For more than 50 years now, rock music in its various forms has held sway as the music of the masses. Not surprisingly, there’s now a generation of classical musicians raised on rock ‘n’ roll who find their classical work influenced by it. Think of violinist Rachel Barton Pine’s passion for heavy metal and pianist Christopher O’Riley’s transcriptions of songs by alternative rock band Radiohead. Paavo Järvi, the 42-year-old conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony, grew up playing classical music and rock ‘n’ roll, and now his orchestra is performing a work by Erkki-Sven Tuur, a composer who also has a background in rock. You can read more about how Järvi is creating adventurous programs and embracing new works, even those that reference rock, in WDAV’s Classical News section.
As someone who also grew up on rock ‘n’ roll and who has always been interested in the ways different types of music influence each other, I find Järvi’s approach refreshing and healthy. And it’s not just new music that he champions. He also includes music such as Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 that’s been around for decades but is not often found on concert programs.
Even if Järvi and others like him don’t end up reaching large new audiences with their approach to music-making, at least they’re helping those they do reach explore the riches of quality music (no matter its roots or inspiration) instead of, in Järvi’s words, “[being] a slave to 40 or 50 standard classical pieces.”