Saturday, March 29, 2003

Thumbs up: Bravo, Paavo

Four more years of music

Cincinnati's musical love affair with conductor Paavo Jarvi should last until at least the end of the decade, thanks to a four-year contract extension Jarvi signed with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra this week.

Jarvi, who took over the post of CSO music director in September 2001, will be here through the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, keeping a busy schedule of performances, recordings and tours with the orchestra. He had already been signed through 2005.

The longer contract is terrific news not only for the CSO but for the city, which can boast a cultural jewel that few cities can match. "I never cease to be impressed with the extraordinary quality of this orchestra," Jarvi said after signing the extension.

Local audiences are impressed with Jarvi as well. Ticket sales rose 10 percent by the end of last season, including a 13 percent rise in single-concert tickets, according to the CSO. That means that music-lovers who may not have ventured to CSO concerts before are giving it a try.

Hiring Jarvi was a coup, and inking a quick contract extension is a smart move. The charismatic Estonian-born conductor has helped take the CSO to a higher musical level and to greater prominence. On Sunday, the orchestra begins an East Coast tour of New York, Boston and Washington. Next season, the CSO makes a return visit to Japan.

A huge bonus here is Jarvi's role in maintaining the CSO's high visibility in the classical CD market. In an era when several more famous American orchestras are without recording contracts, the CSO is assured of at least two discs a year on the Telarc label. An all-Stravinsky disc was just released this week, and two more recordings are planned for release in the coming months. Telarc president Bob Woods says he's discussed a decade's worth of recording projects with Jarvi.

"There are great things happening in Cincinnati, and one of the greatest is what's happening with the orchestra and Paavo Jarvi," Woods said. That's pretty high praise, coming from a Clevelander.

So if you drive past Music Hall some coming weekend and hear the CSO audience shouting "Four more years! Four more years!" it won't be a political rally. It will be another "Bravo" for Paavo.

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