There is electricity in the rehearsal hall today (Thursday). The atmosphere is positively charged with such energy, such emotion. And the focal point, the man wielding this power, is the legendary conductor Neeme Järvi.
As Conductor Laureate, Neeme has a gloriously rich past with the RSNO. Principal Conductor for 5 years from 1984 to 1988, and a regular guest conductor ever since, he holds a special place in the hearts of the RSNO's musicians and audiences alike, and that fact is inescapable in the rehearsal hall. I am not alone in the balcony today; joining me are donors, RCS conducting students, interns...Everyone is eager to see the master at work.
I've had the privilege of seeing Neeme conduct on many occasions, but this is the first time I've sat in on one of his rehearsals. I've often wondered what rehearsals with Neeme would be like, and it's just as I had imagined, only better! He always commands such powerful performances on stage with his inimitable, almost minimal, style of conducting; the slightest gesture of a hand, a finger, a shoulder, a look, the raise of an eyebrow – each conjuring an immense sound from the musicians – and it is just so in the rehearsal hall.
Sat on the conductor's stool, his voice is gentle and calm as he direct the musicians through Shostakovich's Fifth. From the power and immense wall of sound in the opening movement to the whispering tremolando accompanying the softest of clarinet and flute figures in the Largo, the sound is immediately, unmistakably Järvi. Perhaps not surprisingly given their history of working together, but they have also spent the last couple of days recording together.
Neeme arrived on Sunday and was straight into an evening recording session with the Orchestra which continued on Monday and Tuesday; no less than fifteen works by Julius Fučik were committed to disc for Chandos. Now, today, work begins for this weekend's concerts. It is a schedule that would tire most mere mortals, but at 77 years young, Neeme is showing no signs of slowing down...And thank goodness for that, or we would be denied some truly wonderful performances.
Until the next time...
Neeme Järvi will conduct the RSNO in a programme of Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio espagnol, Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No3 with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, and Shostakovich's Symphony No5 at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Friday 20 February 2015, then at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on Saturday 21 February 2015. Tickets can be bought online at rsno.org.uk/whatson