“The weeklong music festival run by Paavo Järvi in the idyllic seaside town of Pärnu is a symbol of its country’s highest cultural ties with the best of the rest of Europe.”
[David Nice, The Art Desk, 2015]
The Pärnu Festival and Järvi Academy were founded by Paavo Järvi in 2010 together with his father, Neeme Järvi, and it’s 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.
Now celebrating its 13th anniversary the Pärnu Music Festival attracts more than 200 musicians and thousands of visitors every year, all of whom return to Estonia’s charming, traditional seaside resort for the relaxed summer camp atmosphere and vibrant music making which is at the heart of the Järvi family festival.
In typical Järvi style, the range of music on offer in Pärnu is wide! Neeme Järvi opens the festival (12 July) with a programme dedicated to the 18th century Viennese world of Mozart and Haydn, whilst Kristjan Järvi and the Baltic Sea Festival transform the stage two days later, taking us to 1920’s Babylon Berlin with their trademark visionary approach and a new programme featuring original music by Johnny Klimek, Tom Tykwer and Kristjan Järvi.
New to Pärnu this summer is the legendary Pinchas Zukerman, who is one of several soloists to perform with Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra. Zukerman joins the orchestra in a performance of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy, Amanda Forsythe is the soloist in Bruch Kol Nidrei (15 July) and Estonian soprano Mirjam Mesak the soloist in Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Richard Strauss’ Morgen (16 July). For the closing concerts the Estonian Festival Orchestra perform Pärt Collage on B-A-C-H and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 1 alongside Richard Strauss Oboe concerto with François Leleux (20 July) and Beethoven Piano Concerto No.3 with Fazil Say (21 July).
Highlighting Estonian music remains at the core of Paavo Järvi’s work as Festival Artistic Director and this summer’s spotlight is given to composer Jüri Reinvere, whose new orchestral work On the Ship of Fools will be premiered on 15 July (2nd performance 16 July). Paavo and the Estonian Festival Orchestra will record the piece for future release on Alpha Classics to feature alongside Reinvere’s And Tired of Happiness, They Started to Dance (2018) and Concerto for Two Flutes (2016), both of which were also premiered in Pärnu.
At the heart of every Pärnu Festival is the annual Järvi Conducting Academy Masterclasses led by Neeme, Paavo and Kristjan Järvi together with Leonid Grin. Young musicians from the Järvi Academy Sinfonietta and Youth Orchestra accompany this year’s students, which include recent winner of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich Conductor’s Academy, Mirian Khukhunaishvili.
Following this year’s festival Paavo Järvi and the Estonian Festival Orchestra take to the road for concerts at the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie (16 August) and Grafenegg Festival (17 August). This summer Alpha Classics also releases the Estonian Festival Orchestra’s fourth album recorded with Paavo Järvi at the 2021 Pärnu Music Festival, featuring works by Edvard Tubin, Grażyna Bacewicz and Witold Lutosławski..