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 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 hard 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.

Until now the Estonian Festival Orchestra has performed only in Pärnu but in August 2017 it will make it’s first tour performing in neighboring countries around the Baltic coast and at Scandinavia’s most prominent festivals.  In January 2018 the orchestra will then spread it’s wings further afield with concerts already planned in the major European capitals, including Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, Zurich and Luxembourg. This tour, which also celebrates the 100th anniversary of Estonian Independence, will include a new orchestral work by Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, which will receive it’s international premiere in Brussels on 18 January. 

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