Christoph Eschenbach just left Paris to come to the National Symphony Orchestra, and his successor, Paavo Järvi, has just inaugurated his first season at the Orchestre de Paris. Critic Renaud Machart notes that, unlike "the Anglo-Saxons," French audiences do not make things easy for new music directors. Far from being a gala celebration, Järvi's opening was under-attended, as noted in Machart's review (Le nouveau directeur de l'Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Järvi, imprime sa marque, September 17) for Le Monde (my translation):
Perhaps one should attribute the cause of this disaffection to the character of a program that, at first blush, may appear to be off-putting to the least adventurous music-lovers: Paul Dukas's ballet La Péri (1911), of which people only know the introductory Fanfare, and the seventy-five minutes of Kullervo (1890-91), the first major symphonic work of the Finn Jean Sibelius, for soprano, baritone, male chorus, and orchestra.Järvi, Machart concludes, "has neither the profound lyricism of his father, Neeme Järvi, nor the electric fantasy of his younger brother, Kristjan Järvi. His concerts have often been boring, but one still recognizes his savoir-faire, the clarity of his conducting, and his musical authority." Where Eschenbach began his term in Paris with concerts that were "sometimes miraculous," he did not go on to produce such strong results. Hopefully it will be the reverse with Paavo Järvi.
Paavo Järvi seems to be a curious and eclectic conductor, something he affirmed himself in the program: "I will defend the plurality of styles -- avant-garde, minimalism, spiritualism, without favoring one or the other, provided that novelty and quality go hand in hand." It is not clear that this nutritional balance will produce unheard-of artistic breakthroughs, and it appears that Järvi will favor consonant music of the 20th century (he reveres the music of Arvo Pärt) over the avant-garde scores preferred by his predecessor, Christoph Eschenbach. Still, better this colorful cocktail than a turn back to the grayness of an over-familiar repertory.