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Paavo Järvi to Succeed Christoph Eschenbach at Helm of Orchestre de Paris

By Matthew Westphal
31 May 2007

Paavo Järvi
photo by Sheila Rock

The Estonian-American conductor Paavo Järvi, music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, has been named the next music director of the Orchestre de Paris. He will succeed Christoph Eschenbach, whose term expires in the summer of 2010 and who did not wish to renew his contract, according to a statement released by the orchestra today.

The appointment was announced yesterday at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, the orchestra's recently renovated home, where Järvi conducted a performance last night. (The program of Sibelius and Shostakovich is repeated tonight in Caen.)

The length of Järvi's initial term as music director was not specified in the orchestra's statement, although his annual obligations were revealed: he is to conduct the orchestra for 14 weeks (28 concerts) in the French capital and on tours.

The Orchestre de Paris is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year: it was established in 1967 as the successor to the Société des concerts du Conservatoire, which formed France's first symphony orchestra in 1828. Järvi is joining a formidable succession of maestros: among the orchestra's music directors over the past four decades, in addition to Eschenbach, have been Charles Munch, Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan and Daniel Barenboim.

Järvi's first appearance with the Orchestre de Paris was in 2004, and he told Agence France-Presse yesterday that the musicians' "strong engagement" had impressed him: "The soloists, of course, here are exceptional, without any question. But what is important is that every person in the tutti needs to have a personality, a personal involvement, and I feel that is what happens here." (The Orchestre de Paris has a reputation for being a collection of extraordinary individual musicians who have something of the independent streak typical of Parisians in general.)

Last month city officials revealed detailed plans for a new concert hall complex, called the Philharmonie de Paris and designed by Jean Nouvel, in whose 2,400-seat auditorium the Orchestre de Paris will perform beginning in 2012, two years after Järvi's arrival. The new venue, the conductor told AFP, "could reconfirm Paris as the musical center of Europe."

Earlier this month the Cincinnati Symphony, which Järvi is credited with bringing to an impressive artistic level, renewed its contract with him through the 2010-11 season. Unusually, their agreement included a clause allowing automatic renewal on a year-to-year basis thereafter.

"I am completely over the moon," Järvi told The Cincinnati Enquirer at the time. "Negotiations were very quick. It's one of those situations where, when something works, you want to make sure there's longevity and continuation. That's what [evergreen] implies."

The Paris and Cincinnati posts aren't the 44-year-old Järvi's only responsibilities: currently he is also music director of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the artistic director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and artistic advisor to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. (Not to mention guest-conducting gigs with the likes of the Cleveland and Philadelphia Orchestras and the Vienna Philharmonic.)

Järvi does acknowledge that he will probably have to let one or more of those posts fall by the wayside, according to AFP. Which one? "I don't know yet," he told the agency. "I feel that an orchestra like Orchestre de Paris requires much more focused attention. Of course, there is no doubt that this would be my priority above all the projects."




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