“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 in its seventh year the 2017 festival, which runs from 10 – 17 August, is particularly special as it is dedicated to the 80th birthday of Neeme Järvi who will conduct the opening festival concert (10 August) with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and soloist Kolja Blacher featuring the music of Estonian composer Jaan Rääts and works by Beethoven and Mozart. Both Neeme and Paavo Järvi lead this summer’s annual conducting course which culminates in a special concert featuring the students (12 August) and the Estonian Festival Orchestra reunites for two concerts conducted by Paavo Järvi featuring guest soloists Radu Lupu (13 August) and Lisa Batiashivili (17 August). The programmes, which feature music by Beethoven, Nielsen, Sibelius, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky reflect Estonia’s close historical ties with its neighbouring European countries and Russia – all of which occupied Estonia at some point in its history.
For Paavo, the Pärnu Festival is not just another festival. Having emigrated with his family aged 18 to the States, it is the chance to return to his roots, to showcase the culture and beauty of his country and to nurture the next generation of musicians. And the Estonian Festival Orchestra, no longer a fledgling ensemble, is about to take flight on the international stage with performances in Denmark, Finland, Latvia and Sweden this summer followed by a major European tour in January 2018.