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"Maestro" -- Inside Classical Music

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Aug 13, 2015 - 3:51:26 PM in reviews_2015

Paavo Järvi
Founded by Northern Kentucky native David Donnelly in 2010, Endeavor Pictures is a production company that specializes in creating films and documentaries that inspire social change. Examples include “Think About It” about teen drinking and driving, “Consequences,” a docu-drama for at-risk youth and “Believe,” a “diverse palette” of monologues on philosophies of life.

Donnelly’s latest cause is classical music, which he illustrates and champions in a new feature length documentary, “Maestro,” which received its Cincinnati premiere April 17 at the Cincinnati Art Museum as part of the 2015 Constella Festival of Music and Fine Arts.

Eighty-three minutes in length, “Maestro” centers on the experience of former Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra music director Paavo Järvi, with appearances by Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn, Pekka Kuusisto and Lang Lang. Two years in the making, its objective is to present an “insider’s view” of the world of classical music, to capture “the pressures of self-expression, the rush of performance and the power of a universal language.”

Premiered in January at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, it is fast-moving, hard-hitting and ultimately inspiring.

The film is very much a behind-the-scenes account, from rehearsal to performance, in this case opening night at the Orchestre de Paris, which Järvi serves as music director. The film also covers his work with the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, where he was principal conductor from 2006-2014. There are scenes of Järvi backstage before concerts and a discussion of the conductor’s important managerial role and as a fund-raiser for the orchestra. There are scenes in his native Estonia, from which he and his family -- his father is conductor Neeme Järvi -- emigrated in 1980 to seek greater artistic freedom in the West (Estonia was at the time occupied by the Soviet Union).

Donnelly compares an orchestra to a sports team, with the conductor serving as coach during rehearsals and as quarterback during performances. There are interviews with Järvi, which yield some pity quotes. Among them:

“Music is the beginning and the end of everything for me.”

“Somebody has to open the door and say come with me.”

“Mediocrity is the enemy.”

“We live, we die. Music is what is in between.”

“Once you are lucky enough to know it (music), you are never alone.”


There are interviews and excerpts in performance with Bell, Hahn, Lang Lang, Kuusisto, etc. including fireworks from Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 by Lang Lang.

Järvi admits that conducting is “a piece of cake” compared to interacting with one’s children (he and his former wife, violinist Tatiana Berman, have two young daughters). “What would you like your daughters to know?” he is asked at one point: “How important there being there is,” he said, including at concerts where they always wave to him.

For more information about “Maestro,” visit http://www.maestromovie.com/thefilm/