Elbphilharmonie Talk with Paavo Järvi

Järvi talks about his tearful beginnings as a student and explains why half of all conductors can’t actually conduct.

Endless wide roads, endless numbers of cars, endless expanses of land, both built-up and untouched: everything here seemed literally larger than life. It was nothing short of a culture shock when 17-year-old Paavo Järvi moved with his family from the quiet city of Tallinn in Estonia to New Jersey. He couldn’t speak a word of English when he arrived in 1980, which now seems a lifetime ago. Paavo’s father Neeme Järvi is an Estonian conducting legend who lives in the USA, while his nine years younger brother Kristjan Järvi is likewise based in America, and stirs up the international classical scene from there. After a rigorous conductor’s training at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Paavo Järvi chose to make Europe the focus of his private and working life, even though he held the position of chief conductor in Cincinnati for many years.

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Paavo Järvi is probably the conductor of international standing who appears most often in the Elbphilharmonie and the Laeiszhalle, apart from the heads of the local Hamburg orchestras. Primarily with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, but also with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Estonian Festival Orchestra or, as he does on three consecutive evenings in November 2022, with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, whose musical director he has been for a couple of years now.

In his »Elbphilharmonie Talk«, Paavo Järvi talks about his tearful beginnings as a student of conducting in the US, about the interesting differeneces in acoustics between the Tonhalle and the Elbphilharmonie, and says what common ground he sees between Bruckner, Messiaen and Arvo Pärt. He explains why half of all conductors can’t conduct, and what an invaluable advantage it is to have a mentor for a career on the rostrum in one’s own family. He also admits that he is a hedonist, and says that he feels much better at the age of nearly 60 than in 2012, when he turned 50. Järvi also does away with the prejudice that a conductor cannot conduct both Mahler and Bruckner with the same success. At least, he tries to.

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