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Back to the roots

Conductor Paavo Järvi is coming to the Philharmonie for four concerts and will present his orchestra from Estonia


«The apotheosis of the gods» was the headline in ResMusica on the occasion of the farewell concert given in 2016 by Paavo Järvi as Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, one of many stages in a prestigious career that began under the guidance of Leonard Bernstein. Let us take a closer look at the trajectory of a conductor who, among other achievements, is considered one of the great specialists in the Scandinavian repertoire.

It was after he had been appointed to head prestigious international orchestras that the conductor Paavo Järvi began to feel the need to reconnect with his country of origin. He had left Estonia with his family for the United States, in 1980, at the age of eighteen. In 2010, he returned to the coastal town of Pärnu, on the Baltic Sea, where he founded a new summer festival with his father, Neeme Järvi, also a conductor: «[My father] held every position in Tallinn, at the opera and at the symphony orchestra. He always included us in his activities. We were able to attend rehearsals, and it was normal for us to go to all his concerts and opera performances,» Paavo Järvi told the daily newspaper Le Temps. Pärnu is a place that is close to his heart because it is where he spent his childhood holidays. It was also there, in 1973, that he first met the composer Dmitry Shostakovich. In the Soviet era, the little town was a holiday destination for many artists; the violinist David Oistrakh for example was also a regular visitor during the summer months.

For the past seven years, the Pärnu Music Festival has included master classes in conducting, an orchestral academy for talented young people, and, above all, the Estonian Festival Orchestra, intended to be a mix of the country’s best musicians and first-rate instrumentalists from all over Europe.

«An important part of creating the orchestra was to work in a professional setting while still enjoying the atmosphere of the festival,» explains its founder. The ensemble, whose concerts are, in the opinion of David Nice of The Arts Desk, comparable to those of Abbado’s Lucerne Festival Orchestra, is making its first appearances outside the country in a tour that will take it to the most prestigious
venues around Europe. As part of this tour, the ensemble will perform in Luxembourg on 24 January 2018 a programme of Brahms, Pärt, and Shostakovich. The orchestra will appear alongside the Russian violinist Viktoria Mullova, a long-standing collaborator with whom Paavo Järvi recently recorded Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto N° 2.

The man for whom conducting an orchestra means making «chamber music in large numbers» (Le Figaro) will bring his finesse and great clarity to concerts with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg in April. He will return again in June with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie for an evening devoted entirely to Brahms. It was with this same orchestra of which Paavo Järvi has been Artistic Director since  2004 that he recorded for Sony the composer’s complete set of symphonies to great critical acclaim. In other words, a major figure with many sides to him, straight out of the Far North!

Anne Payot-Le Nabour