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The Son Also Rises

New York
Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center
02/24/2011 -  & Feb. 25, 26, March 1, 2011
Erkki-Sven Tüür: Aditus (New York Premiere)
Benjamin Britten: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 15
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony Number 5 in C Minor, Opus 67

Janine Jansen (Violin)
New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Paavo Järvi (Conductor)

P. Järvi (© Matthias Bothor)

Parent/child inheritance in conducting is relatively uncommon. But we do have Erich and Carlos Kleiber, Stefan and Thomas Sanderling, and, of course the Järvis: father Neeme with brothers Kristjan and Paavo. I haven’t seen Kristjan in New York, but both Neeme and Paavo share the same excitement on the platform (though father Neeme is understandably more sedate these days). Both have an affinity for Beethoven, and Paavo’s performance of the Fifth Symphony last night with the New York Philharmonic shared his father’s preference for Beethoven as tough, exciting, and fiercely muscular.

Obviously, both men take especial pride in their Estonian background, and have brought to international light some exceptional composers, like Arvo Pärt and Eduard Tubin. (Neeme had once recommended to a friend his son’s recording of Tubin as being the “perfect comforting music after a serious operation”.)

Last night, Paavo Järvi unveiled another Estonian composer, well known in his homeland but new to America. Yet the nine minutes of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Aditus (a word meaning, in the composer’s words, “approach, access, entrance, beginning, chance”) showed a daring and exciting craftsmanship in a stunningly colorful exercise.

Like so many others of his generation. . Tüür started as a rock keyboard-vocals man, then went to Tallinn Conservatory. Like his idol Frank Zappa, his love of rock later encompassed love of Renaissance and Baroque music, and while studying with Lepo Sumera, his music took a more modern turn.

It was in memory of Professor Sumera that he wrote Aditus, and I wold love to have space to explain Tüür’s exegesis on “vectorial…meta-language” music. This involves “a source code…a gene which, as it mutates and grows, connects the dots in the fabric of the whole work.”

His subsequent words are more specific, but Aditus, on first hearing, is a tense volcanic series of scales running up and down the orchestra (mainly in the brass). Those scales start in the first measure, become louder and louder, but never slow down or cease their tension. This, after all, was supposed to be a celebration of Tüür’s mentor, and the waves of sounds were as joyous as they were weaving on the cusp of hysteria.

Only in the final measures did the orchestra hush down to a softness, to a recognition, perhaps, that the man had died.

Even without the composer’s musical explanation, Advitus was a dazzhing introduction to his music, and Mr. Järvi got the Philharmonic to pump up their own excitement, making the “meta-language” meteoric.

Ironically, the second work, written 70 years before, also ended on a soft note after half an hour of pyrotechnical playing. In a concerto,an understated ending is unforgivable, and perhaps that is why Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto is played so rarely here. Yet in the hands of the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen and conductor Järvi, the piece had some truly vital moments.

J. Jansen (© NY Phil)

Ms. Janine has proved in the past to be an most poetic performer, giving lyrical readings of Sibelius and Mozart concertos. The Britten Concerto was a tragic piece, influenced both by the terrible end of the Spanish Civil War and the start of the Second World War, but little of this comes through until the last two movements.

The whole work is dominated by a Spanish tapping rhythm. It is clever, possibly politically inspired, but could divert from the tragic meaning itself. Ms. Jansen played with lyrical finesse in the opening and the short Vivace, and in the devilish cadenza, she showed her command of the Stradivarius.

But after that cadenza, Messrs Jansen and Järvi rose up to the 26-year-old composer’s challenge. The only violin concerto passacaglia that compares–in inspiration, tragedy, development and emotional depth–is the Shostakovich First Violin Concerto, I don’t know if Ms. Jansen plays this, but if so, I hope that she offers the same passion, the seamless lines and that glorious incandescent tone which she unveiled and played to the very last, soft and lingering notes.

Harry Rolnick



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