From WILL - Classic Mornings -

Name a Järvi

It’s a convenient and logical thing for listeners to do, particularly listeners who are new to classical music.  They associate the names of conductors with orchestras or ensembles, for example Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic or Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. It seems to bring a little order to the world of classical music that’s heavily populated with the names of composers and performers. 

There’s just a bit of a problem with that. 

Not all conductors have obvious pairings with a particular orchestra or with just one. Many have worked with a variety of orchestras as a guest conductor, conductor in residence, principal conductor, music director or artistic director. Leonard Bernstein worked with many orchestras. Sir Neville has done the same. So has Neeme Järvi.

If his name is not familiar, know that he’s from Estonia. His name is pronounced: NAY meh  YAIR vee.  Good luck trying to associate him with just one orchestra. These days he’s the Artistic and Music Director of the Geneva-based Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Artistic Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Emeritus of both the Residentie Orchestra (The Hague) and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Principal Conductor Emeritus of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in Sweden and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. With all that, it doesn’t mean he’s limited to working with those orchestras.

Classic Mornings listeners have heard recordings featuring the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, The Residentie Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra all led by Neeme Järvi.  Last week I played selections from the first CD with Neeme Järvi conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande that has come into the Friends of WILL Library. It’s a recording of orchestral music by French composer Jules Massenet. (Chandos 5137)

According to Neeme Järvi’s website, he has 417 recordings. To make things even more wonderfully complicated, Neeme’s sons Paavo and Kristjan are conductors with orchestral associations and recordings of their own. If someone asks you to name a Järvi , as it were, you actually can name two or three or more, depending upon whether you’re naming conductors, their orchestras or their recordings!

So is it foolish to try to associate the names of conductors and orchestras? Not at all. The more you listen, not only do you get to associate that many more names of conductors and orchestras. You begin to enjoy the subtle differences that result from those collaborations. Though it’s a joy to hear an orchestra’s sound shaped over the years by one particular conductor, it’s just as exciting to hear what a fine conductor can bring to a variety of orchestras.  It’s like enjoying what a film director accomplishes with an entirely different cast, though sometimes working with some of the same cast members over the years. 

In case we forgot that the legendary 20th Century French flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000) collaborated with many artists and ensembles, there’s a new compilation that reminds us of that.  It highlights recordings from a  25 year period of Rampal’s career (1958-1983) with music written over the course of some 300 years. The set is titled Les Triomphes de Jean-Pierre Rampal. (Erato 0825646313587) Among the performers: I Solisti Veneti, the Paillard Chamber Orchestra, harpist Lily Laskine, flutists  Aurèle Nicolet & Ransom Wilson, pianist/harpsichordist Robert Veyron-Lacroix, organist Marie-Claire Alain and oboist Pierre Pierlot. The collection doesn’t include many more collaborations from Rampal’s later years, but it’s a good start. I played a couple of performances on a recent Classic Morning Prelude.

The Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado hasn’t been around as long as either Järvi or Rampal, but already he’s beginning to defy being associated with one ensemble – at least on recordings. Over the past several months, we’ve received new recordings with Heras-Casado conducting the  Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Concerto Köln (from Cologne).  He has a good bit of experience leading early music ensembles and is a specialist in Spanish early music.  He brings all of that to a new recording featuring the music of composers whose works were performed in Madrid in the 18th Century when the famous singer Farinelli was the court music director. The title of the recording is: Il maestro Farinelli (Archiv 4792050)

In the spirit of associations, combined with that of  puzzles and games of the previous 2 blog posts, a long time listener called to play a little game with me. She asked me to guess the composer she associated with the music I was playing, since she tuned in during the work and didn’t hear me announce whose music actually was playing. That sort of turned the tables on me. I suddenly had to detach myself from the correct answer – which I knew - to imagine whose music she guessed she was hearing. That’s quite a challenge. I didn’t guess the composer she had in mind, but she was impressed with my guesses.

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Thanks for checking out the blog. Join me for Classic Mornings Monday through Friday from 9 to noon, with the Classic Morning Prelude just before at 8:50 on FM 90.9 and streaming online at will.illinois.edu.