[David Nice, The Art Desk
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.
Dmitri Shostakovich with Paavo and Neeme Järvi
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 in its ninth year the 2019 festival runs from 15 – 21 July and celebrates the 60th birthday of Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, whose work features in five concerts. A life long friend and colleague of Paavo Järvi, Tüür will also be present during the festival to curate his own programme of music that has influenced him.
Neeme Järvi conducts the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and Estonian Philharmonic Choir for the opening concert (15 July) in an all Mozart programme featuring the clarinet concerto (soloist Wenzel Fuchs) and Mozart Vespers.
Kristjan Järvi joins his father and brother in multiple guises this summer – as a teacher on the conducting masterclass course, as conductor of the Järvi Academy Chamber Orchestra (16 July) and as composer in a new work that he has written for Paavo and the Estonian Festival Orchestra to be premiered on 18 July.
Paavo Järvi conducts the Estonian Festival Orchestra in two concerts during the Festival and is joined by soloists Truls Mørk and Ain Anger for performances of Dvorak’s Cello concerto (18 July) and Mussorgky’s Songs and Dances of Death (21 July). Symphonic works featured in each programme include Nielsen’s Symphony No. 1 and Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 2. Founded by Paavo Järvi as the festival’s resident ensemble in 2011, the Estonian Festival Orchestra was something of a “Pärnu secret” up until recently but, with debuts at the Berlin Philharmonie, London Proms and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie in 2018, the ensemble is quickly establishing itself on the international scene and this Spring makes its debut tour with Paavo to Japan.
New to the festival in 2019 is a guest appearance by Hugo Ticciati and Friends (16 July) with a programme entitled “North Around the Baltic Sea” featuring composers from Estonia (Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Tõnu Kõrvits), Lithuania (Raminta Šerkšnytė), Latvia (Peteris Vasks) and Finland (Sebastian Fagerlund). Also a chamber music performance at the Pärnu Modern Art Museum to accompany a major new exhibition by leading Estonian photographer Kaupo Kikkas (20 July).