What Does Paavo Järvi Conduct With?
Despite the royal brand: the baton of our Music Director is not expensive.
There are certainly conductors who attach importance to luxurious batons, who have high demands on material and design and exclusivity. There are manufacturers in Japan, for example, «whose batons are very fancy,» as Paavo Järvi says. «And very expensive.»
However, he himself sees «absolutely no reason» to afford such fine specimens: «A baton is really just a piece of wood.» That's why he relies on the traditional English brand King David, where the only royal thing is the name. Such a baton can bought for a few Swiss Francs; Paavo Järvi has a whole bag full in stock. When one breaks, the next one comes along. Because the batons are wear and tear, even if you're not a berserker like Arturo Toscanini, whose fits of rage caused a lot of bent wood. And even if you don't go as far as Bernard Haitink, who is said to have given away his conducting sticks as barbecue skewers.
A Cork Handle is a Must
However, this does not mean that Paavo Järvi does not care what he has in his hand. He leaves the fiberglass or carbon fiber sticks to others; he prefers wood. A baton has to be comfortable, otherwise it's no good. But what does comfortable mean? A cork handle, for example, is a must, «then I know that the baton won't fly away». The weight must be right, and the coluor is also important; white batons are more visible to the orchestra. And finally, the right length is a criterion, «I always cut off the tip so that it fits».
Conducting only with the hands would be out of the question for him. The baton enables precise, differentiated and correspondingly unmistakable signals. In addition, there are athletic reasons: «With the baton, I can allow myself somewhat smaller movements than without – and in a Bruckner symphony, that definitely makes a difference in terms of physical strain.» For him, the baton is an extension of the hand, «not a separate instrument» and certainly not an authoritarian means of discipline. «It's just about communicating as clearly as possible with the orchestra.»
Ordering on Ebay
His view of things, by the way, has set a precedent, as his Assistant Conductor Izabelė Jankauskaitė tells us. In her conducting class at the ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts), Paavo's batons were once a topic of discussion, and her predecessor Holly Choe immediately ordered them for all the students – «on Ebay».
So even if Zurich is a good destination for luxury goods, the city is a tough place for manufacturers of exclusive conducting sticks.
Translated with DeepL