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

Copyright: Chris Christodoulou/BBC

© Chris Christodoulou / BBC

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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” ( 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 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” ( 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” (

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 “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.”



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

Watch it on Youtube: ShostakovichTüürSibelius

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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. 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

“… The Sibelius symphony (no. 2) showed an orchestra with a nerve and willingness to play all the way … the energy and cohesion to create an uncontrollable and direct symphonic world that hit right in the diaphragm.”
Politiken, Henrik Friis, 24 August 2017

“The concert of the Turku Music Festival on Saturday night became a poignant tribute. Paavo Järvi, director of the Estonian Festival Orchestra, dedicated the concert to the memory of the victims (of the previous day’s attack). The performance began with a minute’s silence, after which he conducted Jean Sibelius’s Valse Triste … Meanwhile, the performance of the 18 year old Dmitry Shostakovich’s chamber symphony was both amazing and vivid. Paavo Järvi has always had the ability to clearly outline a dense orchestral texture, but now there is more warmth and flight.”

Turun musiikkijuhlat. Viron festivaaliorkesteri kapellimestarina Paavo Järvi ja solistina viulisti Lisa Batiashvili. – Sibelius, Nielsen, Tšaikovski, Kantšeli, Šostakovitš.
TURUN musiikkijuhlien päätöskonsertista lauantai-iltana tuli kaunis kunnianosoitus.
Viron festivaaliorkesterin johtaja Paavo Järvi oli päättänyt omistaa konsertin uhrien muistolle. Tilaisuus alkoi minuutin hiljaisuudella, jonka jälkeen hän johti ohjelman ulkopuolelta Jean Sibeliuksen Valse tristen.
Vesa Siren, Helsingen Sanomat, Finland
Full story in Finnish at

Im verträumten estnischen Badestädtchen Pärnu leitet Paavo Järvi ein einzigartiges Festival – und hat mit dem Estnischen Festivalorchester einen Klangkörper von europäischem Rang ins Leben gerufen.
Die Presse

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