The elder son of Estonian/American conductor Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi has achieved much, including appointment as the 12th music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Although a musician of broad interests and a resident of the United States for the greater part of his life, he has continued to champion the music of his native Estonia in live performances and on disc. Blessed with directing gifts that transcend mere talent, Järvi is among the handful of younger conductors regarded as true successors to the great maestros of the past. Born in Tallin, Estonia, Järvi began his studies in conducting and percussion at the Tallin School of Music. At the time 17, his father moved to the United States with the rest of his family and Paavo entered the Curtis Institute of Music, where his instructors in conducting were Otto-Werner Mueller and that doyen among conducting teachers, Max Rudolf. At the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, Järvi studied with Leonard Bernstein. The younger Järvi's abilities quickly manifested themselves enough to lead to guest engagements with such orchestras as the New York Philharmonic, the Munich Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Orchestra della Scala, the Orchestra dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the Vienna Symphony, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Orchestre National de France, the Israel Philharmonic, the Tokyo Symphony, and the NHK Symphony. While bearing the family name may have gotten him a hearing, Paavo Järvi's own brilliance prevailed in shaping scores and drawing quality performances from the widely diverse orchestras he faced. He was engaged as principal guest conductor by the Stockholm Philharmonic and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and earned praise for the manner in which he filled both posts. In September 2001, Järvi assumed the musical directorship of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Jesús López-Cobos, and went through the 2012 season. His debut in that post was preceded by release on Telarc of a CSO disc conducted by Järvi holding Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique and the Love Music From Roméo et Juliet. Already established as a presence in the recording studio, Järvi had recorded discs for Virgin Records with both the Stockholm Philharmonic and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. His 20-some recordings include orchestral works by Stenhammar, Sibelius' Kullervo and the Lemminkäinen Suite, works by Bernstein, a disc of cello concertos with Truls Mørk, and a disc devoted to orchestral works by Estonian composer Lepo Sumera. Among other Estonians championed by Järvi were Erkki-Sven Tüür, Udo Kasemets, and Eduard Tubin, together with the better-known Arvo Pärt. With the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Järvi has recorded a group of orchestral works by Pärt, as well as Sibelius' solitary opera, The Maiden in the Tower. Along the pathway to his Cincinnati position, Järvi amassed an enviable collection of worldwide reviews for both his live performances and recordings. Guardian critic Tim Ashley, commenting on the conductor's "powerhouse" reading of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 with the BBC Philharmonic, wrote: "An overwhelming achievement: one of the great conducting careers of the 21st century is now, unquestionably, under way." Allan Kozinn, writing in The New York Times, noted Järvi's ability to draw from the Philadelphia Orchestra "a truly stunning sound...with a warmth and fullness that recalled the orchestra's years with Stokowski and Ormandy, but has not been typical of its sound lately."
Järvi also served as music director for the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra from 2008-2011 and also the artistic leader of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen since 2004. Järvi also became the music director of the Orchestre de Paris in 2011. Järvi was named in 2012 as chief conductor of the Tokyo-based NHK Symphony Orchestra, starting in 2015.