Two Estonian classical music festivals listed among the Europe’s best

The BBC Music Magazine includes the Pärnu Music Festival and the Haapsalu Early Music Festival among the 29 best classical music festivals in Europe this year.

The BBC Music Magazine said the two festivals from Estonia were among “the very best classical music festivals that you may want to grab tickets for”.

“Seaside Pärnu isn’t just a destination for summer sun seekers. Shostakovich and violinist David Oistrakh were no strangers to its charms, and it was the holiday destination of choice for the Järvi family, a family currently sporting three conductors who together preside over an academy-cum-festival that draws over 200 musicians,” the magazine said of the Pärnu Music Festival.

Kristjan Järvi (left) conducting the Baltic Sea Festival Orchestra at the Pärnu Music Festival on 14 July 2023. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

Of the Haapsalu Early Music Festival, the magazine noted that “where the Romanovs (and Tchaikovsky) once took the waters, the Baltic spa town of Haapsalu today hosts a compact festival devoted to the Baroque and early music”. “JS Bach’s B minor Mass and Art of Fugue bestride the 30th edition which, in the cathedral, invites countertenor Iestyn Davies and the Jupiter Ensemble to delve into Handel’s English oratorios.”

“Elsewhere, Les Basses Réunies commandeer St John’s church for a programme exploring the birth of the cello in Bologna and Naples. And, by way of a finale, Antwerp-based Graindelavoix probes ‘Josquin and the Undead’,” the magazine added.

Rejuvenating the music of the past centuries

Founded in 1994, the Haapsalu Early Music Festival has established itself as one of the leading festivals of historically informed performance practice in the Baltic region. Each summer renowned European and Estonian musicians meet in inner-city churches and other venues of Haapsalu, a charming seaside resort on the Estonian western coast, to rejuvenate music of the past centuries. This year’s festival will take place from 27 to 30 July.

The Haapsalu Early Music Festival in 2021. Photo by the Haapsalu Early Music Festival.

The Pärnu Music Festival, taking place from 12 to 21 July this year, was initiated by conductor Paavo Järvi in 2011, offering masterclasses to international young conductors, creating the Academy Orchestra comprising the very best of young Estonian musical talent and the Estonian Festival Orchestra.

All the performers are hand-picked by Järvi, including professional Estonian musicians and complemented by soloists from the top European orchestras. In addition to playing in the Festival Orchestra, the guest musicians also perform chamber music concerts and offer advice to the younger generation of musicians.

Paavo Järvi (right) conducting the Estonian Festival Orchestra at the Pärnu Music Festival on 15 July 2023. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

The BBC Music Magazine is a monthly magazine that claims to be “the world’s best-selling classical music magazine”. It was founded in 1992 by BBC Worldwide, the commercial subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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