The Good Stuff
He said it more simply than I could have said it. But I know I’ve had the thought.
‘Don’t always play the same music, find the good stuff that people don’t know’. That’s how conductor Neeme Järvi summed up his ongoing exploration and recording of the works of so many different composers over the years. He and his conductor sons Paavo and Kristjan chatted at length with Gramophone’s James Jolly around the time of his 80th birthday in September 2018. In the interview, it’s obvious that Paavo and Kristjan also have adopted the “good stuff” philosophy. They, too, have somewhat adventurous discographies.
Not only have I noticed Neeme Järvi’s ever-expanding recorded repertoire. He’s indeed a “go-to” for many works that otherwise are not recorded – or which aren’t in the same recorded “league” as Järvi’s. Every time there’s an announcement about his latest, I hold my breath in anticipation of hearing something I’d like to share with listeners.
Over the years I’ve played many selections conducted by Neeme Järvi with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra from Sweden, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra from Norway, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande from Switzerland, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra based in Järvi’s hometown: Tallinn. He’s currently Artistic Director of that orchestra, as well as Chief Conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, Netherlands and Conductor Laureate and Artistic Advisor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
During the several years when he was at the helm of the Suisse Romande Orchestra, he made a number of recordings of French orchestral music. I’m sure Classic Mornings listeners hear me playing pieces from those all the time, including works by Chabrier, Massenet, and Offenbach, not to mention those by Camille Saint-Saëns from his CD with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
His most recent recordings with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra also have included French works. The newest is titled French Music for the Stage (Chandos 20151). I was excited to play the overture to the opera Raymond by Ambroise Thomas and music which Leo Delibes wrote for ‘Le Roi s’amuse’ (The King Amuses Himself) - the play which inspired Verdi’s opera Rigoletto.
It's not just Neeme Järvi who has been introducing us to lesser-known works. There’s a regular trickle of new recordings featuring seldom heard music by well-known composers or that of their lesser-known colleagues.
One of the more recent ones features the flute quintets of Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805). He was a cellist/composer who wrote concertos and sonatas for his instrument. The 18 flute quintets were for the musicians of his patron Prince Luis. They’re little works, compared to Boccherini’s string quintets or even some of the guitar quintets, which were re-workings of some of the string quintets. The new release features the Spanish flutist Rafael Ruibérriz de Torres and the Francisco de Goya String Quartet (Brilliant 96074).
In the recording notes, Ruibérriz de Torres concludes that Boccherini must have written for a skilled flutist. And he’s observed that some of the quintets have a cello part that only the composer could have played. He may well have joined in on performances with his patron’s musicians.
It's not just repertoire new to us that catches my attention. There are all sorts of things – and certainly a recording made with Paganini’s violin. How could listeners not be curious to hear how that instrument sounds?
It was made in 1743 by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri, later known as Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’. The story is told that for years it was treated as a museum piece in the Italian city of Genoa. And it was so well protected from the elements, but also from musicians playing the violin that Paganini willed to the city.
Simply said: things changed. And violinists finally were able to play the instrument. Recently the Italian-born violinist Francesca Dego made a recording with it, accompanied by Francesca Leonardi (Chandos 20223). In the recording notes, she recalls some of her thoughts when she first took the instrument into her hands. And she reminds us that Paganini turned to Guarneri violins because they used only wood from trees where nightingales sang.
Paganini called his violin “il cannone“ (“the canon”) – a name that has stayed with the instrument. But the new recording opens with a little bell: Fritz Kreisler’s early 20th century arrangement for violin and piano of the finale of Paganini’s 1826 Violin Concerto No. 2, which has come to be known as “La campanella” (“The Little Bell”).
If all of this seems to have a nice ring to it, tune in for Classic Mornings. There’s more “good stuff” to come. Join us Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu!