Sunday, January 30, 2000

Father and son first for U.S.

Both heading major orchestras

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Paavo Jarvi was named after “The Flying Finn,” Paavo Nurmi.

        “My mother said I had to name my first son Paavo, for the greatest Olympic runner, who was big in Nordic countries. He was a hero,” says Neeme Jarvi, by phone from Gothenburg, Sweden, where he is principal conductor of the National Orchestra of Sweden.

        The spectacular Finnish distance runner won nine gold medals between 1920-28.

        The elder Mr. Jarvi, who is observing his 10th anniversary as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, is looking forward to the time when his son will be in Cincinnati, only a five-hour drive.

        For the first time in history, a father and a son will head two major American orchestras.

        Like his son, Neeme Jarvi was born in Talinn, Estonia, and is a champion of Estonian composers such as Arvo Part and Eduard Tubin. His 350 discs include the complete symphonic cycles of Swedish composers Wilhelm Stenhammar and Hugo Alfven; Danes Niels Gade and Carl Nielsen and Finnish composer Jean Sibelius — music Cincinnatians can expect to hear when Paavo Jarvi takes the podium in 2001.

        Music runs as deep as blood in the Jarvi family.

        “We had music every day at home, and the whole family grew together with music,” Mr. Jarvi says. A daughter, Maarika, is a professional flutist in Paris; another son, Kristjan, is also a conductor.

        The first professional musician in the family was Neeme Jarvi's older brother, Vallo Jarvi, now deceased, an opera conductor who played percussion. Neeme Jarvi also was a percussionist.

        He knew his son was talented when, at age 10 months, a visiting conductor whistled the theme to Chopin's G Minor Ballade, and the toddler sang it back perfectly.

        “Then when my son was 4, he started the same way, with xylophone, and later studied conducting. He did it the same way I did,” he says.

        Does he offer his son advice?

        “We talk all the time, but he has his own ideas,” he says. “He is very serious and he studies things through. When it comes to rehearsals, he is absolutely ready. He also has a lot of fun, and he likes to collaborate with people.”

        He is aware that his son faces the challenge of building an audience.

        “What Paavo has to do is make the public excited, with repertoire and with exciting performances,” he says. “When I came to Detroit, it was an empty hall, also. You have to find different solutions. You can't repeat yourself; you have to find a new way to create. Paavo knows how to do that.”

        He would not make predictions, except to say, “I hope that he's going to be an orchestra builder. You have to be an exciting maestro, but also slowly but surely make the orchestra level so great, that even when a mediocre conductor comes, the playing will be great.”

"Just Paavo's father'
        Mr. Jarvi is proud of his son's achievements. A few years ago, the younger maestro conducted a concert in Stockholm with the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Afterward, the family was invited to dinner at the king's palace.

        King Karl Gustav had presented Neeme Jarvi with the Knight Commander of the North Star Order in 1990, but obviously had forgotten it.

        “Of course, the king and queen knew who Paavo was and who Rostropovich was. They didn't know at all who I was. The king said, wonderful to have you here. What do you do?”

        Mr. Jarvi laughed. “I said, "I'm just Paavo's father.'”


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