Symphony No. 5 / Francesca da Rimini released on Alpha Classics: 21 October in Switzerland 6 November in Germany 13 November internationally
Paavo Järvi has long been recognised as the musicians’ musician, evidenced through his close association with the key orchestras he works with. Following the success of Deutsche Grammophon’s recent release of the complete Schmidt symphonies, which Järvi performed and recorded as one of the focal projects in his years as Chief Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, further releases this November take a close look at his relationship with the two European orchestras he now most regularly partners with; The Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich launches the first album in its new Tchaikovsky cycle on Alpha Classics, celebrating Järvi’s first season as Chief Conductor; and The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen releases a box set of the complete Beethoven Symphonies and Overtures — the project which cemented Järvi’s partnership as Artistic Director with the Bremen based musicians over a decade ago.
“A stimulating partnership is developing here” wrote Die Welt in September 2019 when Alpha Classics released the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich’s first CD with new Music Director, Paavo Järvi. This partnership, which began with works by Olivier Messiaen, now continues with Tchaikovsky. The new cycle, recorded live in concert at the Tonhalle Maag, opens with the Fifth Symphony and symphonic poem “Francesca da Rimini.”
“I grew up with Tchaikovsky’s music in Estonia” says Paavo Järvi. “He was one of the composers most often performed in the Soviet Union when I was a child and during that period there was one great guru — Mravinsky — who relentlessly conducted the Leningrad Philharmonic in performances of Symphonies Nos. 4, 5 and 6. These performances were considered the ultimate perfection and statement of the composer’s music — they were powerful and very well organised, but with no hint of sentiment or warmth. Early on in my career I actually gave up conducting Tchaikovsky. I’m ashamed to say it now but at one point I simply thought that it was not great music. It was not until Bernstein performed the three last great symphonies with the New York Philharmonic towards the end of his life, that my perception changed completely. The extreme passion, pain and suffering, the exaggerated emotions and contrasts that Bernstein dared to bring out of the music, re-awoke my interest. Now when I think of the Fifth Symphony, I think of vulnerability and hope. It looks directly into our soul. It is perhaps the finest of his symphonies and the famous horn solo moves and enriches me every time I hear it. Unlike the Sixth, the Fifth still holds out hope for life. Performing these works with the musicians of the calibre of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich has made this project not only possible but also especially meaningful. For me they are the perfect partner.”
When Paavo Järvi became Artistic Director of The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen in 2004 he was adamant that their first project together should be Beethoven. For 16 years he has worked intensively with the Bremen musicians, performing the complete symphonies in Paris, Tokyo, Strasbourg, Warsaw, São Paulo as well as at both the Beethovenfest Bonn and Salzburg Festival. Upcoming residencies take them to Frankfurt’s Alte Oper and Vienna’s Musikverein.
Together they recorded and released each symphony on RCA Red Seal, receiving international critical acclaim and a string of prizes. “Admired and celebrated worldwide for their artistic achievements, they have realized groundbreaking projects together and have often written history of interpretation in the process” commented the jury of the Rheingau Music Prize on presenting Järvi and the orchestra with the prestigious award in 2019. Now, to honour the Beethoven anniversary, the complete symphony cycle and overtures is being released as a box set on SACD.
Earlier this summer, in interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Paavo Järvi talked about growing up with Beethoven:
“Why did Furtwängler make a rallentando here, but not George Szell? What if this particular section actually would be performed alla breve instead of the usual four? We used to talk about such things over the dinner table … discussing the music of Beethoven and other composers was just the way we grew up. Then later, after we moved to the United States, the new, historically informed movement became increasingly prominent and whilst studying at the Curtis Institute of Music, everything I thought about Beethoven started to change. Following the start of my professional career and especially after I was invited to conduct The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, I was blessed with the opportunity to see the works of this musical giant in their depth. After playing a Beethoven symphony together, I knew I had found the perfect partner to research this composer. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is an orchestra with a unique, almost “anti-orchestral” way of working. The mutual give and take between musicians and conductor, in which each contributes interpretative insights, enabled us to dig deeper and deeper. For ten years we almost exclusively performed Beethoven together before we recorded all of the symphonies … At the end of this process, Beethoven became a completely different composer for me than the one I grew up with. And my journey of discovery still continues.”