I was at a concert: Four guys you may have heard of…

Richard Strauss

Mix equal parts John Wayne, Dirty Harry, Ninja, Mike Tyson before prison, John Bonham's drumming on "Whole Lotta Love", and Pirate. Add orchestra.

Last week’s concerts with the Kansas City Symphony were led by their associate conductor, Steven Jarvi, whose picture on the group’s website makes him look like he’s 16 years old. Jarvi might be older than that. He is unequivocally more musically sophisticated than that.

Jarvi, as far as I can tell, doesn’t appear to bear anything other than a fortunate surname in common with Neeme, Paavo, Kristjian, and however many other Jarvis are out there (think of them as the Wayans Brothers of orchestral conducting). Ironically, though, his conducting style reminded me a bit of his non-brother Paavo: maybe a little sweepy on occasion for me, but always clear, concise, and controlled. I have no problem saying that my expectations were not very high…not because of Mr. Jarvi particularly, but because of pretty much every other young conductor I’ve observed in the last few years. It was a meaty program of some of the finest music Austria ever had to offer, and a true test of a conductor’s mettle. Continue reading

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Is Gustav Mahler the ‘Ice, Ice Baby’ to Hans Rott’s ‘Under Pressure’?

Paavo Jarvi, the reigning Prince of Turtlenecks, has recently been in the process of performing and recording the Hans Rott Symphony in E major, a work that has generated mild interest in the past, but has picked up steam in recent years.

Jarvi, though, is kicking it into overdrive…based on these fairly strong accusations against none other than Gustav Mahler.

I listened to the Rott Symphony again today because of all this ruckus (the premiere recording with the great Gerhard Samuel and the CCM gang)…

There are a few small details here and there that certainly caught my ear as being familiar from Mahler. For example, there is a spot in the first movement of Rott that sounds very similar to the spot in the finale of Mahler 7 after the first section ends and the woodwinds are holding that chord as a transition into the next section of the movement…

And yes, the first two bars of Rott’s Scherzo and the Scherzo from Mahler 2 are essentially identical, though not in orchestration…

And I, for one, feel like I can hear the whole “they’re inhabiting the same sound world” thing…

But you know who else inhabited roughly the same sound world? Terence Trent D’Arby and Michael Jackson.

Bill Parcells once said, “you are what your record says you are.”  Dandy Don Meredith once said, “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, wouldn’t it be a Merry Christmas?”  My composition teacher in high school once said, “plagiarize, don’t hide your eyes.”  They were all right.  All we can go on is what we know.  And what we know is that Mahler made his legacy, Rott did not.  Was it his fault?  Who knows?  But even IF you wish to think like Maestro Jarvi and think that Mahler owes a posthumous apology to Rott, you have to first acknowledge that whatever material you may think was lifted by Mahler was handled with the skill of one of the greatest composers who ever walked the Earth, not one of the all-time musical question marks whose style, as we know it, is a raw, jumbled mix that shows great, but completely unfulfilled, promise.

In all seriousness, plagiarism is a serious allegation to levy.

Phil & Paavo

Phil Collins & Paavo Jarvi

For example, if I were to say that Paavo Jarvi seems to have plagiarized Phil Collins’ entire fashion aesthetic in an attempt to look like a more alcoholic but also more cultured version of the famed singer of “In the Air Tonight,” I would risk being criticized heavily for making such disparaging remarks about one of the 15 most famous currently living Estonians in the world.

So I won’t.  I’ll simply re-post in its entirety a thing I had written a while back about Hans Rott and the potential he took to his grave, and assume Paavo Jarvi was high as shit on peyote when he made those comments.

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