"Neeme Järvi Conducts Saint-Saëns" by Neeme Järvi on iTunes

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Customer Reviews

4 out of 5

7 Ratings

it's only Saint-Saens


Saint Saens was known for writing a better kind of salon music. It may not challenge you musically, but it's a nice guilty pleasure once in an odd while. Jarvi gets the best he can out of some Scottish orchestra. They manage to live up to his command, although it's not really hard to do with this sort of fluff. -Bz

"It's only Boolez [sic]"

James Rappaport,

I found this album charming, fun, and an incredible find considering I've been looking for the Coronation March for about a decade since playing it in youth orchestra. (Literally the only existing recording I know of. Thank you, iTunes!) The RSNO and Neeme Jarvi brought new life into old favorites (and some unfamiliar tracks as well) and played with all the elegance, transparency, and character that makes this music great. Highly recommended.


Mr Boolez - an apt moniker for one whose reviews of iTunes albums drip with disdain for anything that doesn't sufficiently challenge his unimpeachable erudition (or his ill-defined notions of complexity). No, Saint-Saens is not Wagner or Brahms: I don't think many would disagree with your implication that his music often lacks the depth of expression and formal innovation of his contemporaries, but in the words of the man himself: "The artist who does not feel completely satisfied by elegant lines, by harmonious colors, and by a beautiful succession of chords does not understand the art of music."

In short, is it not enough that Saint-Saens wrote beautiful and expressive music? Art is not a contest nor is its expressive capacity a direct and necessary function of its formal complexity. I'm immediately reminded of your namesake: Boulez's music, besides being a technical minefield for its players, is abundantly challenging for listeners, hyper-organized, and endlessly rich in complex and novel forms. However, and like much of integral serialism and high-modernist classical music, it is also hideous: its alleged intellectual rigor is only surpassed by its grotesquery and capacity to produce an almost visceral revulsion in even the most seasoned of concert artists (to say nothing of its audiences). Given the choice between the "fluff" of Haydn or Saint-Saens and the agony of modern music, I'll choose the former, thank you.

On this notion of fluff, what does that really mean? There is unbelievable nuance in Saint-Saens's music and moments of great depth. Yes, he wrote plenty of show pieces and exotic trifles that are more curiosities than anything else, but dig into some of his other works - there is so much to listen for! Listen to his Requiem sometime. Admittedly, he often comes off in his music as he was said to have done in his performances: aristocratically aloof, unmoving, facile, and as a conservative who subordinates expression to form. Not so in his Requiem: he speaks to the human condition with remarkable directness and clarity, never sacrificing expression for form. Not that you have to study it rigorously or even like it, but you should consider it (and more of his works) before making such a sweeping and frankly glib dismissal of such an ingenious composer whose works have been continually vindicated by their enduring popularity and ability to move and inspire.

Also, "some Scottish orchestra"? Ouch. You must think very highly of yourself. The RSNO is Scotland's premier orchestra - it has world class musicians in it and performs under equally world class conductors.

Finally, your implication that his music isn't really hard to play makes me wonder if you've ever played Saint-Saens or an instrument at all, for that matter. His music frequently places great technical demands on musicians while requiring them to play with the utmost restraint and seamlessness: a very, very tall order for any musician. I have never heard it characterized as "not really hard" or easy in any sense.

About Neeme Järvi

Neeme Järvi, with his children now as rivals, remains a busy star on the international conducting scene. Born in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, on June 7,1937, and brought up within the USSR's system for developing musical talent, Järvi studied percussion and conducting at the Tallinn Music School. He made his debut as a conductor at age 18. From 1955 to 1960 he pursued further studies at the Leningrad Conservatory, where his principal teachers were Nikolaï Rabinovich and Yevgeny Mravinsky.

Järvi took a leading role in the musical life of his homeland. In 1963 he assumed the directorship of the Estonian Radio & Television Orchestra, his first important post. He also founded the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, and for 13 years was the chief conductor of Opera House Estonia in Tallinn. From 1976 to 1980 he was chief conductor and artistic director of the Estonian State Symphony Orchestra, then in its infancy. By the late 1970s his fame had spread throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and he received favorable notices for his appearances in the West. He made history by leading the first performances of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier and Gershwin's Porgy and Bess ever given in the USSR.

Järvi developed a particular interest in unearthing and performing neglected repertory by both little-known and important composers. He was a champion of the Estonian composers Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt. In 1979 he premiered Pärt's Credo, a work that represents a turning point in that composer's stylistic evolution. Järvi, recognizing the importance of Credo (which incorporates biblical texts), presented it without first navigating through the usual channels of the Communist Party or the Composers' Union. The resulting controversy and official disfavor induced Järvi to emigrate. He was permitted to leave Estonia in 1980; within a month of his departure, he made his debut performances with the Boston Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. He quickly received important appointments: principal guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in England (1981-1983) and the Japan Philharmonic; music director of the Royal Scottish Orchestra (1984-1988) and the Gothenburg (Sweden) Symphony Orchestra (1982-2004). For Sweden's BIS label, he recorded a great deal of unfamiliar Scandinavian music, with various orchestras, from the 1980s to the 2000s. Järvi has also recorded for Deutsche Grammophon and Orfeo. His recording projects include cycles of orchestral music by Sibelius, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Tubin, Brahms, Schumann, Shostakovich, and others.

In 1990 he assumed the post of music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, remaining there until 2005. With that ensemble he made 30 of some 150 recordings on the Chandos label. He has also served as principal conductor of the New Jersey Symphony, and accepted music director positions with the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for 2012.

Järvi's concert appearances gradually slowed as he approached his ninth decade, but his recorded legacy has continued to grow at an impressive pace. In late Romantic repertory, especially from France and the Scandinavian countries, he remains one of the world's great specialists, and he has maintained relationships with many of the ensembles he has headed. The year 2016 alone saw no fewer than seven new releases, including the continuation of a symphony cycle devoted to Swedish composer Kurt Atterberg, recorded with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. Devoting himself mostly to substantial symphonic works, Järvi nevertheless did not disdain lighter fare; in 2015 he released, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the album A Festival of Fucik, devoted to the composer of the familiar circus march Entry of the Gladiators.

Järvi's children have made their mark on the musical world as well: sons Paavo and Kristjan have gained international reputations as conductors. Daughter Maarika was principal flutist with the RTVE Symphony Orchestra in Madrid. Järvi and his wife, Liilia, live in New York. He has written an Estonian-language memoir, Kunstniku elu (The Maestro's Touch).

    Tallinn, Estonia
  • BORN
    Jun 7, 1937

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