“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 its 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.
“With the Pärnu Music Festival Paavo Järvi creates competition for Europe”
[Jan Brachmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung]
“Pärnu: What many festivals dream of achieving is self-evident here… The central mentors are Neeme and Paavo Järvi, father and son. The Järvi Academy offers conducting masterclasses to students from around the world and the Estonian Festival Orchestra, a new first class ensemble, brings together professional musicians from the whole of Europe and top players from Estonia, creating a musical entity which was received with standing ovations for their performances of Sibelius, Nielsen and Shostakovich: pure astonishment for this extraordinary collective music making … in an atmosphere of fun, openness and curiosity.”
[Ursula Magnes, Klassik Radio]
“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 sixth year the 2016 festival is particularly special as it involves all three conductors in the family – as Kristjan Järvi joins both his elder brother and father for the annual masterclasses which are an essential component of the festival’s activities. Alongside these masterclasses and chamber music concerts, Paavo Järvi conducts the Estonian Festival Orchestra for two concerts featuring guest soloists Victoria Mullova (14 July) and Matthias Goerne (17 July). The programmes, which feature music by Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen, Mussorgsky, Shostakovich Erkki-Sven Tüür reflect Estonia’s close historical ties with its neighbouring European countries and Russia – all of which occupied Estonia at some point in its history.
Arvo Pärt’s complete catalogue of “Songs from Childhood” will be performed by local children from Pärnu with newly created instrumental arrangements of songs that previously only existed as piano reductions or scores for film, and both Neeme and Kristjan Järvi take to the stage with participants of the Conducting Academy in works by Velio Tormis, Rimski-Korsakov and Prokofiev.
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 Pärnu Festival Orchestra, no longer a fledgling ensemble, is about to take flight on the international scene. Judging by the performances at the 2015 festival “the result begged comparison with the elasticity of Abbado’s concerts with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which is as good as it can get” [The Arts Desk]