That's when he brings on a saxophonist to play Handel, or a
Balkan trio to jam along with his MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony
Orchestra, where the Estonian-born Jarvi is music director.
"The more you discover, and the more you create, the more you
realize that there are so many infinite possibilities, I mean
that really are infinite - there is no such thing as concrete,"
The 42-year-old Jarvi has been breaking down "concrete barriers"
between the audience and classical music pretty much since he
became a conductor, starting off as an assistant to Esa-Pekka
Salonen at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1998.
His father, the Estonian conductor Neeme Jarvi, moved his family
to the United States when Jarvi was seven. After deciding he
wanted to be a musician - inspired in part by the late Leonard
Bernstein - Jarvi went at it with gusto.
In addition to his conducting roles, he founded the
classical-world-hip-hop-jazz group Absolute Sound, which has
delved deep into crossover territory. He now hopes to break down
more walls through his "Kristjan Jarvi Sound Project" to lure
new audiences to classical music.
The "Sound Project" is a bit of a catchall term for a plan to
produce recordings of works that excite him - and hopefully
listeners - and reproduce that experience at live performances
and a series of themed events, such as a Northern Lights
Festival and a Spring Fever Festival. The first release, "Balkan
Fever", featuring Balkan musicians, was released this month.
Classical music "should become completely integrated into
society. In fact if we don't do this it's going to fade away,"
the energetic Jarvi said over tea in a London hotel where he
occasionally launched into song to illustrate a musical point.
Jarvi has earned a reputation as one of the canniest, and most
innovative, programmers on the classical scene.
With Absolute Sound he has recorded compositions of the late
American rock musician Frank Zappa. His 2006 recording of
Bernstein's sprawling "Mass" of 1971 is often deemed the main
rival to Bernstein's own.
More recently he has toured Europe with the American minimalist
Steve Reich and produced a recording of Reich's milestone
"Desert Music" oratorio of 1983 that almost makes the piece, set
to haunting lines by poet William Carolos Williams that presage
a nuclear apocalypse, sound like a whole new work.
[to top of second column]
Jarvi worked closely with the late, great jazz keyboardist Joe
Zawinul, co-founder of "Weather Report", who also performed with
Absolute Sound. Jarvi holds up a performance by Zawinul playing
Brahms's "Haydn Variations" with the Cologne Symphony as an example
of what he wants to do with classical music.
"The thing grooves like you couldn't believe," Jarvi said, by way of
explaining his decision to recruit saxophonist Daniel Schnyder, from
Absolute Sound, to play Handel, even though the instrument hadn't
been invented in the 18th century. Jarvi calls it "Handel Reloaded".
"The thing is it is one of those instruments that lends itself to
the type of improvisation like a violin would do in Handel's time,"
"Baroque music, and up to the days of early classical, was very much
improvised. Now where does that exist today? It exists in the world
of pop, jazz and rock."
With Bach embraced by rock and jazz performers, Jarvi thought the
comparatively neglected Handel should have a whirl.
Once you get beyond the Frenchness and Germanness of the composer's
famous "Water Music", Jarvi said, the dance rhythms, with the right
musicians playing them, contain "certain sound effects ...
reminiscent of some kind of reggae".
"It's some of the best music that exists so how do you take some of
the best music that exists and bring it to the world again? You have
to reload it."
But what about the musical purists, who might object to saxophones
"If one could definitely say that Handel was a purist himself I
would say right on, but I really have a hard time thinking that,"
"Even Bach would basically say, 'Hey, listen, what instruments do we
have?' And then he adapted stuff. Stuff like we do to Handel he did
to Vivaldi - and then he called it his own concerto."
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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