Sunday, August 28, 2016

'Maestro' looks into the world of classical music through the eyes of world-renowned conductor Paavo Järvi

Imade Borha

Filmmaker David Donnelly and Frederick native Curtis Jewell intended to make the documentary “Maestro” on how classical music is dying until they hit a wall. Donnelly even wrote a Huffington Post article on the demise of classical music and utilized Jewell as a consultant to create the production company Culture Monster. But something was missing.
“When we first started making the creative process, I really went broad and started focusing on classical music as a genre and the challenges it’s facing, as far as orchestras failing, and it became very dismal. And also, it really felt like a PSA spot,” Donnelly said. “So, after testing it to different audiences, this was about a year and a half into it, it hit me, you know what, there’s no human element and that’s really what we need.”
Thanks to Donnelly’s decision to regroup, the more personal “Maestro” can be pre-ordered for a Sept. 5 iTunes release. There are even hopes for a Frederick screening. The film has already received a flood of international attention. It’s been translated in 10 languages and it’s been airing on networks across five continents. The film has supporters in Japan, Australia, Germany and South America who have sent fan mail.
All this came after Donnelly went next door to find the subject of his documentary. “I had moved back to Cincinnati from Los Angeles. Paavo Järvi, who is the star of the film, was my neighbor in the condo building that I lived in,” Donnelly said. “Paavo kind of introduced me to classical music again by telling the stories of the music. So he was really putting it into context for me and each week, I would come to his performances and I was so excited because he was selling me on a story.”
Järvi is the chief conductor of NHK Symphony Orchestra and served as the music director for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra from 2001 to 2011. Donnelly’s film crew followed Järvi on his world travels, where he directs several orchestras, including Orchestre de Paris. But before all of this, Donnelly had to address Järvi’s concerns. “You know, it’s very taboo in classical music to be personal and vulnerable, whether you’re missing a note or [exposing] your personal life,” Donnelly pointed out. “Lines are drawn between that in the classical world which hurts them in many ways in connecting with people.”
Jewell witnessed Donnelly’s enthusiasm win Järvi over. “I think Paavo realized the passion that Dave was bringing to the project and that allowed more doors to be opened on his end.”
Donnelly and Jewell, who are former Washington University football teammates, tapped into their athletic background to capture the prodigious skill of classically trained musicians including Lang Lang, Joshua Bell and Hillary Hahn. “So what I tried to do with the film is show classical music in a new way,” Donnelly said. “I did that by illustrating classical musicians like professional athletes, showing the discipline and the training and sacrifice that is required.”
Sometimes, these world-class musicians would outsmart the camera. “For our sound mix, we had syncing issues all the time because the classical musicians, they play so fast that sometimes the camera would not pick up the movements for closeup shots and so forth so we had some sync issues we had to keep reworking.”
Donnelly poured his life into completing the complicated process of filming and post-production. “I lived out of a suitcase and traveled to six different countries and 25 cities while we were filming ‘Maestro.’” Once the cameras were put down, colossal problems emerged. “There were 50 music cues in the film, of which each one requires master rights and sync rights clearances and publishing rights clearances. There was over 1,000 contracts for this film.”
The seemingly endless red tape was for a greater cause. DVDs of “Maestro” are available for classroom use. Donnelly witnessed this impact first hand in surveying 300 Ohio students. Only a handful previously attended a classical music concert. “Eighty-three percent of them, they were more likely to go to a classical music concert after the film. Most of them, I think the average was, on a scale from 1 to 10, how much they liked it, 1 being they hated it and 10 being they loved it, it was 8, I think that was the average. That feedback means so much more to me than anything else.”
Jewell hopes that “Maestro” will one day be shown in his hometown since he still benefits from the lessons he learned as an orchestra student. “I wound up developing interests in philosophy and literature and other places that helps me educationally ... that I can pass on to future generations.”
This goal to enrich lives through classical music is what kept Donnelly and Jewell going despite film setbacks. “It’s four years of my life and I have 58 minutes to show for it,” Donnelly said. “It’s a grind. You have to wake up and hustle, but what I love about it, it’s all passion. All passion.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Paavo Järvi Leads the Mostly Mozart Orchestra in a Program of Mozart and Beethoven That Was ‘ every way’
Christopher Johnson

At the close of Friday night’s Mostly Mozart concert in Geffen Hall, Paavo Järvi and the Festival Orchestra brought down the house with Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony—and how many times do you get to say that of anyone these days? You might think that everything that could be done with this piece had already been done a thousand times over, but you would be wrong.

Without reaching or pulling anything out of shape, Järvi took a piece that’s usually programmed as a familiar makeweight and clattered through in a quaintly calisthenic manner (“Well, it’s not the Fifth, you know.”), and played it as if it were bran-new, fresh as paint, and thrillingly important. Tempi were perfectly judged: a rocket-ride of a first movement, erupting out of a truly mysterious introduction; a real, singing Adagio, with heart-stopping rubato; a zingy scherzo-menuet, torquing down perfectly to a floaty, sly trio; and a lightning-quick, hilarious finale with a mock-breakdown just before the end that got a spontaneous Chris Matthews-style shout of laughter from somewhere audience-left. (If Järvi ever gets tired of the conducting game, he’s got a great career as a comedian ahead of him.) Counterpoint was brought to the fore and brilliantly played. The syncopations in the first and third movements—usually slammed so hard that they confuse the beat rather than pointing it—were perfectly controlled, played for wit and winkingly varied each time around. And you could hear where this piece sat in its time, combining Haydn’s punch and vigor with Mozart’s dash and sheen, while opening a door not only to many of Beethoven’s most important later developments, but to Schubert and Rossini as well.

And let’s not waste words about the performance: it was magnificent in virtually every way. Järvi is musical down to his toes, and watching him work is almost as much fun as hearing the result. The Festival Orchestra, which is on a roll this year, played beautifully, even for them. It is hard to believe that a group so cohesive, so attuned within itself, so united in its ensemble and so eloquent in its expression, only works together for—what?—six weeks out of the year. Järvi gave out solo and sectional bows all around, and the orchestra, which plainly adores him, insisted that he take one, too—and a good long one, at that. Richly deserved. Bravo, one and all.

Before intermission, the New York chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Coughing performed a rousing reenactment of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, with backup provided by Järvi and the clarinet virtuoso Martin Fröst. Järvi got the ball rolling with Arvo Pärt’s La Sindone, a short but typically intense piece composed for the Turin Winter Olympics in 2005 and revised just last year, and Fröst followed up with Mozart’s clarinet concerto, played on a basset instrument in what must have been a close approximation of the concerto’s long-lost original form. Under the circumstances, the players might have been forgiven for marking the notes, taking their checks, and going home; instead, Järvi and the orchestra gave what looked like a passionate, deeply committed account of La Sindone that might have been riveting in better circumstances, and Fröst physicalized the Mozart with impressive vigor, although you didn’t actually have to hear what was going on to see that tempi throughout the piece were startlingly fast, and that Fröst paid closer attention to the concertmaster than to the conductor, frequently getting out of synch at vital structural points. Still, the crowd awarded Fröst two cell-phone fanfares (both exquisitely placed during the Adagio, for maximum effect), a howling ovation, three extra bows, and an encore (his brother Göran’s brilliant Klezmer Dances).

It was all very puzzling. The Mozart concerto is as close to perfection as music comes, and for all that it was the last instrumental piece Mozart completed before his final illness, it radiates joyful ease in the outer movements, and a kind of quivering peace in the great Adagio. In this performance, however, everything seemed pressed forward, and the notes often tumbled over one another without really landing. The Adagio, which started in slow waltz-tempo and picked up speed as it went along, wound up being chiefly memorable as an opportunity to witness Fröst’s legendary legato and awesome breath-control. (For reference, in Fröst’s latest recording of the concerto, which he also conducts, the Adagio clocks in about a minute faster than Jack Brymer’s 1986 recording, which Fröst credits with inspiring him to take up the clarinet in the first place, and more than two minutes faster than Brymer’s classic 1958 recording with Sir Thomas Beecham.) To see what was missing, you had only to wait for principal clarinetist Jon Manasse’s three short solos in the Beethoven Adagio, which arose softly, hesitantly, from the surrounding orchestral fabric and then blossomed into passionate, full-toned utterance, taking as much time on each note as felt right, supported with tender care and exquisite precision by Järvi and the other players. These were magical moments, filled with all the existential wonder and quietness of heart that the Mozart should have had, but didn’t.

Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival presented the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra with Paavo Järvi, conductor, Martin Fröst, Clarinets, on August 5-6, 2016, David Geffen Hall, in the following program:

PÄRT La Sindone
MOZART Clarinet Concerto in A major, K.622
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4 in B-flat major, Op. 60

Paavo Järvi, 
au nom du père
Julien Sykes

Fils du chef estonien Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, 53 ans, est l’un des grands chefs du circuit international. Il évoque ses années de formation en Estonie puis aux Etats-Unis, auprès de plusieurs pédagogues. Rencontre

Tel père, tel fils. Paavo Järvi est chef d’orchestre, comme son père Neeme Järvi. L’œil bleu teinte nordique, le crâne rasé, il en impose. Mais il reste d’une courtoisie exemplaire. Il fallait le voir, ce week-end, répéter avec le Verbier Festival Orchestra entassé dans la salle de gymnastique d’une école: «C’est possible de mettre plus d’accents sur les levées?» Les gestes amples, précis, il sait faire confiance aux musiciens tout en sachant exactement ce qu’il veut.

Paavo Järvi, 53 ans, est né dans une famille de musiciens comparable à la dynastie Bach, au XVIIIe siècle. Lui et son frère Kristjan Järvi ont embrassé le même métier que leur père. Au sein de la dynastie Järvi, on dira que Paavo est le plus doué. Le chef a acquis une longue expérience au contact de divers orchestres. Avec la Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie de Brême (qu’il dirige depuis vingt ans), il a enregistré une intégrale très remarquée des symphonies de Beethoven. Une interprétation tout à la fois moderne dans l’esprit et influencée par les instruments d’époque. Il y a un an, il quittait l’Orchestre de Paris pour prendre les rênes de l’Orchestre symphonique de la NHK de Tokyo.
Traverser le Rideau de fer

Né en 1962 à Tallinn, Paavo Järvi a pu voir son père à l’œuvre nuit et jour. «Il occupait tous les postes à Tallinn, à l’Opéra comme à l’orchestre symphonique. Mon père nous a toujours inclus dans ses activités. Nous pouvions assister aux répétitions, et c’était normal d’aller à tous ses concerts et aux soirées d’opéra.» Une immersion 24 heures sur 24. «Aux alentours de minuit, après les représentations d’opéra, il organisait encore des répétitions avec son orchestre de chambre!» Avec sa sœur flûtiste Maarika Järvi (établie aujourd’hui à Genève) et son petit frère, le noyau familial voue un culte à la musique. Paavo s’est mis d’ailleurs à la percussion. «Il n’y a pas de compétition entre mon frère et moi. Nous avons dix ans d’écart. J’en ai 53, lui 44, et il s’est spécialisé dans un répertoire très spécifique qui inclut aussi d’autres types de musiques.»

A l’époque sous domination soviétique, l’Estonie restait isolée du bloc occidental. Dans les années 1970, Neeme Järvi était l’un des rares chefs à pouvoir voyager à l’Ouest, avec des orchestres russes. Passionné par les questions d’interprétation, il ramenait des disques de ses tournées en Europe. «Je me souviens avoir écouté la Passion selon saint Matthieu de Bach et la Messe en si de Bach par Harnoncourt et le Concentus Musicus de Vienne, ou encore la Messe de Bernstein. Il y avait aussi un grand coffret des Symphonies de Mozart par Karl Böhm et l'intégrale des 104 Symphonies de Haydn par Antal Dorati, que nous étions parmi les premiers à posséder en Union soviétique.»

S’ensuit le départ aux Etats-Unis, en 1980. «A l’époque, l’URSS était une société très corrompue. Tout était affaire de relations, et mes parents ont tiré profit d’un problème de santé que j’avais pour appuyer notre départ.» Sitôt arrivé à New York, Paavo Järvi entre en classe préparatoire à la Juilliard School et part étudier la direction d’orchestre au Curtis Institute of Music de Philadelphie. Par chance, il assiste à un séminaire d’été, à Los Angeles, avec Leonard Bernstein – un souvenir qui l’a marqué à vie. «Il était si dynamique et si incroyablement charismatique. Sa santé n’était pas des meilleures, il fumait comme un pompier, mais sitôt qu’il commençait à diriger, il sautait, il était comme un adolescent.» Le jeune Estonien mesure alors le fossé qui le sépare encore d’un «grand».
Apprentissage à la dure

Son premier poste à la tête de l’Orchestre symphonique de Malmö, en Suède (1994-97), équivaut à un baptême du feu. «Rétrospectivement, j’ai commis beaucoup d’erreurs, aussi bien dans l’interaction avec les musiciens que dans le management. Quand vous avez à peine la trentaine et que vous avez en face de vous des musiciens chevronnés, certains de 60 ans, vous n’êtes encore qu’un gamin! Ces musiciens connaissent mieux chaque œuvre que vous!» Un apprentissage à la dure, donc, mais terriblement formateur.

Aujourd’hui, Paavo Järvi n’a plus grand-chose à prouver. Il domine un panel de styles très large. Il enregistre à tour de bras, et annonce une intégrale des symphonies de Sibelius à paraître chez Sony avec l’Orchestre de Paris (à laquelle s’ajoutera un CD Ravel). A son meilleur, il allie une grande précision rythmique à l’expressivité. «Comme pour tout, il faut trouver un juste milieu – je ne parle pas de compromis. Prenez Brahms: il n’a pas mis d’indication de tempo métronomique pour ses symphonies. C’est qu’il invite les musiciens à prendre certaines libertés et à exprimer un point de vue artistique, sachant très bien que celui-ci varie d’une personne à l’autre.» Une variété au service de la vérité.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Rebellen im Kulturbetrieb

Frankfurter Allgemeine

In Bremen spielt eines der besten Orchester der Welt. Dahinter steckt ein besonderes Modell – mit Musikern in Doppelfunktion.

Die Violinen flirren, die Flöten, Oboen und Klarinetten setzen ein. Und gemeinsam schwingt sich das Orchester zu den letzten Takten der Reprise auf, jenem Zwischenteil, der den Weg für das große Finale in diesem Meisterwerk in e-Moll ebnet. Doch bevor das Allegro non troppo seinen Höhepunkt erreicht, klopft Paavo Järvi mit dem Taktstock auf das Dirigentenpult. „Das muss präziser werden, mit mehr Kraft und Energie“, ruft er. Die Konzertmeisterin an seiner Seite wünscht sich „mehr Dynamik“, und auch der Klarinettist aus der letzten Reihe meldet sich zu Wort. Järvi hört sich alles an, gibt ein paar knappe Anweisungen und lässt bei Takt 381 neu starten. Dann knallen die Paukenschläge, die Kontrabässe dröhnen und der erste Satz von Brahms Sinfonie Nr. 4 endet mit einem Donnerhall.
In der Pause knabbert Järvi ein paar Karotten- und Apfelstücke. „Brahms ist eine große Herausforderung“, sagt er. Nicht etwa, weil die Komposition ungenau sei oder der Künstler zu viel Spielraum für Interpretationen gelassen habe. Ganz im Gegenteil: „Er war ein Perfektionist, seine Partituren sind wissenschaftlich genau austariert.“ Für manche Orchester wirke dies wie eine Zwangsjacke. Nicht aber für die Kammerphilharmonie Bremen: Zusammen mit diesem Ensemble studiert Järvi, einer der erfolgreichsten Dirigenten der Welt, seit November einige Stücke von Brahms ein. Und langsam beginnt die Musik zu atmen - auch weil die Musiker nicht passiv bleiben, sondern sich aktiv in die Diskussion einbringen. „Ich kenne kein Orchester, das so genau arbeitet und an jeder einzelnen Note feilt“, sagt Järvi, 53 Jahre alt, der in Estland geboren wurde und einen amerikanischen Pass hat.

Fast sieben Stunden lang Proben

Die Kammerphilharmonie Bremen ist ein außergewöhnliches Orchester, und das in jeder Hinsicht. Schon der Proberaum - eine renovierte Aula der Gesamtschule Bremen-Ost, in der die Musiker an diesem Tag fast sieben Stunden lang proben - fällt aus der Reihe. Er liegt mitten im Problembezirk Osterholz-Tenever, wirkt nüchtern-funktional und sieht eher nach einem ambitionierten Laienorchester aus, als nach dem Klangkörper von Weltrang, der dort seit einem knappen Jahrzehnt residiert.
Die eigentliche Besonderheit des Orchesters ist aber seine gesellschaftsrechtliche Struktur. Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen gGmbH gehört komplett ihren Musikern. Jeder Instrumentalist ist Gesellschafter und mitverantwortlich für den künstlerischen und wirtschaftlichen Erfolg. Die Proben laufen daher anders als in den meisten Staatsorchestern. „Wir sind selbstbewusst und laufen nicht bloß dem Dirigenten hinterher“, sagt die Bratschistin Friederike Latzko. „Wir wollen mitreden, schließlich hängt unsere Existenz davon ab, dass wir ein Spitzenniveau erreichen.“ Der Erfolg gibt den Bremern recht.