Jüri Reinvere

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Pärnu Concert Hall, Aida 4, Pärnu, 80011 Pärnu maakond, Estonia

Guest Reviewer, Ateş Orga

Jüri Reinvere’s On the Ship of Fools, commissioned by Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra, premiered July 15, is a winning twenty-minute showcase, concertmaster, leader of the second violins, and various section members (frequently at the lyrical end of the spectrum) all having an organic, extended, dynamically subtle say in the action. “The idea of composing an independent scherzo seemed appealing to me. Scherzi don’t necessarily have to be funny. They can – as we know from Chopin or Bruckner – also become spooky, grotesque or demonic. I wanted to write a piece like this in terms of tempo or the gesture of movement. I worked here with the simultaneity of different tempi. There is, so to speak, a tempo of action and a tempo of perception. The difference between the two then hopefully creates a certain aura and mood in the listener.” 

His music, Reinvere says, is not a political commentary. But the politics of history, of today, infiltrate his thinking, correspondingly his composition – not least the notion of “leading politicians wanting to gain popularity by showing levity.” “On the Ship of Fools raises the theme to something more general, to something timeless. At the end of the Middle Ages there were several great books and stories on the subject of the world as a madhouse. In Praise of Folly by Erasmus von Rotterdam is one of them, and so is the character of Till Eulenspiegel. I was particularly inspired by a sentence from The Ship of Fools by Sebastian Brant [Das Narrenschiff, Basel 1494]: ‘Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur – the world wants to be deceived, so it should be deceived’. If you look at the role of fake news in our time, in the years of pandemic and war, but also in all kinds of political activism, you know that this sentence is still valid after five-hundred years. People cheat on each other on Facebook and Instagram. Corona, climate change or genocide deniers of all kinds drag scientific knowledge into the dirt and win elections with it. Politicians put on shows to appear prominent and likeable rather than to solve urgent problems. And for reasons of contemporary political correctness, history is being rewritten, which is why we hardly know how we became what we are.”

Besides his musical achievements and commissions, Reinvere – early on a pianist, dissident and activist, based since 2017 in Frankfurt (he writes for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) – is a noted poet and essayist. In February 2022 Postimees, Estonia’s biggest daily newspaper, named him Opinion Leader of the Year. Intellectually questing, visually cutting a profile between Brahms and Penderecki, he’s a significant force. Around eighty players treated the new work (I’d suggest without a score at hand) to a spectacularly balanced premiere re-run. Fading into the cosmos, that suspended C arcing and polarising the close (as spiritually invested as Mahler’s A) near touched impossibility if not another dimension, mirrored in Järvi’s demeanour.

In a cleverly planned programme, he opted for Berg and Richard Strauss to follow. The former’s Seven Early Songs were idiomatically, ringingly projected by the young Estonian soprano Mirjam Mesak – currently a member of the Bayerische Staatsoper who completed her training at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama – with any manner of orchestral glints illuminating the backdrop. A gallery of perfumed images and sentiments. Strauss’s Morgen!, swansong of an era, cast a wrenching spell, Florian Donderer’s violin dreaming starrily, the fragility and language of Järvi’s vision  reminding of the Straussians of old. “Our hands entwined, our footsteps slowly wending, Gaze in each other’s eyes in love’s soft splendour glowing, Mute with tears of joy and bliss ne’er ending…”

Death and Transfiguration was weighty, driven, mellifluent, life and memory spiralling into silence – as imposing a reading as I’ve heard in years. The familiar old hands of the EFO, supportively nurturing younger newcomers, gave everything, Järvi controlling pace, tension, nuance, climax and release to achieve the kind of brilliance and impact that made his 2019 Tonhalle Francesca da Rimini recording so visceral. This was an account of golden proportion and dedication, profound in wisdom and life journey. Spine-chilling.

Crossing the rainbow to Asgard, “the swaying road to heaven”, sundry other vistas were for the sharing. Josef Strauss’s Delirien Waltz (Boskovsky redolent but with Karajan/Jansons portamentos). Josef and Johann II’s Pizzicato Polka (rubato maze, artful negotiation). Berlioz’s Hungarian March (heroic).

Preceding the concert the composer Age Veeroos received the Lepo Sumera Prize from Helena Tulve, her former teacher at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, and Paavo Järvi.

July 16, 2023, https://parnumusicfestival.tv/landing/bc/6N4D5tk8A_/ZVJcCBTHa5x

Reinvere premiere, July 15, 2023, https://parnumusicfestival.tv/landing/bc/6N4D5tk8A_/NV-K-CN1rju