Järvi rose up to the 26-year-old composer’s challenge. The only violin concerto passacaglia that compares–in inspiration, tragedy, development and emotional depth–is the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, I don’t know if Ms. Jansen plays this, but if so, I hope that she offers the same passion, the seamless lines and that glorious incandescent tone which she unveiled and played to the very last, soft and lingering notes.

Erkki-Sven Tüür ja Paavo Järvi on publiku ees Washingtonis ja New Yorgis

Eesti Päevaleht
by Priit Kuusk
26. veebruar, 2011

Helilooja Erkki-Sven Tüür viibis 24. veebruaril seoses oma autorikontserdiga Washingtonis ning jõudis eile New Yorki, kus tema orkestriteost „Aditus” dirigeerib Lincolni keskuses neljal õhtul Paavo Järvi.

24. veebruaril, Eesti Vabariigi aastapäeval (seda pidasid ka korraldajad silmas) toimus Washingtonis Erkki-Sven Tüüri loomingu õhtu, kus peategelaseks oli meie Uus Tallinna Trio koosseisus Harry Traksmann (viiul), Kaido Kelder (tšello) ja Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann (klaver). Õhtu avas aga Marianne Kõrveri meeleolukas ja meil menuga läinud dokumentaalfilm läinud aastast „Erkki-Sven Tüür: 7 etüüdi piltides”, mis oli USA-s esmalinastusel. Pärast kontserti käis Tüür publiku ees vestlemas.

Tüüri autoriõhtu korraldati Phillips Collectioni muuseumis tuntud Euroopa heliloojatele pühendatud sarjas. Ettekandele tulid eri koosseisudele loodud kammerpalad „Architectonics VII”, „Synergie”, „Dedication”, „Conversio” ja „Fata morgana”, mõned neist USA-s esmaettekandel.

24. veebruaril dirigeeris Paavo Järvi külalisena esimest õhtut kuulsa New Yorgi filharmoonia orkestri ees nende residentsis Lincolni keskuse Avery Fisher Hallis. Sama kava kordub neljal korral, veel eile, täna ning 1. märtsil. Selles on Järvi avateoseks valinud Erkki-Sven Tüüri orkestripala „Aditus” (2000), mille tollal 40-aastane helilooja on kirjutanud oma õpetaja Lepo Sumera mälestuseks.

Võime sageli mõelda, miks meie dirigendid ei juhata rohkem oma välismaistes kavades eesti muusikat. Kindlasti sõltub see ka korraldajaist, sest autor peab olema tuntud, et vältida läbikukkumist. Loomulikult saab ka dirigent teha valiku ja pakkumise oma parimal äranägemisel.

Veebruar on Erkki-Sven Tüürile olnud ettekannete poolest õnnelik. 3.–4. veebruaril kõlas tema akordionikontsert „Prophecy” Taanis, esitajaiks Mika Väyrynen ja Kopenhaageni Filharmoonikud Okko Kamu juhatusel, samadel päevadel mängis Turu filharmoonia orkester Juha Kangase käe all tema orkestripala „Lighthouse” („Majakas”). 13. veebruaril sündis Tüüri autorikava festivalil „Täiuslik vaikus” Tallinnas Mustpeade majas.

Veelgi tähelepanuväärsem tõotab esituste poolest tulla märts. Juba 1. märtsil mängib nimekas soome viiuldaja Pekka Kuusisto Dortmundi kontserdimajas Tüüri pala „Conversio”. Ja siis tulevad 8. sümfoonia Eesti esiettekanne Olari Eltsi juhatusel (4. märtsil), uus autorikava Tallinnas ja Tartus (10.–11. märtsil) Eesti filharmoonia kammerkoorilt koos Sinfonietta Rigaga Daniel Reussi käe all – selleks on loodud uus teos „Awakening” (maailmaesiettekanne); Kristjan Järvi juhatab 3. sümfooniat Århusis, Filharmoonia kammerkoor laulab Tüüri Daniel Reussi juhatusel Prantsusmaa festivalil „Arsenal” Metzis ning Andres Mustonen dirigeerib Klaverikontserti Brüsselis festivalil „Ars Musica”, kus selle esitavad nimekas soomlanna Laura Mikkola ja Tallinn Sinfonietta. Euroopas paljudelt festivalidelt tuntud Tüür pole tundmatu ka Ameerika mandril, kui meenutada festivale „Border Crossings” Torontos ja „Bang On A Can” New Yorgis, kus on tema muusikat mängitud.

Recreating a Bill of the Obscure and the Familiar

The New York Times
Music Reviez
by Allan Kozinn
February 25, 2011

The Dutch violinist Janine Jansen is making efficient use of her stay in New York. Mainly, she is in town as a guest of the New York Philharmonic, with which she played Britten’s Violin Concerto at Avery Fisher Hall on Thursday evening. She is also giving a recital at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday, between her last two Philharmonic appearances.

Both engagements have links to recent CDs by Ms. Jansen. She released a recording of the Britten in 2009, with Paavo Jarvi conducting, and as it happens, Mr. Jarvi is on the Philharmonic’s podium this week. And Ms. Jansen’s Poisson Rouge program draws largely on the French repertory she plays on her “Beau Soir” CD, released this week. (Both discs are on Decca.)

Ms. Jansen knows that the Britten concerto’s relative obscurity makes it a tough sell, and she noted in a recent interview that she had not known the work herself until an orchestra asked her to play it a decade or so ago, but that she had quickly come to love it. She made a strong case for it here, playing the bittersweet opening theme with a tightly centered, irresistibly beautiful tone and a sense of the music’s emotional depth that she maintained to the end.

Though this 1939 work poses technical challenges — passages in double-stops, some fairly quick, are plentiful — it is less about artifice and surface dazzle than intensity and foreboding. Ms. Jansen made that point consistently through her flexible coloration and carefully considered phrasing.

The Britten had its premiere at a New York Philharmonic concert in 1940, with John Barbirolli conducting and Antonio Brosa as the soloist. The bill that night also included Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and Mr. Jarvi recreated that juxtaposition here, giving the Fifth an unusually brisk, visceral, texturally transparent account.

A listener could quibble with his tempos, or with phrasing that could seem mannered at times (what happened to the fermata on the last note of the opening motto?), particularly when it seemed that some of these interpretive twists were driven by the pressure conductors feel to make this war horse of war horses sound fresh at any cost. But most such suspicions vanished as Mr. Jarvi’s account progressed. His tempos and balances came to seem workable and, finally, convincing. And when the orchestra met his challenges — in the magnificently crisp, precise performance of the winding cello line in the third movement, for example — the results were thrilling.

Mr. Jarvi opened his program with Erkki-Sven Tuur’s short, evocative “Aditus” (2000; revised 2002) an essay in opaque, brass-heavy, sustained chords that gradually melt into rhythmically varied, invitingly wiggly themes. The Philharmonic played it with muscle and gracefulness, as the work’s shifting sensibilities demanded.

The Philharmonic’s program is repeated on Saturday and Tuesday evenings at Avery Fisher Hall; (212) 875-5656; Ms. Jansen’s recital is on Monday at Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, near Thompson Street, Greenwich Village; (212) 505-3474;

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toradze, Järvi Shine with CSO

Music in Cincinnati
by Mary Ellyn Hutton
February 18, 2011

Meet David, who can turn a battleship on a dime.
With apologies for the mixed metaphor, “David” refers to Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Paavo Järvi, who led the CSO in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony Friday morning at Music Hall.

That’s David as in “David and Goliath,” to whom Järvi was compared by German critic Bernhard Hartmann of General-Anzeiger Bonn for his Beethoven symphony cycle with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. (In his review, “Goliath” is a well known conductor who has also recorded a Beethoven cycle, but with less excitement and authenticity than Järvi, Hartmann said.)

The “battleship” -- nothing pejorative intended -- is the CSO, which numbered more than twice as many strings as the Kammerphilharmonie (60 to 28) for its Beethoven’s Fifth Friday morning. Nevertheless, having heard both versions, this listener found the CSO performance to be even more exciting than Järvi’s with the German chamber orchestra and darn near as ensemble-perfect.

Järvi -- who could (and probably does) conduct Beethoven in his sleep -- led with unparalleled energy and verve, drawing a performance from the CSO with exactitude, complete musicality and sonic splendor. (If you want to hear what you will miss when Järvi leaves the orchestra in May don’t miss this concert.)

That said, the concert was a world class event in another way as well, with pianist Alexander Toradze guest artist in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. Not only does Toradze play like a god, but the collaboration with Järvi and the CSO was simply spectacular. Rarely does one find a soloist and conductor so keenly attuned to the same wave length. Perhaps it’s their East European heritage (Toradze is Georgian) or their long-time friendship. (Their parents were friends, too, said Järvi in the Prelude video screened before the concert.)

Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto is the product of a 22-year-old rebel (Prokofiev) who, like Toradze, could play a mean piano. It bristles with technical demands – it was fun to watch Toradze wiggle his fingers in preparation for the blistering Scherzo. There is plenty of the composer’s trademark irony, too, which Järvi gleefully accentuated in the orchestral accompaniment.

The concerto, which was received with hostility when Prokofiev premiered it in Russia, begins gently, almost impressionistically, before settling into a lyrical melody. Then, lo and behold, a gargantuan cadenza swallows everything up. Through it all, Toradze displayed ravishing, well-defined tone colors and superhuman technique. The ending, coming out of the cadenza, was marvelously calibrated by soloist and conductor.

Toradze seemed to leave no crack or crevice on the keyboard untouched in the Scherzo, which gave way to big “Russian” sounds in the Intermezzo. Toradze pounced like a cat on the keys to the CSO’s swaggering, sometimes snide accompaniment (check out the woodwind choir). The finale was a beauty, with its ostinato theme, ever-shifting tone colors and brief, more relaxed cadenza. The run-up to the end (coda) began as a mad scramble after a soft, slow, “marking time” approach which gave it incredible momentum. Visibly moved, Toradze jumped from his seat at the end to embrace Järvi repeatedly and blow kisses to the orchestra.

Beethoven threatened to be an anti-climax after the Prokofiev, but it wasn’t. With hardly a pause after bowing to the audience, Järvi cued the famous motto opening and proceeded to raise a clamor throughout the hall. This was Beethoven with muscle -- even violence -- brisk, pulse-racing and precise.

The Andante was eloquent and song-like, with solid bass support. The scherzo grew absolutely brawny before sinking to near inaudibility as the finale approached. When it did, it broke over the hall majestically, Järvi tossing out cues with relish and almost dancing on the podium from time to time as the symphony built to its triumphant conclusion. In summary, it was a rare performance by an ensemble truly energized and inspired by its leader, with everyone sharing in the sheer joy of making music. The musicians rewarded Järvi with a solo bow (i.e. refusing to stand to acknowledge the applause).

The concert opened with a colorful performance of Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz” No. 1 ("Dance in the Village Inn"). Principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn’s solos were satin smooth, and the work as a whole had a mischievous, but magical feel.

Repeats are 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 18 and 19). Tickets (scarce for Saturday) begin at $10. Call (513) 381-3300 or order online at The newly-commissioned portrait of Järvi by Carin Hebenstreit will be on display in the lobby through Sunday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cincinnati Symphony, Paavo Järvi revisit Beethoven's Fifth
by Janelle Gelfand

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 is one of the greatest statements of affirmation of all time. It has come to symbolize triumph over adversity - and even victory in World War II. It begins with perhaps the most famous four notes in music - the "fate knocking on the door" motif.

It was the first Beethoven symphony that Paavo Järvi conducted with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1999, two years before he became music director.

On Friday morning, Järvi, now in his 10th and final season, revisited Beethoven's Fifth. This was Beethoven like you've never heard it live before: bracing, powerful and inspiring. For listeners in Music Hall, it was an unforgettable occasion where great music meets orchestral virtuosity and precision.

The crowd was on its feet twice, because there was an equally impressive companion to Beethoven. Alexander Toradze delivered a masterful performance of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2, in a display of bravura, matched by beauty of tone.

Toradze, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, is a professor at Indiana University, South Bend. He is one of the great romantic pianists endowed with a huge technique, the better to excel in the Russian repertoire. From his performance of Prokofiev's fiendishly difficult Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, he may be the world's most definitive interpreter of Prokofiev.

A master of touch and color, the pianist lingered on Prokofiev's distinctive chords, using lots of romantic "rubato" (give and take) in the slower passages. He summoned gorgeous atmosphere. The percussive passages exploded with power, and the pianist stomped his feet along with the music, occasionally rising out of his seat.

You could only marvel at the scherzo movement, which was breathtaking for his speed, clarity and seat-of-your-pants virtuosity. The slow movement, a barbaric march, lumbered like a heavy Russian bear. Yet whether the pianist was tackling keyboard-spanning feats or a little Russian melody, he approached it all with beauty of sound.

Toradze and Järvi were completely in synch, and the conductor, even in the most bombastic moments, never covered the pianist.

A longtime friend of the Järvi family (including Neeme Järvi, Paavo's father), Toradze and the conductor walked off the stage, arm in arm.

Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor formed the program's second half. Järvi strode out and plunged without a pause into the opening "fate" motif, which was delivered with split-second precision. The momentum didn't let up until the last note of the symphony. Tempos were brisk, and the conductor's view was taut, urgent and intense. This was heaven-rending Beethoven, and every accent and detail was brought out.

The orchestra's playing was terrific. Horn calls were glorious. The strings were electrified and Jarvi galvanized the players, "bowing" the air along with the cellos.

The second movement was a genial contrast to the first, with bursts of power from brass and timpani. The basses were supercharged, as they led the surge from the scherzo to the finale.

Järvi led without a score, turning animatedly to each section and inspiring a fresh sense of discovery in every phrase. It was spontaneous and unpredictable - and it was as good as it gets.

(Järvi changed the orchestra's seating to be true to Beethoven's era, with the second violins facing the first violins.)

The program began with Franz Liszt's "Mephisto" Waltz No. 1, in the Cincinnati Symphony's second-ever performance. There were fine contributions from orchestral soloists, including a memorable solo by principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn.|topnews|text|Entertainment

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Järvi portrait artist waited 8 years
By Janelle Gelfand

Gone are the days when a subject would sit still for hours while his or her portrait was being painted. Artist Carin Hebenstreit spent about a half hour with Paavo Järvi, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, as she began painting his portrait.

"Most of the time, I just take photographs," Hebenstreit said. "I'm already familiar with (Järvi), because I've seen him so much, heard him on the radio and read about him in the newspaper, I have a pretty good sense of who he is."

Järvi's portrait, celebrating his final season as music director, will be unveiled today at Music Hall. The portrait was commissioned for the orchestra by arts supporters Peter George Courlas and Nicholas Tsimaras.

The larger-than-life (60 inches by 48 inches) oil painting will hang permanently in Music Hall. Järvi's portrait joins six others: Cincinnati Symphony music directors Max Rudolf, Thomas Schippers and Jesus Lopez-Cobos, Cincinnati Pops conductor Erich Kunzel, May Festival music director James Conlon and Cincinnati Opera artistic director James De Blasis.

Hebenstreit, 64, says she had wanted to paint Järvi's portrait for eight years. In 25 years of portraiture, she has painted about 300 portraits, she estimates. They include former deans of the University of Cincinnati College of Law Gordon Christenson and Joe Tomain, a Federal Court Judge (the Honorable Art Spiegel), physicians, clergy, musicians, attorneys, industry moguls and patrons of the arts. Much of her commissioned work is of families with children, beloved pets or a mixture of both.

A small portrait, she says, may start at about $8,000.

Järvi is the second symphony conductor she has painted. The first was Rudolf, ironically Järvi's former teacher. Rudolf's portrait was commissioned when the late CSO maestro was inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 1999. It hangs in Music Hall, and is a favorite of Järvi's.

When the artist met with the conductor to discuss her initial sketches, Järvi told her that there was one photo taken by local photographer Mark Lyons that he especially admired. Hebenstreit based the painting on that photo.

"He wanted it to be more contemporary, or what I interpreted as more edgy," she said. "I looked at publications with Paavo, and I noticed there is a theme with red. So the background is red, but tempered with black space."

From the initial sketch to completion, the portrait took about six weeks, she says.

As she spoke about her work, sunlight streamed into the living room studio of Hebenstreit's Springfield Township home. Portraits cover her walls. A large painting that she was working on for a client dominated one end of the studio.

One of her most challenging commissions, she says, was a 30-foot-long ceiling mural for a client's Indian Hill dining room. The mural, which she painted while standing on a scaffold and wearing a neck brace for protection, took her four months to complete.

Hebenstreit, who is married to artist Robert Hebenstreit, was born in Fulda, Germany, and moved with her family to Cincinnati at age 6. She studied art at the now-closed William E. Gephardt School of Art, named for a promient Cincinnati portrait artist.

Sculptor Richard J. Miller, whose work graces the campus of Xavier University and the Kentucky side of the riverfront next to the Roebling Bridge, was one of her mentors. Hebenstreit, who teaches community classes at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in Over-the-Rhine, said that her first love is sculpting. She picks up a nude sculpture she calls "Domestic Goddess."

Her paintings have a muted glow, capturing light and atmosphere that she developed from studying old masters, such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya and Velasquez.

"I just love getting into the heads of these artists, how they think and what turns them on," she said. "Think about a guy like Rembrandt, someone who was that powerful of a painter. They had the same problems that portrait painters have today. They have to capture a likeness and they have to please that client, or they're not going to get that check.

"And I think, boy, if Rembrandt was willing to do that, I can do that. I will jump through all kinds of hoops for people. I'm challenged by people wanting things, and they make me stretch, and go where I wouldn't normally go."|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s

Un impalpable régal
Nicole Duault

Concert Fauré de l’Orchestre de Paris sous la direction de Paavo Järvi à la salle Pleyel, Paris

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Pavane pour chœur et orchestre op. 50
Élégie pour violoncelle et orchestre en ut mineur op. 24
Éric Picard, violoncelle
Psaume CXXXVI Super flumina Babylonis pour chœur et orchestre
Cantique de Jean Racine, pour chœur mixte et orchestre
Requiem, op. 48
Chen Reiss, soprano
Matthias Goerne, baryton
Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris
préparation : Stephen Betteridge
Orchestre de Paris
direction : Paavo Järvi

Luminosité, raffinement et précision : Fauré est mis en majesté par Paavo Järvi et l’Orchestre de Paris. Un brillant démenti pour ceux qui pensent que le chef estonien n’est capable que d’implacable discipline et de battue quasi militaire. Et de quoi retrouver l’Orchestre de Paris et ses merveilleux solistes chantant dans leur arbre généalogique.

Il est trop raide, pas assez expansif. Que n’entend-on pas sur la direction de l’Estonien Paavo Järvi qui depuis septembre a pris les rênes de l’Orchestre de Paris ? Cet excellent concert consacré à Gabriel Fauré a convaincu par le choix du programme et la subtilité de l’exécution révélant chez le compositeur une vitalité, une élégance et une sensibilité trop souvent confondue avec de la sensiblerie. Järvi avait annoncé qu’il donnerait une place privilégiée au répertoire français. Après Dukas en ouverture de saison, voilà qui est fait avec exigence et méthode.

Le chef avait choisi des œuvres qui mettent en valeur le Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris, sous la direction de Stephen Betteridge, connu pour avoir participé à des productions au Châtelet et au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. En quelques répétitions, le Britannique est parvenu à mobiliser ces chanteurs amateurs qui travaillent comme des professionnels de haut niveau.

Il est vrai que le programme leur seyait, à commencer par la mélancolique Pavane que Fauré avait dédiée à la comtesse Greffulhe. Introduite par la délicieuse flûte de Vicens Prats, cette danse accompagne le poème du comte de Montesquiou-Fézensac et respire un charme désuet.

L’Élégie pour violoncelle et orchestre fut créée par Pablo Casals en 1901 : en huit minutes, avec une sobriété mélodique et un sublime art des courbes, elle évolue entre romantisme et lyrisme et exige du soliste une virtuosité que le violoncelliste solo Éric Picard tend à son maximum. Cette pièce précède une curiosité, le Super flumina Babylonis que Fauré écrivit à l’âge de dix-huit ans et qui, semble-t-il, n’avait jamais été joué en public.

Ce psaume évoquant le chant d’exil du peuple juif valut au jeune Fauré une mention « très honorable » à un concours de composition. Elle révèle une personnalité musicale affirmée qui s’épanouit dans le Cantique de Jean Racine, postérieur de deux années.

Enfin, en pièce de résistance, c’est la dernière version du Requiem, pour grand orchestre, que Järvi a choisie. « Mon requiem a été composé pour rien… pour le plaisir », disait Gabriel Fauré qui, longtemps organiste à la Madeleine, avait accompagné tant d’enterrements qu’il en eut marre et voulut écrire autre chose. La mort lui paraissant surtout une délivrance heureuse, certains ont dit que cette œuvre était plus une berceuse qu’une messe des morts.

Avec rigueur, précision mais sans froideur, Järvi en donne une lecture épurée. Nous sommes dans la douceur fauréenne entre la voix délicate de la soprano israélienne Chen Reiss et celle, sobre et dépouillée, de Matthias Goerne. Cérébral, Paavo Järvi ? Plutôt précis et exigeant !

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Orchestre de Paris: Best of Fauré
by Maxime Kaprielian

Paris, salle Pleyel. 10-11-2011. Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924): Pavane en fa dièse mineur op. 50 ; Elégie pour violoncelle et orchestre en ut mineur op. 24 ; Psaume CXXXVI Super Flumina Babylonis ; Cantique de Jean Racine ; Requiem op. 48 (version symphonique). Eric Picard, violoncelle; Chen Reiss, soprano ; Matthias Gœrne, baryton ; Chœur de l’Orchestre de Paris (chef de chœur : Stephen Betteridge), Orchestre de Paris, direction : Paavo Järvi

Depuis qu’il est tombé dans le domaine public (le 29 septembre 2009 pour être précis) jamais la musique de Fauré n’a été autant jouée et enregistrée. Et pour ce concert monographique consacré à l’un des phares de la musique française, pas moins de trois diffusions sur Internet, deux diffusions télévisées, une diffusion radio et un enregistrement commercial à venir.

C’est un véritable « best of Fauré » auquel nous conviait Paavo Järvi et un Orchestre de Paris en grande forme. Cantique de Jean Racine, Pavane, Elégie, Requiem, seul le psaume de jeunesse Super Flumina Babylonis apportait un peu de nouveauté. La Pavane, dans sa version avec chœur sur les vers de mirliton attribués à un certain Montesquiou, débutait agréablement la soirée, avec un tempo allant, sans pathos. Si l’orchestre donnait dans cette courte pièce maintes fois rebattue le meilleur de lui-même, les quelques interventions vocales laissaient entrevoir, hélas, le recul qualitatif du chœur.

L’Elégie, dans sa version symphonique, prend une tout autre tournure que la déploration usuelle pour violoncelle et piano. Portée par Eric Picard, violoncelle solo de l’orchestre, cette interprétation confirme que l’Orchestre de Paris possède en son sein des solistes de premier plan. Le Psaume CXXXVI, récemment redécouvert, donné en première parisienne, fleure bon l’œuvre de jeunesse, avec son contrepoint modal inspiré de Jean-Sébastien Bach. Mais le chœur ne s’y montre pas à la hauteur, ainsi que dans le célébrissime Cantique de Jean Racine…

Mêmes constatations dans le Requiem, donné dans sa version « symphonique ». Chen Reiss nous gratifie d’un Pie Jesu quasi angélique, Matthias Gœrne reste inégalable dans ce répertoire d’oratorio, les couleurs de l’orchestre sus la direction de Paavo Järvi nous font découvrir un autre Fauré, plus massif, plus profond, quasi solennel. Mais il apparait urgent de trouver pour le chœur un chef permanent : le formidable travail avec ces amateurs de haut niveau de Geoffroy Jourdain et Didier Bouture est en train de se perdre…

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

CSO's Mahler a feast for the ear
by Janelle Gelfand
February 3, 2011

Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 is his least famous and perhaps his most misunderstood symphony.

It has neither an obvious program nor a spiritual quest. But rather than try to analyze why this symphony is so different from Mahler’s tragic Sixth or his grandiose Eighth, it might be better to accept it as one of Mahler’s most inventive, haunting, curious and brilliant pieces.

Or, what Mahler scholar Deryck Cooke called “a continual feast for the ear.”

So it was in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the Seventh, led by Paavo Järvi on Thursday night in Music Hall.

Written in 1904-05, the 80-minute (give or take) symphony is cast in five movements. Some regard the center three, including two “Night Music” movements, as being the most fascinating. But that shortchanges the first, which seems to alternate between gloom and glitter, and the cheerful, pull-out-the-stops finale.

From the start to the finish of this work, Järvi led with driving intensity. Orchestral textures were clear, with pointed articulation. The listener was thrust into the Mahler sound world of marches and brass fanfares, drums and timpani rolls. Clipped fragments of themes grew into full-blown melodies in the strings, but Järvi never allowed them to become sentimental.

The “Night Music” movements were otherworldly, bristling with the kind of electricity that stands your hair on end. Emerging from the large orchestra were echoing horns, chortling winds, mandolin, guitar and the gentle rattle of cowbells.

And at the symphony’s center, a lopsided waltz, a whiff of old Vienna, unfolded in quirky fragments of melodies, fits and stops.

All of these details Järvi brought out, and the musicians responded with excellent, alert playing, with many impressive contributions from orchestral soloists.

The second, more romantic “Nachtmusik” could have benefited from a more lingering, relaxed atmosphere. But the conductor’s forward momentum worked especially well in Mahler’s meandering finale, which erupted in pounding timpani and brass fanfares, and flowed engagingly through peaks and valleys before finishing in a frenzy of chimes, brass, cowbells and crashing drum rolls.

The evening opened with the second of five fanfares commissioned in honor of Järvi’s 10th anniversary as music director and classical radio WGUC’s 50th. Munich-born composer Jörg Widmann’s short “Souvenir bavarois” (Remembering Bavaria) was a humorous cross between Stravinsky, the circus and a Bavarian oom-pah band.

The program was being taped for later broadcast over WGUC, and possibly a future recording on the orchestra’s own label.

Magnificent Mahler

Music in Cincinnati
Mary Ellyn Hutton
February 4, 211

What is Fafner (the dragon in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle) doing in Mahler’s Seventh Symphony?

Ask Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra principal bassist Owen Lee.

Lee put his finger on something in the CSO “Prelude” video shown before Thursday evening’s CSO concert at Music Hall, which featured the Mahler symphony led by CSO music director Paavo Järvi.

“To me it’s very childlike, sort of like a fairy tale," said Lee. "Yes, there’s angst and terror and doubt, but it’s like in a nursery rhyme -- that kind of terror, a Brothers Grimm story or ‘Where the Wild Things Are.’”

Mahler’s Seventh is the least known of his symphonies but may be coming into its own in the complex 21st century. Mahler stated (to Sibelius) that a symphony must be “like the world” and in the Seventh that includes the world of dreams. Sometimes referred to as “Lied der Nacht” (“Song of the Night”), it is in five-movements shaped like an arch. The keystone is a spooky Scherzo framed by two movements designated “Nachtmusik” (“Night Music”). The opening and closing movements can be seen as night yielding to day.

It is a magnificent showpiece for orchestra, with quadruple winds and brasses, two harps, strings and a world of percussion, including tambourine, glockenspiel, tam-tam- tubular bells, cowbells and rute (birch brush, struck against the rim of the bass drum). Everyone has something important to do and the comparison with a concerto for orchestra is not far-fetched.

It is also 80 minutes long and was performed without intermission, so Mahler fanatics had a banquet to feast upon. (According to statistics compiled by the web site, Mahler is performed more often, compared to other composers, in the U.S. than he is worldwide, and Music Hall was well stocked with his fans Thursday.)

The concert opened with the second of four anniversary fanfares commissioned by the CSO for the 50th anniversary of WGUC-FM and Järvi’s tenth anniversary as music director. German composer Jörg Widmann’s “Souvenir bavarois” (“Remembering Bavaria”) did homage to Mahler, too, with its cartoonish color and march-like conception. There were with rat-a-tat snare drum, oompah band, winds playing out of tune (deliberately), a fiddle solo and general pie-in-your-face humor. (Järvi said he had advised Widmann to write something funny and he did.)

It was a somewhat solemn transition to the Mahler, which opened with dark shudders in the winds and strings and a big solo for baritone horn (bravo Peter Norton). It soon morphed into a world of fury, with a big march theme and a more lyrical counter subject. After a big buildup followed by a free fall, the listener was suddenly transported to the Day of Judgment as envisioned in Mahler’s Second Symphony, with trumpet calls and intimations of universal love. It was not to last, however. After an ethereal buildup of harp and strings, the double basses brought things back to earth by sounding the baritone horn motif. The march theme returned and the movement drew to a foreshortened conclusion.

Principal French hornist Elizabeth Freimuth sounded glorious on the buoyant opening theme of “Nachmusik I,” where she was echoed by hornist Duane Dugger, then enveloped by a flurry of bird calls, as the entire wind section seemed to come home to roost. The mood here was chipper, but with plenty of subterranean rumbles (the double basses, Jennifer Monroe on contra-bassoon, Ronald Aufmann’s bass clarinet) and “witchy” punctuation by the strings playing on the wood of their bows. Cow bells were heard for a bucolic touch, but there was something sinister about it all.

The central Scherzo, marked “Schattenhaft” (“shadowy”) makes no bones about it with its demonic waltz, screeching violins and loud snaps of pizzicato by the cellos and basses. One monster after another seemed to materialize (Lee on double bass, Christian Colberg on viola, etc.).

After a pause to tune, the CSO resumed with “Nachtmusik II" (marked “Andante amoroso”). Paul Patterson on mandolin and Timothy Berens on guitar provided the serenade-like atmosphere, and principal players, including concertmaster Timothy Lees and principal cellist Ilya Finkelshteyn took turns on the yearning theme that recurs throughout.

The spell was instantly broken by the Rondo Finale, with a fusillade of timpani ( Patrick Schleker) and brasses. The trumpets nailed some impressive high notes, and Järvi literally jumped into the fray at one point. What gives here? Anything, seemingly, including parodies of Wagner (“Die Meistersinger” and the dragon Fafner from "The Ring"), Sir Arthur Sullivan (“Mikado”), and enough bluster to face down whatever terrors remained from the night. The march theme from the opening movement returned, as if to raise an issue, but it was drowned in a sea of tubular bells and all-stops-pulled rejoicing.

The concert was recorded for broadcast by WGUC-FM and for a possible CD on the CSO’s new label, CSO Media. The concert repeats at 8 p.m. Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets begin at $10. Call (513) 381-3300.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

David versus Goliath

General-Anzeiger Bonn
December 21, 2010

Beethoven's Symphonies: A Comparison of Paavo Järvi's Bonn Cycle and Christian Thielemann's Vienna Version
By Bernhard Hartmann

It is a bit like the battle between David and Goliath when The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and the Vienna Philharmonic compete with each other to present Beethoven's nine symphonies. On the one side, the slender, wiry Paavo Järvi waves the baton, on the other, the enormously massive Christian Thielemann is at the podium. Here, Bonn's Beethovenhalle, illuminated by a different color during each symphony, provides the backdrop for performance and recording, there, the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. Both cycles have now been released as a DVD box set.

Of course, it is not only external characteristics such as these that make them different, but they match the musical experience. When Paavo Järvi became artistic director of The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in 2004, he encountered an ensemble which was very close to his idea of a Beethoven sound. Through careful use of period instruments and reduced forces, they were perfectly attuned to the original sound of Beethoven's day. At least as important, however, is the boundless enthusiasm of those involved. When the camera pans across the orchestra, it is written on every face: "This is our project!"

Järvi and the self-governing ensemble, which has been orchestra in residence at the Beethovenfest for several years, allowed their Beethoven to grow and develop in countless concerts around the globe and with a highly acclaimed CD cycle released by Sony, which was completed with the Ninth Symphony in 2009. The precision with which they play during the Bonn concerts, recorded live in the Beethovenhalle last year, is absolutely spontaneous and electrifying on the screen and home loudspeakers – for example, the breathlessly virtuosic finale of the Fourth Symphony.

Järvi's tempos are in line with Beethoven's own original metronome markings – an approach that is somewhat controversial, especially among champions of the Romantic tradition. During a master class in Bonn only a few days ago, his colleague Kurt Masur said that Beethoven's own metronome was probably faulty and the tempo should always be set approximately 20 percent slower. Järvi has also commented on the subject. "Although Beethoven was deaf, he wasn't stupid," says the Estonian conductor. He considers the, at times, radical tempos in perfect agreement with Beethoven's overall artistic intention, which is never part of the mainstream.

Christian Thielemann coolly disregards traditional markings, using the tempo indications Beethoven wrote out in the scores and the character of the music as he perceives it, and each time reconsiders what Allegro or Adagio mean in a given context. Inspiration is an important word for him. As the listener can hear in the Fifth Symphony, this does not have to mean that his tempos are always slower than Järvi's, but Thielemann carefully sees to it that he never pushes the musicians to the limits. This orchestra wants to sound beautiful at all times, and he allows them to do that.

Both DVD cycles offer a wealth of supplementary material. The Bonn cycle includes a documentary film by director Christian Berger that follows the orchestra and conductor during their rehearsals in Bremen and Bonn. The camera is also nearby when they relax at the Rhine or when a violist visits violin maker Peter Greiner in Bonn to ask for help. During the film, the musicians and conductor talk at length about their exciting project.

In the DVD edition of the Vienna Philharmonic, only the conductor and leading Munich critic Joachim Kaiser speak. They devote a good hour to each of the symphonies. It is particularly entertaining, and we learn a great deal about Kaiser's Beethoven and Thielemann's Beethoven. They understand and interpret the symphonies from the perspective of a very Romantic tradition, for example, when they scrutinize the music looking for ideas which later turn up again in Wagner, Mahler, or Pfitzner.

In the end, Järvi's Beethoven is more exciting and seems more authentic. It is no accident that many critics hear the Beethoven of the 21st century in his cycle. In music as well, David is not completely without a chance against Goliath.

The Beethoven Cycles

The DVD cycle by the Vienna Philharmonic under Christian Thielemann was released in three installments, each comprising three symphonies, on the C major label.

The DVD cycle by The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Paavo Järvi was released as a complete box set by Sony.

Kultuur ja Elu

Tänavune Saksamaa muusikaauhind ECHO-Klassik anti võitjatele üle Euroopa kultuuripealinnas Essenis. „Aasta dirigendi“ nimetuse pälvis Paavo Järvi

The Beethoven Experts

Frankfurter Rundschau
January 6, 2011
The Thielemann Recordings

By Holger Noltze

For seven symphonies they have been more or less in agreement; then Joachim Kaiser, sitting opposite Christian Thielemann, heaves a sigh of relief in the middle of the discussion of the Eighth. "How lucky that we disagree for once!" The harmony between critic and conductor – both in possession of a good deal of knowledge about Beethoven – can be seen in nine documentaries which are included with Thielemann's recording of all nine symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic and suffer from the very fact that the gentlemen are so much in agreement. No wonder, since, for the most part, they are exchanging platitudes, never without a tone of the greatest importance.

Almost interminably, they discuss why it is good to perform the works in numerical order, why the Second is a little greater than the First (which is also great, however). The Eighth is extraordinary, but perhaps not quite as extraordinary as the Seventh. That Beethoven sometimes has no distinctive themes, but the important thing is what he does with them. That "the crisis always comes during the development," and, most important, that Beethoven always knows exactly what he is doing.

Thielemann, the practitioner, goes so far as to speculate that there is a symphonic master plan of sorts, which is why he thinks about the finale of the Ninth Symphony even before raising his baton for the first movement of the First (the first movement is always the most important!).

Here, at the latest, the viewer would have liked to raise objections; for example, that such notions of totality, entirety, and multiplicity in unity are primarily yearnings of later generations, who wanted to make sense of the outrageousness. In particular, that, from a stance based on past reflection, it is easy to overlook what makes the nine symphonies so unique – the fact that each one goes all out and defines the genre a little differently every time, even freeing it a bit, until the precarious vocal finale of the Ninth. These Beethoven authorities seem to have lost the idea of riskiness, because they believe they have too firm a hold on him.

Exciting Comparative Passages

That is unfortunate, because the two surely know more about the subject than they tell us. It is certainly true that one should not think too much when making music, as Thielemann points out three times; later, however, it is highly recommended and can bring many things to light.

More exciting are the clips of comparative passages, without commentary – for the most part, recordings by Karajan and Bernstein but unfortunately much too rarely from Paavo Järvi's recording with the Bremen Kammerphilharmonie, because the real competition in the struggle for interpretational supremacy is based in a school auditorium in Bremen. Järvi shows how energy fields are created in Beethoven's music from thousands of individual pieces of information. He is dynamic and transparent, at times electrifying, where Thielemann and the Viennese sound dark, heavy, and always a little musty.

Such a desire for darkness is blind to the spirit of the Eighth; for example, the sudden interruption during the first movement, as though a clock is overwound, is not surprising here. There is too little astonishment in this new Vienna Beethoven cycle.

Perhaps we see too much of the conductor in the video. It is revealing, however, in the Fourth Symphony, for example, how Thielemann stands there with his legs apart like a Roman charioteer, the way he looks around briefly after the end of the movement with an indulgent smile of triumph...

What matters is the musical result, however. The tempo changes are much too predictable and obtrusive at times – the exaggerated, abrupt slowing down or becoming softer, the breath before the climax, as though what was already in boldface had to be underlined. For example, during the first movement of the Seventh Symphony, he takes an all too obvious run up to the restatement of the principal theme. A big "Aha!" sounds but is merely banal. A small miracle then follows the trivial affirmative, and one is almost annoyed because it shows what might have been possible. The Allegretto of the Seventh works marvelously, especially the soaring fugato passage with its wonderful restraint. The Scherzo sparkles as though it were a fairy dance by Mendelssohn.

The Melancholy is Convincing

The likable thing about Thielemann's Beethoven endeavor, on the other hand, is that the result of this Prussian-Viennese encounter is often not triumphant spouting at all but melancholy. The solo clarinet, oboe, and flute begin their lonely discourse on beauty and futility, then the sensational Vienna horns come in and shine directly into our hearts. Perhaps that is why the serene landscape painting of the "Pastoral" turns out to be the highlight of the cycle.

The "Adagio molto e cantabile" of the Ninth actually sings, because Thielemann remains true to his maxim that doing nothing is sometimes the best thing. He knows how to spin an expansive line, and he is not afraid of pathos. He can wait. He knows how to charge the blows at the opening of the Coriolan Overture with tragedy, drama, and despair, so that it goes right through you. If only Thielemann were not so sure of himself as a Beethoven conductor! Or rather, if only he would not act that way! Perhaps more doubts are lurking behind the blasé gesticulating than he dares to show, at least up to now.

Opinions are bound to differ on the most recent orchestral maneuvers with the core classical repertoire – both Thielemann's pathos experiments and Järvi's illumination of the scores. That is good news. Beethoven's symphonies contain a message for today. We can hear them again and benefit from arguing about their interpretation – but not in the chatty tone of the Beethoven experts.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Fauré Fits Music Hall

by Mary Ellyn Hutton

Music Hall
01/28/2011 - & January 29, 2011
Ludwig van Beethoven: Concerto No. 4 in G Major for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 58
Claude Debussy: Printemps
Gabriel Fauré: Requiem in D Minor, Op. 48
Jonathan Bailey Holland: The Party Starter

André Watts (piano), Laura Claycomb (soprano), Stephen Powell (baritone)
May Festival Chorus, Robert Porco (director), Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (conductor)

As originally conceived for chorus and small ensemble (violas, cellos, basses, harp, timpani, organ and solo violin), Fauré’s Requiem is out-sized by Cincinnati’s 3,516-seat Music Hall. However, there is a full orchestra version (requested by Fauré’s publisher) that fits more easily, and it was this one which received its premiere on the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Music Hall series January 28.

Headliner for the matinee concert was pianist André Watts, who brought his considerable charisma and formidable technique to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major. Receiving its world premiere was Jonathan Bailey Holland’s The Party Starter, a fanfare commissioned by the orchestra to honor music director Paavo Järvi, who completes his decade-long tenure with the CSO this season. Finally, receiving only its second performance in the orchestra’s 116-year history (the first was 1983), was Debussy’s Printemps.

Järvi’s approach to the Requiem was sensitive and precise, rarely allowing the onstage forces to overtax Fauré’s gentle, consolatory music (the sublime “Amen” that concludes the Offertorium transgressed a bit here). For their part, the 122-voice May Festival Chorus sang in pure, unforced tones, careful to preserve as much as possible the work’s intimate character. Music Hall’s fine acoustics supported their endeavors and fostered a blend that felt comfortably at home, despite the capacious venue. Soloist Stephen Powell’s mellow baritone fit both the soothing Hostias and the urgent Libera me, where Fauré allows the Last Judgment to intrude, if just momentarily. Soprano Laura Claycomb’s creamy soprano graced the Pie Jesu nicely (the calm was broken only by her gown - long, black and hot-pink against her red hair).

One missed the solo violin in the Sanctus, but the violin section sang as one over the violas and cellos, and the brass were just heavy enough on the climactic Hosanna. The fullness of possibility and the necessity of restraint came together beautifully in the Agnus Dei with the sopranos’ feather-soft entrance on Lux Aeterna, which built gradually through fortissimo brass to the repeat of Requiem. The concluding In Paradisum had a childlike innocence, ending with a long-held Requiem, which floated ethereally into the hall.

As one of the royals of the piano, Watts not only filled the hall on a snowy day, but held his listeners in the palm of his hand. And what hands, which filled Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with poetry as well as motion. In this, he was partnered fully by Järvi and the CSO, who provided a pinpoint precise, colorfully expressive accompaniment. The opening Allegro had lyricism, majesty and a powerfully musical cadenza. The stern dialogue of the slow movement became truly pacific at the end, and the Rondo finale sparkled. There were some remarkable blends throughout the concerto - of piano and strings, piano and winds and in the Rondo, of piano and solo cello.

Debussy’s Printemps, complete with four-hand piano, harp and a huge orchestra, got a splendid reading, so much so that it was easy to believe it is part of the CSO’s everyday repertoire. Järvi (who is also music director of the Orchestre de Paris) knew how to make it shine, keeping every detail in place without losing momentum. Thus, the breezy melody at the beginning gave way to more animated music and a wealth of inflections. Järvi had fun with the second movement Modéré, where the jaunty theme morphs at the end into a precursor of Richard Rodgers’ Victory at Sea.

Holland’s The Party Starter is one of several Järvi 10th-anniversary fanfares to be premiered by the CSO this season. Jazz informs it, from the opening lick for piano, to an arching melody in the strings, brassy syncopation, snare drum and a final, affirmative piano chord. In the spirit of a party, it was meant to “inspire movement,” Holland said.