Mythos - Symphony No. 9 (dedicated to Paavo Järvi) recorded live in concert at the world premiere in Tallinn, 2018
Incantation of Tempest (dedicated to Veljo Tormis) recorded live in concert at the Pärnu Music Festival, 2016
Sow the Wind recorded live in concert at the Pärnu Music Festival, 2016
Estonian Festival Orchestra
Florian Donderer, concertmaster
Released March 2020
Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra’s second album on Alpha Classics is dedicated to the music of Erkki-Sven Tüür and features recordings of three works recorded live in concert in Estonia between 2016 and 2019. The album is released this March to celebrate Tüür’s 60th birthday.
Tüür’s 9th Symphony – Mythos, which forms the centre piece of the album and is dedicated to Paavo Järvi, was recorded live at its 2018 world premiere performance in Tallinn celebrating 100 years of Estonian Independence. Both Incantation of Tempest (dedicated to Veljo Tormis) and Sow the Wind were recorded live in 2016 and 2019 respectively at the Pärnu Music Festival, home of the Estonian Festival Orchestra on the Baltic Sea.
“What should I say about the music?” asks Erkki-Sven Tüür. “I believe that music has to have everything - overwhelming power, illuminating light, endless gentleness and the deepest darkness. Fury, pain, remorse. Everything that makes us human. And the tender touch of redeeming love. I hope you can find all this on the new collection.”
Paavo Järvi and Erkki-Sven Tüür first met in the 1970’s in Tallinn, becoming firm friends with a shared passion for percussion. In 1979 Tüür founded the progressive rock band In Spe, and invited the then 17 year old Paavo to join the band. But Järvi’s budding rock career was thwarted when his family emigrated to the States in 1980 where he went on to study conducting at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute with Leonard Bernstein. Back in Estonia Tüür’s band became a national success in the Soviet Union, alongside which he studied composing with Jaan Rääts (at the Tallinn Conservatoire) and Lepo Sumera (privately) and then went on to pursue his interest in electronic music in Karlsruhe. By the late 1980’s Tüür had embarked wholeheartedly on his path as a composer and is today widely regarded as one of Estonia’s leading composers, alongside Arvo Pärt. It was not until after Estonian Independence that Paavo Järvi was able to return to his homeland and since that time, the two friends have collaborated on numerous projects both at home and abroad.
“The strong relationship which Erkki-Sven Tüür and I have had for over forty years now, has been one of the pivotal points in my musical life. I consider him to be one of the greatest living composers and am particularly happy that this anniversary release features the world premiere performance of his important 9th symphony. This album also draws together all the elements that are most important to me in my work with the Estonian Festival Orchestra – bringing new life, energy and visibility to Estonia.”
Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, Op. 54
Shostakovich Sinfonietta (String Quartet No. 8, OP. 100 (B) arranged for string orchestra and timpani by Abram Stasevich)
Estonian Festival Orchestra
Florian Donderer, concertmaster
Madis Metsamart, timpani
The Estonian Festival Orchestra’s debut CD was released in January 2018.
THE PÄRNU SPIRIT
by Paavo Järvi
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 wherethe 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!“