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Without Pärnu, the Estonian Festival Orchestra and this – our first album together – would not exist.

Pärnu is a special place that embodies the history and spirit of the orchestra, my own family and Estonia as a whole. It is a quiet seaside resort on the Baltic coast, south of Tallinn, where all the Järvi family gathered for two months every summer. With its large and sheltered sandy bay, endless parks and surrounding birch forests, Pärnu has always been a favourite holiday destination and, during occupation, it was also the summer home of many Soviet artists including Dmitri Shostakovich and David Oistrakh who visited for the nearest thing to western tolerance and understanding in the Soviet Union. A holiday any closer to the West was not possible for any of us.

It was here in 1973 that I met Shostakovich together with my father when I was ten years old, a moment captured on camera and which now sits proudly in the family photo album. Behind the camera was Gustav Ernesaks, the Estonian choral conductor and composer whose song, Mu isamaa on minu arm, became an unofficial national anthem for all Estonians during the Soviet occupation.

In 1980 we left for the States and for years to come, memories of childhood holidays in Pärnu became increasingly distant and nostalgic. Only after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the renewed Independence of Estonia were we eventually allowed to return home and, following my father’s initiative in creating a conducting Masterclass Academy in Pärnu, we decided to expand the venture into a summer festival, celebrating the orchestra at its heart. In July 2011 the Pärnu Music Festival came into life and so did the Estonian Festival Orchestra, bringing together young Estonian players and top-league musicians from orchestras around the world; musical colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure to work with on numerous occasions over the years. It was immediately clear that another family had been born with a hunger and energy for performing together which is a rare joy to find nowadays.

An important component in creating the orchestra was to “match-make” the players. If you are a young player in Estonia, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s not often easy to make contact with a top player in the west. Now we can give these young musicians the advantage to play with elite players from abroad and get to know them as new friends. This spirit is what drives the orchestra and it is a delight each summer to see how those relationships have grown naturally, creating a melting pot of national and international talent where nationality is happily and importantly no boundary.

The week of the festival is intense and everyone gives their utmost in a schedule packed tight with rehearsals, master-classes and concerts, following which we gather together in what is now traditionally known as the “real festival headquarters” – the Passion Café, where friendships are forged and new plans for the future are hatched. It is a remarkable coincidence, and one which is never lost on me, that in the very same building where the Passion Café now stands there used to be a printing house where the manifesto for the Estonian Declaration of Independence was first printed in 1918.

It is often said that there is something in the Estonian air that is a mixture of Scandinavian, German and Russian influences and, even though we have our own very strong national identity, it is true that we also have a natural feeling for neighbouring cultures as a result of our historical and geographical position. So the idea for the Estonian Festival Orchestra is to explore music by composers from across the Baltic region, which naturally includes championing Estonia’s own composers and music from the Nordic countries as well as music from Poland, Russia and Germany, countries with which our history is strongly interlinked.

For our first recording I have chosen the music of Shostakovich, not only because he is one of the giants of 20th century music but also because of his connection to Pärnu where he both stayed and composed. Symphony No.6 is a masterpiece but it also differs from all of Shostakovich’s other symphonies because it has an air of peculiar lightness. As the composer himself said “I wanted to convey in it the moods of spring, joy and youth.” Despite that lightness the subtexts are grim and after the first casual listen one can sense the composer’s struggle with the terror of living in the Soviet reality.

The “Sinfonietta” is a 1961 arrangement for string orchestra and timpani of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No.8 compiled by the composer’s trusted friend, Abram Stasevich, and orchestrated with the composer’s personal blessing. Premiered one year previously, the Quartet is a musical autobiography describing Shostakovich’s life to that point, including citations of pieces that he had previously written and his own musical leitmotif – DSCH. It is a profound work dedicated “In memory of the victims of fascism and war” and which, when performed by the Borodin Quartet at his home in Moscow, left the composer in tears.

Performing and recording these works in Pärnu with a generation of musicians who can now enjoy both peace and freedom of movement across Europe’s borders makes these works feel even more poignant. As the Estonian Declaration of Independence states:

“You stand on the threshold of a hopeful future in which you shall be free and independent in determining and directing your destiny! Begin building a home of your own, ruled by law and order, in order to be a worthy member within the family of civilized nations!“

Paavo Järvi, September 2017

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On 13 August – immediately following this year’s Pärnu Music Festival – Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra will travel to London for its Proms debut. Not only will this performance be an important debut for the Estonian Festival Orchestra but it also marks the first occasion that an Estonian Orchestra has ever performed at the Proms and will be broadcast on both BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV. The programme features Pärt’s Symphony No.3, Grieg’s Piano Concerto with soloist Khatia Buniatishvili and Sibelius’ […]


One of the flagships of the ESTONIA 100 international programme, the Estonian Festival Orchestra (EFO) together with Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi will set out on a European tour to prominent concert halls in January. In Tallinn and Brussels, the EFO will also be performing the world premiere of  Erkki-Sven Tüür’s  Ninth Symphony, in honour of Estonia’s centenary.

Paavo Järvi considers the Estonian Festival Orchestra to be one of his most important musical projects. “I see the Estonian Festival Orchestra as a start-up for […]


Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra’s concert at the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm tonight will be broadcast live on Swedish Radio and filmed as a live stream on the orchestra’s new facebook. Join Paavo and the EFO live in Stockholm for their last concert of their very first tour.

Shostakovich: Symphony No.1
Tüür: Accordion Concerto ‘Prophecy’ with Ksenija Sidorova
Sibelius: Symphony No.2


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Dass eine solche Aufgabe einem ausgewiesenen Orchestererzieher wie Paavo Järvi, übrigens zurzeit ‘Artist in Residence’ der Philharmonie Luxemburg, ein Leichtes ist, war zu erwarten. Dass aber auch das junge und jugendlich besetzte Orchester einer solchen Aufgabe in so einer mitreißenden und überwältigenden Manier gewachsen ist, war nicht selbstverständlich. Feine Soli, insbesondere in den Holzbläsern und ein ausgereiftes energiegeladenes und auch kammermusikalisch ausgereiftes Miteinander aller Orchestergruppen bezeugen die kreative Inspiration des Kurortes Pärnu und der Familie Järvi, die dort ihren Sommersitz hat.
Pizzicato, 26 January 2018

Paavo Järvi bündelt sie scheinbar mühelos zu einem Klangkörper, dem man die Zusammengesetztheit nicht anmerkt, der über Geschmei- digkeit ebenso verfügt wie über die Fähigkeit zu energievollen Ausbrü- chen. Der „Cantus“ von Arvo Pärt lässt sich zugleich verstehen als ein großangelegtes Crescendo über fünf Minuten hinweg. Wie der Klang des Festival-Orchesters dabei im- mer stärker wird, ohne dass die Spannung abbrechen würde, wie er dabei nie verklumpt, sondern Durchsichtigkeit behält, das beein- druckt und prägt auch die folgen- den Stücke: Sibelius’ Violinkonzert, bei dem gemeinsam mit Solistin Viktoria Mullova eine zarte, kam- mermusikalisch anmutende Auf- führung gelingt; bei Schostako- witschs 6. Sinfonie, deren Schluss- satz im mühelosen Galopp vorüber- zischt. Sanft spielt dieses Orchester unter Paavo Järvis Leitung, aber es versteht ebenso, mit dem Florett zu kämpfen, präzise und virtuos.
Berliner Zeitung, 24 January 2018

Den großartigen Abend beschloss Dmitri Schostakowitschs 6. Symphonie von 1939: Paavo Järvi enttäuschte auch dabei die Erwartungen der Zuhörer auf präzise sinnlich klangvolle Sinfonik keineswegs. Im Gegenteil – er verlieh dem Geschehen bemerkenswerte Tiefe, fasste die Entwicklungen in nirgends nachlassende Spannungsbögen.
Kronen Zeitung, Florian Krenstetter, 25 January 2018

Paavo Järvi und sein Estonian Festival Orchestra – bestehend aus jungen estnischen Musikern und internationalen Profis – machen auf ihrer ersten Europatournee Station in Berlin und erobern die Philharmonie mit schierem Tonvolumen. Mit kräftigem Strich, einem gerade nicht esoterisch-vergeistigten, sondern handfesten Pärt und mit Crescendi, die sich bis in jeden Winkel des Scharoun-Baus ausdehnen.
Der Tagesspiegel, Christiane Peitz, 24 January 2018

Genuss und Spielfreude stehen bei seiner Interpretation an erster Stelle … ein wahrer Ohrenschmaus.
Berliner Morgenpost, Felix Stephan, 24 January, 2018

Am Anfang war der Klang. Wie eine vom Licht durchbrochene Klangwolke zog der weiche, intensive Ton des Estonian Festival Orchestra über die Bühne des Konzerthauses … … In Schostakowitschs Sechster Symphonie trieb Järvi das fabelhaft intonierende Orchester schier mühelos über die steilen musikalischen Gipfel, von denen es sofort mit drängendem Elan weiterpreschte, ehe sich die Musiker im furios zelebrierten Galopp des dritten Satzes gegenseitig zu einem grandiosen Schlussspurt anspornten.
Wiener Zeitung, Andreas Meier, 24 January 2018

… Und in Schostakowitschs Sechster heizt er seinem fast durchweg sehr jungen Festivalorchester derart ein, dass namentlich das Scherzo und der Final-Galopp – wohl ganz im Sinne des Komponisten – wie eine hypertrophe Parodie auf den seinerzeit vom Sozialismus verordneten Jubel klingen. Zürich darf gespannt sein.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Christian Wildhagen, 21 January 2018

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony gave the orchestra a chance to ignite real explosives …   if, Järvi can continue this same magic with the exceptional Tonhalle Orchestra come 2019, and no doubt he will, then the years ahead in the Zürich Tonhalle will be worth their weight in gold.
bachtrack.com. Sarah Batschelet, 23 January 2018

“A very special lure on the Baltic Sea Festival’s progamme was the young teenage Dmitri Shostakovich’s first symphony from 1925, and it also became Paavo Järvi’s real triumph. Here was a young, hungry orchestra which was also very congenial; musicians who both can and will bite on the challenges which scores and conductor present them.

What a mood of Bolshevik twenty-seventeen and a self-conscious teenage genius! Here you will find spooky cabaret, spanky puppets and pointed montage within the framework of a safe and small creative orchestration. Paavo Järvi triggered his festival musicians in silent movie tempo and with perfect articulation.”
Dagens Nyheter, Camilla Lundberg, 26 August 2017

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The Estonian Festival Orchestra was founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011 and made it’s debut at the newly inaugurated Pärnu Music Festival as the resident summer orchestra.

The long dreamed of ambition by Järvi to create a hand picked orchestra, bringing together the best of Estonian talent and leading musicians from around the world, has resulted in performances which The Arts Desk reviewed in 2015 as “begging comparison with the elasticity of Abbado’s concerts with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which is as good as it can get”. The BBC Music Magazine added “There isn’t a hint of a hothouse environment on stage – these are simply musicians having the time of their lives, no small thanks to the inspiring Paavo Järvi himself.” Last but not least, Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented “This is highly concentrated music making where all the details are worked out: the ping pong of accents between violins and horns, antiphons between the woodwind groups, targeted focus curves in the second violins. Nothing is sweeping, nothing sleepy and nothing washed away.”

These reviews encapsulate Paavo Järvi’s goals in bringing colleagues and friends together to create a new orchestra which could grow out of the festival spirit. “An important component in creating the orchestra was to “match-make” the players in a professional way but within the festival atmosphere” says Järvi. “If you are a young player in Estonia, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s not always easy to make contact with a top player in the west. Now we can give these young musicians the advantage to both play with top colleagues from around Europe and get to know them as new friends. This spirit is what drives the orchestra and makes me particularly proud as its father figure.”

Estonia – with its relatively short lived history of independence and much longer history of occupation – retains a close identity with its neighbors: Finland, Denmark, Germany and Russia are all closely tied with Estonia’s history and culture and so is the music of composers such as Sibelius, Nielsen, Mahler and Shostakovich which are integral to the orchestra’s repertoire. With eventual independence the country’s own orchestral identity has grown phenomenally over the last few decades and, as ambassadors of Estonia’s musical culture, the Järvi conducting family dynasty has championed the music of composers including Arvo Pärt, Lepo Sumera, Eduard Tubin and Erkki-Sven Tüür all of whose works have reached audiences across Europe and beyond.

In January 2018 the Estonian Festival Orchestra makes its first major European tour with concerts in Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich, Cologne and Luxembourg. This tour, which also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Estonian Independence, will include a new work by Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür specially written for the orchestra. Entitled Mythos, Symphony No. 9 will receive its international premiere in Brussels on 18 January.

Coinciding with the tour, Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra release their first CD on Alpha Classics featuring Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 and Sinfonietta, both recorded at the Pärnu Music Festival. The CD will be released internationally on 12 January.

These two important milestones for the orchestra are made possible by the support of the Estonian Ministry of Culture and Estonia 100, which has embraced Paavo Järvi’s vision to bring greater recognition to his native country and celebrate Estonia’s cultural identity within Europe.





August 8 at 20:00
Pärnu Concert Hall
Arvo Pärt: Symphony No.3
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto
Jüri Reinere: “And tired from happiness, they started to dance”
Ravel: La Valse

Elisabeth Leonskaja, soloist
Paavo Järvi, conductor


August 11 at 20:00
Pärnu Concert Hall
Witold Lutosłaswski: Concerto for Orchestra
Jean Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No.5

Midori, soloist
Paavo Järvi, conductor


August 13 at 19:30
Royal Albert Hall, London
Arvo Pärt: Symphony No.3
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No.5

Khatia Buniatishvili, soloist
Paavo Järvi, conductor


August 15 at 20:00
Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
Arvo Pärt: Symphony No.3
Edvard Grieg: Piano Concerto
Jean Sibelius: Symphony No.5

Khatia Buniatishvili, soloist
Paavo Järvi, conductor



The Pärnu Music Festival and Järvi Academy were founded by Paavo Järvi in 2010 together with his father, Neeme, and its family atmosphere envelopes the visiting musicians, students and audience to create a unique summer refuge on the Estonian coast. Now in its seventh year the 2017 festival, which runs from 10 – 17 August, is particularly special as it is dedicated to the 80th birthday of Neeme Järvi who will conduct the opening concert (10 August) with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and soloist Kolja Blacher featuring the music of Estonian composer Jaan Rääts and works by Beethoven and Mozart. Both Neeme and Paavo Järvi lead this summer’s annual conducting course which culminates in a special concert featuring the students (12 August) and the Estonian Festival Orchestra reunites for two concerts conducted by Paavo Järvi featuring guest soloists Radu Lupu (13 August) and Lisa Batiashivili (17 August). The programmes, which feature music by Beethoven, Nielsen, Sibelius, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky reflect Estonia’s close historical ties with its neighbouring European countries and Russia – all of which occupied Estonia at some point in its history.
(Aerial photo of Pärnu: © Kristian Pikner. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)


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