The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Conductor: Paavo Järvi
Symphony No 3 in F Major, Op. 90
Symphony No 1 in C Minor, Op. 68
Conducting dynasties, particularly successful ones, are something of a rarity. The more so when two of them, both from the Baltic States, have been trained in the Leningrad–St Petersburg conducting school. Arvīds and Mariss Jansons compete with Neeme Järvi and his sons Paavo and Kristjan in terms of fame.
Paavo Järvi attracts audiences with his unusual concert programmes: be it with taste and a sense of style contrasting classical and contemporary works (the latter of which definitively includes music by Estonian composers), or monograph concerts, “collations of works”. He has conducted such series of symphonies by Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler. In 2011 at the Stars of the White Nights festival with the Deutsche Kammer philharmonie Bremen he performed all four Schumann’s symphonies. The conductor will be performing Brahms’ symphonic quadriptych with the same ensemble.
Brahms’ four symphonies are the most difficult exam for a conductor, demanding the ability to combine in performance the fervency of the Romantic with the bleak discipline of a retainer of classical forms. In expectation of Järvi’s Brahms cycle we must take note of the character and composition of the orchestra and we listen to the words of the conductor himself from recent interviews.
“I would like least of all for audiences to think about how authentic my interpretations of Beethoven are. After all, I’m not writing a doctoral thesis. Precision for the sake of precision, style for the sake of style – that doesn’t interest me. The main thing is the natural sound of the music, so that its essence can be
heard... I wanted to break with the tradition that has been
around since the start of the late 19th century when musicians were listening to Wagner <...> with his obvious mania of majesty. When Mahler conducted Beethoven’s symphonies <...> he put the music on a scale with his own concept of orchestral sound (in the Ninth Symphony he added the tuba and six French horns!). Today we no longer complicate things, the reverse, we simplify them – we know that in Beethoven’s time there were far fewer musicians in the orchestra. We know that even in his large-scale symphonies Beethoven thought in chamber terms: the sheet music contains much, but there is much more between the notes. It’s like the Bible: one and the
same words, but they can be interpreted differently <...> Even Mahler’s Eighth, the Symphony of a Thousand which should be performed in the chamber style. Here
the work displays its unavoidable difficulties – the chamber-music style demands subtle touches and delicate
There is every justification to expect that the conductor’s words about Beethoven’s symphonies also reflect his
own interpretations of Brahms’ symphonies.
The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is one of the world’s leading orchestras, captivating audiences everywhere with its unique style of music-making. The Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi has been the orchestra’s Artistic Director since 2004.
One of the many highlights of the ensemble’s collaboration with Paavo Järvi has been its Beethoven Project, on which the conductor and orchestra focussed for six years. Its Beethoven interpretations have been acclaimed worldwide by audiences and critics alike as benchmark performances. They have thrilled listeners in Paris, Tokyo, Strasbourg, Warsaw, at the Salzburg Festival and the Beethovenfest Bonn with the complete cycle of the nine Beethoven symphonies. The cycle was recorded on RCA and enthusiastically acclaimed by critics throughout the world. The TV and DVD documentary of the Beethoven Project produced by Deutsche Welle and Unitel was also greeted with a positive response, receiving numerous awards. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen recently added a recording of Overtures (October 2014/RCA) to its Beethoven cycle.
Following the Beethoven Project, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Paavo Järvi focussed on Robert Schumann’s symphonic works with equal success. After sensational triumphs in Tokyo and St Petersburg, in 2012 the Schumann cycles were also acclaimed at the Beethoven Festival in Warsaw and Vienna’s Konzerthaus. A TV/DVD about the Schumann Project produced by Deutsche Welle in co-operation with Unitel, arte, and Radio Bremen has been released.
For many years, the orchestra has cultivated close musical friendships with such internationally renowned soloists and conductors as Christian Tetzlaff, Maria João Pires, Viktoria Mullova, Hélène Grimaud, Janine Jansen, Igor Levit, David Fray, Martin Grubinger, Hilary Hahn, Heinrich Schiff, Trevor Pinnock and Sir Roger Norrington.
The orchestra members devote themselves with strong personal commitment to their joint projects with the Bremen East Comprehensive School, where the ensemble’s rehearsal rooms are now located. The unique collaboration that has resulted has been recognised by numerous awards from the very outset, including the Zukunftsaward (Future Award) as “Best Social In novation” in 2007 and the ECHO classical award in 2012. With these projects, the musicians pursue the goal of encouraging individual development through music – especially but not exclusively in an educationally disadvantaged environment. The German Minister of State for Culture has designated the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s Future Lab as a model project.
In 2008 the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen received the prestigious German Founders’ Prize in the “Special Award” category for its successful combination of entrepreneurship and culture. In 2009 three of the orchestra’s CD releases won ECHO classical awards. The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen was honoured with the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik’s Certificate of Special Merit in 2010 for its complete discography ranging from Bach to Ruzicka.
The same year, Paavo Järvi received the ECHO classic award as “Conductor of the Year” for the Beethoven recordings.
The Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen is the Orchestra in Residence at the Elbphilharmonie Concerts in Hamburg.
Barely familiar with his piano sonatas, Robert Schumann saw a symphony composer in Johannes Brahms. Composing for orchestra was Schumann’s legacy to his younger colleague. Clara Schumann, who had at one time inspired her brilliant husband to turn to the symphony genre, now inspired Brahms to work in that genre too (interestingly, both composers wrote four symphonies apiece). In Brahms’ First Symphony (1862–1876) there is much that is reminiscent of Beethoven. The music moves “from darkness to light,” here you can sense the desire and readiness “to grab destiny by the throat” and the entire first movement flows in a battle between high and low voices. Following the example of Haydn’s late sonatas and Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, the second movement was composed in a tonality very remote from the main one as if it were flowing in some other reality. The third movement is a gracious and feminine scherzo. The finale is one of Brahms’ most intense achievements, one of which he was justifiably proud. The broad theme in major key from the introduction may have suggested to Mahler the idea that a “symphony should be like the world.” The main theme with its many voices resounds like a chorale, in parts resembling Beethoven’s Ode to Joy: after the battle in the first movement, in the finale a long-awaited union occurs. The symphony was published by Simrock, and published so well that Brahms wrote to his publisher of their joint work “It is lying on the piano and is delighting and surprising everyone; I have to stop young composers seeing it, otherwise you would be sent too many symphonies.”
When analysed coolly, Johannes Brahms’ Third Symphony (1883) would appear to comprise familiar elements from works already written. These, however, engender a great many new and pliant themes. In the first movement, as always with Brahms, there are no less than five themes, although the rules dictate that there should be only two. The very first theme, which is performed by the wind section and immediately taken up by the trombone and the double basses, moves at its own pace – three times slower than the other instruments. It appears to be somehow eternal and immutable, some kind of fundamental element of the musical material. The theme returns with Wagnerian triumph in the coda of the finale.
The second movement reminds us of the scherzos from the preceding symphonies. Opening the finale with a single-voiced theme was something that had already been done in the Second Symphony. But such a slow movement as the third – sincere, intimate and, at the same time, courageous – had never been seen before the Third.
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