KRISTJAN JÄRVI is a real chip off the old block. He’s the youngest of a family of internationally famous musicians – dad is veteran conductor Neeme Järvi, older brother is conductor Paavo Järvi, and their sister is flautist Maarika Järvi.
And Estonia-born, US-trained Kristjan is a conductor, too. He holds music director positions with the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Gstaad Festival Orchestra, he’s founder-conductor of a New York-based classical-jazz-hip-hop outfit called Absolute Ensemble, and also founder and music director of the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic.
Unconventional is his style. Which is what will make his concert with the UK’s National Youth Orchestra (‘the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers’) at the Bridgewater Hall on April 10 quite an occasion.
They’re playing Fireworks and the complete Firebird ballet by Stravinsky, plus a violin concerto by American composer Michael Daugherty, with 21-year-old soloist Chad Hoopes – recent winner of the Menuhin Violin Competition and already in demand in major concert halls.
Among the 164 NYO players will be five musicians from Manchester and surrounding areas. One is 15-year-old horn player Livi Gandee, who says: ‘Performing such thrilling and evocative music in my local concert hall will be a real privilege.’
Kristjan Järvi’s commitment to working with young musicians is clear. ‘Orchestras are each a microcosm of society,’ he says. ‘If you can mould these young people into helping each other to be the best they can be, then you can shape the whole of society.’
He founded the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic, which draws on 10 different countries, nine years ago. Now it provides coaching, masterclasses, composition tuition and recording opportunities for its members and others, too. A new orchestra of players in their 20s and 30s, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic, has grown from it.
‘I wanted to help get rid of preconceptions,’ Järvi says. ‘With people from a range of countries from Norway to Russia, you have different ways of approaching life. But the orchestra is like the Baltic Sea itself – it unifies all these traditions.’
There’s a theme to the Manchester programme – a typical Järvi touch – the idea of fire. That’s clear in the Stravinsky pieces, and Daugherty’s violin concerto was inspired by the city of Detroit and its history of steel work and car making. It’s sub-titled Fire And Blood – and, as it happens, was first commissioned, performed and recorded by Kristjan’s dad, Neeme Järvi. Like father, like son.