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Järvi, CSO Thriving Together

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Sep 14, 2004 - 10:45:42 PM in news_2004

(first published in The Cincinnati Post Sept. 13, 2004)

Paavo Järvi opens his fourth season as Cincinnati Symphony music director at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Music Hall.
The concert - a splashy one featuring the Estonian National Male Choir, mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant and baritone Jaakko Kortekangas in Sibelius’ dramatic "Kullervo" Symphony - signals an ambitious year for Järvi and the CSO.
During the new season, they will make their first tour of Europe together, perform their second Carnegie Hall concert, record two new CDs for Telarc and a present a daunting series of concerts at Music Hall, including symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Nielsen.

They’ll perform Richard Strauss’ "Ein Heldenleben," Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, ten CSO premieres (22 counting guest conductors) and one U.S. premiere, Finnish composer Aulis Sallinen’s Symphony No. 8 ("Autumnal Fragments"). Järvi will conduct 14 of the 22 Music Hall concerts.

If that sounds busy, it is, but the 41-year-old Järvi seems to thrive on it.

Just ask him how he spent his summer.

Vacationing was not part of it.

However, even Järvi admitted, while battling a cold in Bremen, Germany the end of August, "I need more time off."

Here’s where Järvi touched down after closing the CSO season in May at Music Hall:

First was Leipzig for a concert with his German chamber orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen (Järvi is artistic director of the DK). There were guest conducting stints in Frankfurt and Paris, after which he returned to the DK for a tour of Germany in June.

In July, he traveled to his native Estonia, where he made his debut conducting at the Estonia Song Festival in Tallinn, a legendary, every-fifth-year event that brings together hundreds of choruses for two days of singing at a huge outdoor amphitheater on shores of the Baltic Sea.

From Tallinn, he drove to Pärnu, Estonia, where he assisted his father Neeme Järvi coaching students at Järvi’s annual master classes in conducting (Neeme Järvi is music director of the Detroit Symphony).

It was his first extended teaching experience. "Conducting is not so easy as it looks," he said.

He also led a concert in Pärnu by the Estonian National Orchestra, of which he is artistic advisor.

Joining him in Estonia were his five-month-old daughter Lea and her mother Tatiana, who bundled up in woolens for the unusually cold weather at the Song Festival. After the second concert, they watched as Järvi, his brother Kristjan (also a conductor), his father and over 30 other conductors were presented with flowers, medals and oak leaf wreaths around their necks.

After Estonia, Järvi jetted across the Atlantic for his debut at Cleveland’s Blossom Festival. Tatiana and Lea rejoined him afterward in Cincinnati, where he auditioned the CSO’s new assistant conductor Eric Dudley and closed on their new home, a condominium near the downtown area.

In August, Järvi was back in Europe for a five-country tour with the European Union Youth Orchestra – Estonia is one of the new members of the EU - followed by recording sessions and more touring with the DK, including by a concert at the Salzburg Festival in Austria (Järvi’s Salzburg debut). He returned to Estonia the end of August for a concert and recording session with the ENO.

He arrives in Cincinnati this week to take up the baton at the CSO and begin preparing for the five-country European tour (Oct. 29-Nov. 10).

The closest Järvi came to a summer vacation was five days in late July at the Järvi family compound in Palm Beach, Florida, where he introduced Lea to the water. "We went swimming and had some beach experience. She likes water, she’s quite curious."

Such a punishing schedule raises the question, does Järvi plan vacations or do they just happen now and then?

"I used to," he said, "and I sort of still do, but sometimes at the last moment, something comes up. This year it happened that all the time I was planning to take off, something else came up, and I took it because it was something I wanted to do."

During the coming season, in addition to the CSO, Järvi will guest conduct in Japan (seven concerts), Germany (five) Paris (two) and London (one). In the U.S., he will lead the New World Symphony in Miami and in October, he will make his debut with the Chicago Symphony at Orchestra Hall in Chicago.

In May, he will conduct the ENO at the Eduard Tubin Festival in Tallinn as part of the Tubin centennial. And June 17-19, he will conduct the season finale of the Detroit Symphony in tribute to his father, who is stepping down after 15 years as DSO music director.

The coming season may be a watershed for Järvi and the CSO. With their sixth Telarc CD coming out Sept. 28 (Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring" and Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony), they will get close scrutiny at the Grammy awards. Especially since Järvi is already a Grammy-winner, having earned the coveted statuette in February for "Sibelius Cantatas" (Virgin Classics) with the ENO, Estonian National Male Choir and Ellerhein Girls Choir.

There is a new awareness of the CSO based on their recordings – their Ravel CD released in February received France’s Diapason d’Or and was named "Editor’s Choice" by Britain’s Gramophone magazine - and there has been considerable buzz from their previous tours to the East Coast (spring, 2003), Japan last fall and Florida in March.

After three years, Järvi and the CSO "know each other," he said.

"We have developed together," and the goal of constantly "getting better" – a Järvi mantra – is being vigorously pursued.

Järvi expects "the best," he said. "The best has more to do with quality than anything else. There are certain things that I, when it comes to music, expect and want. I am not hired to be a nice guy only.

"The orchestra is basically a world class orchestra. There is no reason to assume that it is second to any American orchestra."