a symbol of its country’s highest cultural ties with the best of the rest of Europe.”
Now in its eighth year the 2018 festival is dedicated to the country’s 100th anniversary of Independence and will feature an Estonian composition in each programme. Estonian Independence was first declared in Pärnu from the balcony of the Endla Theatre on 23 February 1918. It was a moment of such importance that Tallinn declared Independence the next day from the capital itself. It was the start of a golden era and Pärnu flourished as families flocked to the seaside resort in summer abandon and the town was rejuvenated after years of abandon. The laughter and decadence was to be short-lived and came to an abrupt end just 22 years later with the arrival of World War II and Estonia’s occupation by the Soviet Union. The Endla Theatre was damaged by fire in 1944 and, rather than restoring it, the Soviet authorities demolished and replaced it with a typical Stalinist building in the central square which had been reserved for the Executive Committee of Pärnu Oblast.
All of Estonia’s history from the last 100 years is wrapped up in its music, a time when orchestral music has developed in both good times and bad, in freedom and in occupation, all making its imprint and creating a new voice. To mark the occasion all three members of the Järvi conducting family will take to the stage to perform music from their country’s heritage. Neeme Järvi will conduct Heino Eller’s Five Pieces for String Orchestra with Rudolf Tobias’ Nocturne with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Kristjan Järvi and friends perform an Estonian inspired programme; and Paavo Järvi directs the Estonian Festival Orchestra in two concerts featuring Arvo Pärt’s Symphony No. 3 and the world premiere of Jüri Reinvere’s commission for the orchestra entitled “And tired from happiness, they started to dance”.
Introducing his new work for the Estonian Festival Orchestra, Jüri Reinvere wrote: “This is a virtuoso piece showing the technical excellence of an orchestra, whilst philosophically dealing with the cultural fatigue, fatigue with a destroying ecstasy. Several times in the 20th century we have had moments where people were overfed by their wellbeing, which brought them directly into catastrophes. This will be the ground for the piece: an almost demonic rhythm of a society’s will to ravage.”
The Pärnu Festival and Järvi Academy were founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011 together with his father, Neeme Järvi and its family atmosphere envelopes the visiting musicians, students and audience alike creating a unique summer refuge on the Estonian coast.
Having grown up in Tallinn, Pärnu has always held a special place in Paavo’s heart as it was where the family traditionally gathered for summer holidays. During occupation it was also the summer home of artists including Dmitri Shostakovich and David Oistrakh who visited for the nearest thing to western tolerance and understanding in the Soviet Union, it was a place for artists to relax and enjoy each other’s company and it was here in 1973 that a young Paavo met Shostakovich for the first time.
It was also here that David Oistrakh invited musicians and students to join him for ad hoc performances in the little green Dacha which he rented each summer before his death in 1974. It was in this spirit that Paavo Järvi decided to return to Pärnu, surrounded by his family, and create a festival offering masterclasses to international young conductors, creating an Academy Orchestra comprising the very best of young Estonian musical talent and the Estonian Festival Orchestra - hand-picked by Paavo, including professional Estonian musicians complemented by soloists from the top European orchestras. In addition to playing in the Festival Orchestra, these guest musicians also perform chamber music concerts and offer advice to the younger generation of musicians.
“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, and they’re an inspiration, in turn, to the festival youth orchestra.”
BBC Music Magazine
The week long festival takes place in various locations throughout the town including the church of St Elizabeth – founded in 1741 when the Russian empress donated 8000 roubles for its construction. Children’s concerts take place in one of the numerous spa hotels where families gather after long days on the beach and the main festival concerts take place in the elegant 1000 seater concert hall, built in 2002 and widely regarded as having one of Estonia’s best acoustics.
“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!“