Paavo's insights into the 112th season of the CSO
Checking in with Paavo Jarvi, about to open the Cincinnati Symphony season, he had a nice, relaxing summer:
"I was in Estonia; I just came from Switzerland, where we did a concert for Verbier.
Before that, we were in Berlin recording Beethoven with Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie. (The first release is already out in Japan.) Before that, I was in St. Petersburg, at the White Nights Festival, with Valery Gergiev. We had a very good time; we did Shostakovich 10 and Schumann 1.
I did Shostakovich 7 in Estonia and I also did master classes there.
Before St. Petersburg, oh yeah, was Mahler 3 with the London Symphony Orchestra. And before that was Mahler 2 with Orchestre National de Paris, in Paris. Oh, by the way, before that I was in Japan. I did all the Beethoven symphonies in three days.
So it’s been a real vacation, as you can see!"
Here's a little Q&A about the season's programs:
Janelle: It’s an eclectic season: What are you trying to accomplish overall?
PJ: Eclectic is exactly the right word. For me to focus only on narrow repertoire would be, in a way, shortchanging the audience here in Cincinnati. But it’s not just about the audience, it’s also the way I function. I like to have a broad spectrum, and it’s good for the agility of the orchestra. It makes their life more interesting, for audiences, musicians and myself.
Janelle: There seems to be some lesser-known repertoire here. Let's pick a few concerts and tell us how you put them together. How about, Bernstein’s Slava! Overture (Nov. 3-4).
PJ: It’s a fun piece. When you have Shostakovich 7 and the Prokofiev violin concerto, you start thinking what else can you put in this program? Shostakovich 7 is big enough to do on its own.
I wanted to create a connection. Shostakovich and Prokofiev were these two great Russians living in the Soviet time. And one person who is most known as being a champion and friend of these people is Rostropovich. And he’s someone who was so close to them – both have written cello concerti for him. When he turned 50 or 60, Bernstein wrote a kind of overture for Mstislav – friends call him Slava. I thought it was a nice way of tying in a tribute to Rostropovich for championing these two composers.
It’s tongue in cheek – a political overture, sort of like N. Korea can make a political overture to S. Korea. It was written in Soviet time, so it’s a Bernstein-esque kind of word game. It’s a Candide type of little overture. I’ve never recorded it but I’d love it.
Janelle: OK, how about Messiaen's "L'Ascension: four meditations symphoniques" (Nov. 10-11)?
PJ: It’s originally an organ piece, and I thought it was a sensational, unbelievably spiritual and touching piece. I perform it a lot, and when I was looking for something to couple with Mahler 9 – that’s another piece that doesn’t need a coupling. And yet I wanted to create a connection to audiences here.
Messiaen's "L’Ascension" is about the Ascension. It’s a religious piece by a supremely religious person. It’s a way to see an end.
Mahler 9 is about the end, as well. So the whole program has a Christian and Jewish way of seeing the end. And it's a soul-searching, typically Jewish way of looking at what it all means. Then Messiaen who sees the end of life on earth in a very Christian way. I thought it would add an intellectual angle to it, to those who realize it. To those who don’t get this kind of connection, it still works musically very well.
Janelle: Many of us know Scriabin's piano music, but have never heard Scriabin's Symphony No. 2.
PJ: That’s my favorite symphony. Everybody loves the 3rd and 4th, but I love the second symphony, because it’s truly a Russian symphony. He’s already starting to go alittle bit mystical and French, but it’s still basically Russian.
There is a kind of Germanic Russian music, that is following a strict symphonic master plan, like Tchaikovsky. There’s a certain classical clarity about them. Then there’s a real, Borodin, Glinka, and Mussorgsky (style). Scriabin is a descendent of this group, where there’s more emphasis on color and flavor.
So there’s something beautiful and Russian about it. I fell in love with the symphony when I was a small boy in Estonia and my father was conducting it, and I thought it was so beautiful. I’ve done it many times, but it is not well known.
Janelle: Here's another one: The Durufle Three Dances.
PJ: That is almost never finding its way to concert podium because it’s primarily known as organ music. There are a lot of French composers we don’t hear because we’re so stuck on Debussy and Ravel. We can’t go past those. But if you look, there’s Vincent D'Indy, Chausson, Dukas, Roussel, Cesar Franck, (Belgian) and the whole Les Six. There’s a connection between two organists, Franck and Durufle. He was a student of Dukas, so there's lush orchestra writing.
Janelle: Have you heard the new piece you're commissioning by Charles Coleman?
PJ: It’s still being conceived. I want it to be a piece that is not a formal opening piece, but a piece with some personality. Very often, they can be fun and quick and memorable only for two seconds. I encouraged him to write something that is not necessarily an occasional piece.
It's about 15-20 minutes long. It’s a substantial piece: I’m hoping for a really good piece, but with new music, it’s like with all children. They need to be born, and you can only tell then what happens.
Watch for a story with PJ in next Wednesday's Enquirer!