Paavo clings to his other job

The Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi has been renewed by the NHK Symphony by an extra year to 2022.

That suggests both sides are looking for a change.

The NHK has a centenary coming up in 2026.

Paavo recently logged in as chief conductor of the Zurich Tonhalle, which seems to be going well.


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  • Having seen dozens of Paavo’s concerts I can say comfortably that he is one of the most boring major conductors out there. Sheer mediocrity that is only buoyed by his father’s name.

    • To me, his Cincinnati recordings on Telarc were vastly more satisfying than those by their previous conductor, Lopez-Cobos.

    • Depends. Some of the things he did were fantastic. Certain recordings with Orchestre de Paris or Bremen for instance. But I agree that most things that came out of his NHK tenure so far were terribly boring. Except his Strauss, that was quite great.

  • I don’t know about other recordings Paavo Jarvi has made in Tokyo – most of them more standard rep. – but I can tell you that his NHK recording of Mahler 6 is among the very best I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned a tremendous number over the years). I’ll go as far as to call it my personal favorite. I can’t imagine either side being terribly dissatisfied.

      • Barry: Do you actually know him? Now, who wants to buy a sight-reading of Mahler’s 6th….

        How about Karajan? Horenstein? Mitropoulos? Tennstedt? Ring any bells?….

        By the way, the NHK Orchestra was trained by people like Rosenstock, Schüchter, Keilberth, von Matačić, Sawallisch, Suitner, Horst Stein, and a long etcetera of germanic masters.
        This orchestra has for decades played better than most german top-orchestras (!)

        • Yes, I’m familiar with all the ones you listed. No, I do not “actually know him”. Judging a recording has nothing to do with actually knowing him. It has to do with knowing what the composer actually wrote, and seeing how a particular recording stacks up in relation to the score, as well as comparing to the available competition. I’m not sure what your point is, because you then turn around and praise the orchestra. I’m not saying that my opinion is right for everybody. I’m saying that Paavo Jarvi’s NHK recording is my personal favorite of the many, many, MANY I know – many of which I had in my collection or still do own.

          • Barry: That’s great, but surely you know what Sight-reading means, right? Especially when you rely on a very good and disciplined orchestra that plays exactly what it says in the parts (and needless to say, with a brilliant sound engineer and a great producer in charge!)…

            Personally I like my Mahler “extra cooked”, and with a touch of personal life experience and eventually personal tragedy in it.
            Like Tennstedt, who put his entire life in jeopardy during a performance of it when he had lost his daughter, or Mitropoulos, who knew Mahler would eventually kill him. (It did eventually, during a rehearsal at La Scala, on November 2nd 1960, five bars before figure 7 at the beginning of Mahler’s Third. Some musicians draw a cross on that bar)

          • Regarding your first paragraph, you’re implying that P. Jarvi ‘sight read’ Mahler 6 and thus relied on the orchestra. First off, this is technically P. Jarvi’s second recording of Mahler 6 – his earlier one being a dvd of it with the Frankfurt Radio S.O. Second, before you try to further convince me that Paavo Jarvi was sight reading, you should also know that the very same people – Paavo Jarvi and the NHK S.O. of Tokyo – received very high praise from several very jaded London critics – ones who have sat through numerous performances of Mahler 6 – for a live performance they gave at either Royal Albert Hall or Royal Festival Hall (I forget which). I assure you, NOBODY gets up and sight reads Mahler 6 (or any other Mahler symphony). You can look these reviews up online.

            As for your second paragraph, I’m glad you state that it’s a personal preference and not a prerequisite. I do not agree that a conductor has to have endured personal tragedy in order to understand the tragedy a composer is conveying. More to the point, I do believe that the tragedy Mahler is conjuring up is not on a purely personal level. I believe it is more ‘universal’ tragedy, and that the symphony in question even works as a sort of ‘Greek tragedy’. I believe it is more a glimpse into what would happen in Europe (and world wide) in only a few short years after Mahler’s premature death. All of that, of course, is a matter of conjecture.

            Please do not pander by asking me if I “know what sight reading is”. I actually do sight reading quite often, as all musicians do. We rarely do it onstage, in concert – only if called in for an emergency substitution. No conductor on earth would step in to ‘sight read’ Mahler 6 (they would never make it through the scherzo). Those who step in in an emergency, already know the score.

  • The NHK Symphony was for a long time not just the best in Tokyo at a time when the city boasted 10 good symphony orchestras, some very fine, but also the best in Asia. This was partly due to a galaxy of western conductors in titled positions. I recall several concerts with Sawallisch including a Brahms 4 I have never heard bettered. Sawallisch himself had a more than 40 year association with the NHK.

    In recent years, though, it seems to have become stale. To be fair other orchestras in the region have raised their game very considerably, including the Seoul and Hong Kong Philharmonics. The NHK is no longer the orchestra it used to be.

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