Kristjan Järvi Rocks Opening of Pärnu Music Festival
Concert Hall, Pärnu
Gene Pritsker: Variations on Japanese Melodies: “40 Changing Orbits” and “Sakura Sakura”
Johann Sebastian Bach: Violin Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1041
Arvo Pärt: Passacaglia for Violin and String Orchestra
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 8 in F Major, Op. 93
Anne Akiko Meyers (violin)
Sinfonietta Riga, Kristjan Järvi (conductor)
A. A. Meyers, K. Järvi (© Tavi Kull)
Spirited may be too pale a word to describe conductor Kristjan Järvi‘s performance with the Sinfonietta Riga, which opened the Pärnu Music Festival Järvi Academy July 15 at the Concert Hall in Pärnu, Estonia. A large and festive crowd was on hand for the 8-day event, successor (re-named) to the Järvi Summer Festival, founded in 2011 and operated in conjunction with the annual Järvi Academy for young conductors by the family of Estonian conductor and family patriarch Neeme Järvi.
Beethoven was on the program – and how! – along with a stellar performance by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers of works by Gene Pritsker, Arvo Pärt and J.S. Bach.
Järvi, 41, son of Neeme and younger sibling of Paavo Järvi (artistic director of the festival), is known for his embrace of new and popular music. As founder and leader of Absolute Ensemble, an electro-acoustic chamber group, he has introduced much new music, including that of Pritsker, co-founder of Absolute. Järvi opened the concert with Pritsker’s “40 Changing Orbits,” composed for Absolute Ensemble in 2012, as well as “Sakura, Sakura” (“Cherry Blossoms”) from Pritsker’s 2013 Variations on Japanese Melodies, the first movement of a violin concerto in progress that featured Meyers.
Also on the program were the Violin Concerto in A Minor by Bach, Estonian Pärt’s Passacaglia for Violin and String Orchestra (2003, 2007) and, topping off the evening in a big way, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major.
Russian born Pritsker, a guitarist who writes in an engaging style fusing musical idioms from classic to hip hop, adopts classical music “lite” in his “40 Changing Orbits,” a good-natured work with a jazzy edge and a gentle conclusion. “Sakura, Sakura” is the familiar Japanese folk song appropriated by just about everyone, including Puccini in Madame Butterfly. Meyers made a beauty of it in Pritsker’s attractive, harmonics-laced treatment, especially utilizing her legendary “ex Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu violin (1741). She followed suit with the Bach concerto, which she performed in romantic style, with a dreamy Andante, framed by a crisp, energetic first movement (an untitled Allegro) and a zesty Allegro assai finale, taken at a bracing clip.
Pärt’s atmospheric Passacaglia made a fitting companion to the Bach (from whom Pärt derived the inspiration for his late-blooming minimalist style) and was given a similarly lovely reading by Meyers and the Sinfonietta strings. Met with an enthusiastic response, Meyers encored with a melting performance of the “Air” from Bach’s Suite No. 3 for Orchestra in D Major, BWV 1068.
Beethoven consumed the second half. Here Järvi indulged his most animated conducting – bouncing, thrusting, swaying and all but assaulting his players with gestures and facial expressions – always, however, geared to the musical moment. This yielded a performance of sometimes percussive force and vitality, realized with commendable skill and pluck by the 34-member Sinfonietta. The Allegro vivace finale unfolded at an unforgiving, well nigh frantic pace that simply took one’s breath away. Having worked up a well-earned sweat – not to mention working up the audience, which responded with cheers, foot-stomping and Estonia’s customary rhythmic clapping – Järvi obliged with several encores in the exuberant tradition of his father Neeme (in the crowd), including Beethoven’s “Turkish March.”
Mary Ellyn Hutton