THE ESTONIAN FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA

The Estonian Festival Orchestra debuts to critical acclaim at BBC Proms & Elbphilharmonie

Copyright: Chris Christodoulou/BBC

© Chris Christodoulou / BBC

Watch it on Youtube:

Pärt: Symphony No.3
Grieg: Piano Concerto
(with Khatia Buniatishvili)
Sibelius: Symphony No.5
Sumera: Spring Fly


“This all-Nordic programme, performed by the excellent Estonian Festival Orchestra under one of the most admired conductors of the day, Paavo Järvi, has long promised to be one of this season’s special Proms.”
The Guardian

“In his sure hands, and with the support of this strikingly impressive orchestra, this was a programme that both ravished the ear and exercised the mind”.
The Arts Desk

On 13 August – immediately following this year’s Pärnu Music Festival where “unanticipated miracles happen every summer in the quiet paradise of Estonia’s seaside capital” (theartsdesk.com) and “a tranquil bathing place is making a world career” (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) – Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra travelled to London to make history with the ensemble’s debut at the BBC Proms. The special performance celebrated both Estonia 100 and the first ever occasion that an Estonian orchestra performed at the world famous British festival. The Royal Albert Hall concert, which sold out within days of going on sale, was broadcast live on both BBC Radio 3 and filmed by BBC TV to air on 17 August (BBC Four). Two days later the Estonian Festival Orchestra made their Hamburg debut following another unprecedented invitation to perform at the Elbphilharmonie.

Enjoy the concert: BBC Radio 3 | BBC Four (BBC iPlayer)

The Estonian Festival Orchestra opened its programme with a performance of Arvo Pärt’s eclectic Symphony No.3. “In a precise performance of a complex, mysterious piece, Järvi and his players captured the seething menace that repeatedly erupts alongside the threat of stasis” wrote The Evening Standard. “This was an excellent choice of home produce for the Proms debut of Paavo Järvi’s seven-year-old Estonian Festival Orchestra” commented The Times. “They gave it a committed performance … scrupulously sculpted, polished and placed. On the platform at the end, Pärt received a hero’s welcome with rapturous applause.”

The concert was brought to a dramatic close with Sibelius’s stiring Symphony No.5, of which bachtrack.com commented: “some performances of Sibelius’ mighty Fifth Symphony are hewn from granite or sculpted from marble. The Estonians’ account was carved from pine, crisp and fresh, surging with energy and athleticism … Invigorating stuff and the highlight of the evening”.

The centre work of the evening was “an exciting performance of Grieg’s evergreen Piano Concerto” (bachtrack.com) with “the irrepressible Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili” (The Times) in which “the beating heart of the performance arrived with the adagio, where she conjured up a radiant, sunset stillness perfectly offset by the Estonians’ gorgeous strings” (theartsdesk.com).

After their appearance at the BBC Proms, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie was the next venue for Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra, where again Khatia Buniatishvili was the soloist for Grieg’s Piano Concerto. “Now the ensemble has found its firm place in the international concert landscape” wrote bachtrack.com. “Despite its young history, there is already a tradition of focusing on Estonian and Scandinavian compositions in the program, which was also the case in this concert.” The Hamburger Abendblatt especially highlighted the Sibelius performance for comment: “Quite different is the fifth symphony of Jean Sibelius. Paavo Järvi uses wide-ranging gestures to model the rotating motifs, the rugged breaks and endless arcs of the piece. Here, the festival orchestra – composed of Estonian young talent and handpicked musicians from all over the world, with whom Järvi has already worked as a conductor – has a very special tone. It is dark, homogeneously mixed and slender, but when it comes down to it, it also unfolds a deep inner glow … a musical and emotional highlight of the evening.”

The Estonian Festival Orchestra’s debut at the BBC Proms and Elbphilharmonie follows an extraordinary year in which the ensemble has also charted debuts across Europe including Stockholm (Berwaldhallen), Brussels (Bozar), Berlin (Philharmonie), Vienna (Konzerthaus), Zurich (Maag) and Luxembourg (Philharmonie).

For Paavo Järvi, the creation of the Estonian Festival Orchestra is potentially one of his most important musical achievements to date. It is a recognition of his native country and a celebration of its cultural identity within Europe. “This unifying spirit” says Järvi “is what drives the Orchestra and makes me particularly proud as its father figure.”

EFO NEWS

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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 […]

PAAVO JÄRVI AND THE ESTONIAN FESTIVAL MAKE HISTORICAL PROMS DEBUT

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’ […]

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EFO PRESS

“ … this was a programme that both ravished the ear and exercised the mind … Far from playing Sibelius as a grandiose done deal, a known quantity, the Estonians bracingly shared the doubt and dread that never leaves this music … ”
The Arts Desk

“Some performances of Sibelius’ mighty Fifth Symphony are hewn from granite or sculpted from marble. The Estonians’ account was carved from pine, crisp and fresh, surging with energy and athleticism.”
Bachtrack.com

“The performance of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony created a palpable sense of majestic structure growing from tiny cells. The opening movement’s momentum gave way to the subtlety of the second movement’s pizzicatos, then, as the music strove for its climax — an evocation of flying swans followed by six of the mightiest chords in music — Järvi favoured restraint over hyperbole.”
The Evening Standard

“ … the festival orchestra has a very special tone. It is dark, homogeneously mixed and slender, but when it comes down to it, it also unfolds a deep inner glow.”
Hamburger Abendblatt

“To Arvo Pärt’s stylistically transitional Third Symphony the super-group brought passion as well as transparency.”
Classicalsource.com

“ … a committed performance … scrupulously sculpted, polished and placed.”
The Times

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

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ESTONIAN FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA

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.


BOARD & MANAGEMENT

CONCERTS

 

2018

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

More info and tickets

 

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

More info and tickets

 

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

More info and tickets

 

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

More info and tickets

 

PÄRNU MUSIC FESTIVAL

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.
www.parnumusicfestival.ee
(Aerial photo of Pärnu: © Kristian Pikner. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

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