Neeme Järvi

The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra to perform in Georgia and Armenia

The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and its honorary principal conductor, Neeme Järvi, are to perform in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan; in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi; and in the Georgian town of Batumi by the Black Sea as part of the Estonia’s centennial celebrations.

The performances are given to introduce the Estonian culture to the audiences of Georgia and Armenia.

“This is a private initiative within the framework of the project, ‘Everyone loves Georgia’, which was originally conceived to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Republic of Estonia in countries that are geographically distant, but also close to us in spirit through cultural contacts and personal interactions,” Kristjan Hallik, the orchestra’s general manager, said in a statement.

The concerts will take place in Yerevan on 11 June, in Tbilisi on 13 June and in Batumi on 15 June.

Over 100 events in more than 30 corners of the world have been scheduled as part of the Estonia 100 celebrations. The programme aims to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country abroad with the involvement of talented people and collectives from Estonia.


Cover: The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm (Wikimedia Commons).

Neeme Järvi and modern orchestral traditions

When one looks back on the career of the still highly active Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi, one can see the model for the 21st century international conductor, something distinct from previous generations of maestros.*

What makes this aspect of Järvi’s career so interesting is that Järvi’s artistic temperament is well suited to the often less than ideal circumstances surrounding orchestral performance in the 21st century, thus allowing Järvi’s art to remain uncompromised during a time when many great conductors of the past might be aghast at working conditions of orchestras.

To understand Järvi’s place in the pantheon of conductors it is important therefore to understand how the role of conductor has changed since the golden age of romantic performance in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Conductors ruling over their orchestras like proud princes

In the late 19th and early 20th century great conductors were typically associated with a single orchestra with guest appearances limited to the geographic and cultural region around the home orchestra. Repertoire generally corresponded to one’s region, certainly in the cities that made up the axis of romantic orchestral music in the late 19th and early 20th century – think Vienna, St. Petersburg/Leningrad, Berlin, Paris and Moscow. Conductors ruled over their orchestras like proud princes over a creative kingdom.

Contrary to a lot of revisionist thinking, there was nothing negative about this “autocratic” orchestral rule, but rather the phenomenon of a conductor being able to shape his orchestra so thoroughly led to performances that were vastly more unique and expressive in quality than much late 20th century performance.

Names like Furtwängler and later Karajan meant the Berlin sound and Berlin repertoire. The same holds for Mravinsky in Leningrad, Mengelberg at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Golovanov in Moscow and later Svetlanov in Moscow. Just as sure as each orchestra had a distinct sound based on the musical identity of the region, so too did each conductor shape his orchestra according to his own artistic vision.

In terms of repertoire, one can hear an otherwise musically educated Viennese audience as recently as 1951, applaud in the middle of the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony, believing the piece to be over (it was merely a pause prior to the coda). This would never, for example happened in Vienna in 1951 during a performance of Beethoven or Brahms. The performance led by Wilhelm Furtwängler (one of the finest if not the finest conductor in the Austro-Germanic tradition) demonstrates how distant Russian music remained from the Germanic music world even after the Second World War.

Likewise, the music of Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss took a long time to reach Russian audiences. Mravinsky was one of the first Russian conductors to master Bruckner, whilst Svetlanov more or less brought Mahler to Russian audiences. Within the Czech tradition the names of Václav Neumann and Rafael Kubelík immediately spring to mind.

In Amsterdam Mengelberg helped bridge gaps between the Russian, Germanic and French traditions, holding one of the widest repertoires of his day. But even long after Mengelberg, the great conductors of the middle and late 20th century remained more of less confined to their roles as leaders of a musical tradition.

Karajan recorded the numbered symphonies of Tchaikovsky and conducted some Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, but his recordings of the classical and romantic Germanic titans dwarfed his Russian or French output. Likewise, even though Svetlanov conducted Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler, he is most remembered for being the first Russian conductor to record every piece of Russian orchestral music in what he rather accurately called ‘The Anthology of Russian Music’.

Järvi represents a departure from a trend

Neeme Järvi represents a departure from this trend. Järvi is of course known for conducting and recording more Estonian composers than any other conductor, but to say that he represents for Estonia what Svetlanov did to Russia, denies Järvi’s ground-breaking contributions outside of the Estonian tradition.

When someone says Furtwängler, you generally think of Beethoven. When someone says Mengelberg, one might think Strauss and Mahler (two close friends of Mengelberg); when one says Mravinsky, one thinks Tchaikovsky; when one says Svetlanov, one might think of Borodin and Myaskovsky, or Scriabin. But to say when one thinks of Järvi, you automatically think of Pärt, misses the larger aspect of Järvi’s output.

Järvi was one of the first internationally renowned conductors not to be confined to any particular repertoire, yet he added something unique to everything he conducted. He is not only equally convincing with Brahms as he is with Tchaikovsky (he’s recorded the complete symphonies of both), but it is something of a passion with Järvi to give lesser known European composers the exposure they didn’t have in previous generations. Composers like Kurt Atterberg, John Svendsen, the Estonian composer Eduard Tubin, Wilhelm Stenhammar and Alfred Schnittke represent just a very short list of composers that Järvi has not only brought to public attention, but committed to record – thus preserving their music for future generations.

What is interesting about Järvi is that in spite of proficiency in 20th century music, much of his focus outside of the great composers focuses on the lesser known composers of the late romantic period, composers who were contemporaries in terms of time with the likes of Scriabin, Dvorak and Bruckner. Beyond this, Järvi is keen to perform and record lesser known works by extremely celebrated composers. The much neglected, but magnificent 3rd Symphony of Aram Khachaturian and the two symphonies of Wagner are just two such examples of neglected pieces by otherwise well-known composers that Järvi has recorded.

In terms of orchestral homes, Järvi is probably best associated with the Gothenburg Symphony, but associations with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, orchestras in Britain and throughout the United States also have seen productive and artistically rewarding days under Järvi’s direction. Most recently he took the helm of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, becoming the orchestras most important director since the orchestra was founded by the Ernest Ansermet (whose orchestra made many early stereo recordings for Britain’s Decca Records).

Breaking the mould

Järvi therefore breaks the mould of the conductors who generally restrained themselves to one or two orchestras and to a culturally defined musical canon. His rehearsal methods also seem distinctly modern. Sadly the days of lengthy and stringent rehearsals, which Mengelberg and Karajan were famed for, are becoming a rarity as a cut-throat business ethic runs rampant through classical music. But this development has not harmed Järvi whose rehearsal method has never been as exhaustive as many conductors of the past. Järvi creates a sound based on a balance of fluidity of intonation and timbre with a tempi that flow easily whilst remaining generally faithful to the score. In other words, his tempi are neither monotonous and heavy, but nor do they have the grand flourishes of rubato associated with the likes of Golovanov or Mengelberg.

In spite of helping bring more Estonian music to international audiences than any other conductor, Järvi doesn’t claim to bring “the Estonian sound” to his orchestras, but rather prefers being known for an individual sound that isn’t specially linked to any cultural tradition.

For Estonia, it is doubtless a source of pride that it was an Estonian conductor who has helped to make Arvo Pärt become the world’s most listened contemporary composer, but it is also good to know that it is an Estonian conductor who has brought obscure works from around the world to the forefront of music internationally.

Many other conductors remain content to confine themselves to works which are so widely known that many have multiple recordings by the same conductor. As the head of one of the great musical dynasties in the world today, the only question is which works will Järvi draw attention to as he continues to work actively in Switzerland, Estonia and beyond?


* Neeme Järvi is celebrating his 80th birthday on 07 June 2017. This article was originally published on 23 May 2013. Cover: Neeme Järvi (credit: Simon Van Boxtel.) Video: Neeme Järvi conducting Residentie Orkest in Hague on 20 September 2011 (compositions by Wagenaar/Bruch/Dvorák.) Please consider making a donation for the continuous improvement of our publication.

Neeme Järvi and Tõnu Kaljuste are nominated for the Grammy Awards 2017

Estonian conductors Neeme Järvi and Tõnu Kaljuste are among the nominees of the Grammy Awards 2017, in two separate categories.

Järvi is nominated in the Best Orchestral Performance category, for “Ibert: Orchestral Works”, recorded with the Orchestre De La Suisse Romande, under Chandos label.


Kaljuste is nominated in the Best Classical Compendium category for his work on “Gesualdo” album. The album was composed by the Australian composer, Brett Dean, and the Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tüür, who drew inspiration from the music, life and times of Carlo Gesualdo, an Italian renaissance composer. “Gesualdo” was released under ECM New Series and produced by the label’s founder, Manfred Eicher.

Both Kaljuste and Järvi have been nominated for the Grammy Awards before. Kaljuste won a Grammy Award in the Best Choral Performance category for his work on composer Arvo Pärt’s album “Adam’s Lament” in 2014.

Both men are among the best known Estonian conductors around the world. Kaljuste is especially renowned for his long term work with Pärt’s compositions.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on 12 February 2017 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


Cover: Tõnu Kaljuste (credit: Marco Anelli.)

Pärt, Kaljuste, Järvi among the nominees of the Grammy Awards 2014 (video)

Composer Arvo Pärt and conductors Neeme Järvi and Tõnu Kaljuste are among the nominees of the Grammy Awards 2014.

Arvo Pärt cycling

Composer Arvo Pärt’s album “Adam’s Lament” has been nominated in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category. Recorded with Pärt’s active participation in the resonant 13th-century church of St. Nicholas in Tallinn, that surrounds the singing with a hazy echo, the album conveys a feeling of partaking of ancient religious rites in a sacred space. At the beginning of the year, the BBC chose Adam’s Lament as its recording of the month for January 2013.

Conductor Tõnu Kaljuste has been nominated in the Best Choral Performance category for his work on Arvo Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament”, which was recorded with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Sinfonietta Riga, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, the Latvian Radio Choir and the Vox Clamantis ensemble.

Conductor Neeme Järvi has been nominated in the Best Orchestral Performance category for “Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1”, recorded with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and in the Best Choral Performance category for “Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra” – recorded with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the BBC National Chorus Of Wales.

The 56th annual Grammy Awards will be held on 26 January 2014, in Los Angeles, USA.


Review: Paavo Järvi and Philharmonia Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall

Last week, Paavo Järvi conducted at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Järvi brought London a wonderful night of music, which included works by a living composer, a composer of the high classical period, and a high romanticist – and yet the entire evening was a seamless musical statement delivered by one of Estonia’s finest musicians.

Originally the great Christoph von Dohnányi was to conduct an evening of music from Mozart and Dvořák, but at the last minute the Philharmonia of London asked Paavo Järvi to substitute. It was a decision no one in the audience seemed to regret.

Järvi chose to begin the programme with a previously unscheduled piece, the Fratres of Arvo Pärt. Järvi demonstrated his supreme command of dynamic control in the piece for full string orchestra and percussion. Pärt’s Fratres begins with a gentle pianissimo in the strings and slowly swells to the heights of modern romance in a style, which is a signature of the world’s most listened living composer. Pärt’s music represents a synthesis of pre-baroque-, romantic- and contemporary music, and Järvi emphasised this balance in a manner that remained true to Pärt’s unique compositional style. The primordial percussion was balanced by a warm string sound, infused with heavy vibrato, which swelled from a quite murmur to the heights of Pärt’s introspective, yet paradoxically involving spiritual modernity. The piece ends as quietly, as it begins – and as Järvi brought it to a close, the audience at the Royal Festival Hall were as quiet and as pensive, as is possible. It was a deeply moving performance from a maestro who has personally known and worked alongside the composer for many years.

CSO maestro Paavo Jarvi conducts a practice session with the CCM Philharmonic.

The next part saw a departure from Pärt’s unique modernism to a piece from the high classical period. Pianist Paul Lewis joined Järvi in a spirited, yet deeply refined rendition of Mozart’s 23rd Piano Concerto. Järvi precisely guided the orchestra through the piece, which allowed both soloist and ensemble to shine in their respective moments. Järvi and Lewis both took two additional ovations at the conclusion of the performance.

The featured part of the evening was Dvořák’s 9th symphony. Here the audience began to fully understand why Paavo Järvi is a supreme asset to contemporary orchestral performance. Sadly many contemporary conductors of the classical and romantic repertoire feel a need to limit tempos to the confines of a metronome. The age of the maestro who infused performance with a deeply personal tempo rubato, regrettably seems more and more a thing of the past. Yet on the night, Järvi demonstrated that a highly lyrical and simultaneously narrative style of conducting can unleash the true beauty of a much listened to, but still deeply energetic and emotive musical pick. In the tradition of the truly great conductors of the recent past, Järvi crafted a performance deeply infused with rubato, which helped to bring Dvořák’s final symphony to life. It was a profoundly human performance – one which emphasised both the bucolic serenity of the piece, as well as the soulfully charged passion of the greatest Bohemian composer.

Whereas his father (Neeme Järvi – Editor) tends to emphasise forgotten composers of the romantic era, and his younger brother (Kristjan Järvi – Editor) excels at more modern music, Paavo is frequently most comfortable with the late classical and high romantic canon. Tonight he demonstrated that a style of performance which emphasises emotion over dull precision, and humanity over academic interpretations, can warm the hearts of audiences more sincerely than any other style of conducting.

Järvi was given multiple ovations for an evening of music which covered vastly different styles of music, but one which was united by his supreme commitment to both dynamic perfection and spontaneity of tempi. The Philharmonic responded to Järvi’s direction better than they have done to many less involved conductors. A performance that from a technical sense was an accident, turned out to be one which will be remembered for its artistic cohesion and unbridled beauty. On the whole, it was a wonderful night of music which saw one of Estonia’s finest musicians conduct works by Estonia’s most prized composer, as well as works by two of the world’s most cherished composers. If only he took the same approach to Beethoven as he does to Dvořák.


Photos: Paavo Järvi/Wikimedia Commons.

President Ilves: Estonia is like a wild strawberry

By Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, on the 95th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia in Tallinn, 24 February 2013.

Today, on the 95th anniversary of Estonia, the thought of independence has, once again, become natural. It neither requires interpretation nor explanation because it is a basic truth. Just as freedom is no longer something to strive for, there is also no other possible alternative, at least not for us, not for Estonia. The idea of Estonia’s freedom has become perpetual. And this is the way it should be.

Taking this into account, albeit often unconsciously, we look towards the future. Standing on this foundation, we take care of our people’s standard of life and their vitality.

Standing on this foundation, we compare ourselves to other nations, and no longer to those who used to share our fate, but instead to those whose history and opportunities have, in the meantime, been different.

And this is exactly what it should be like. For we cannot endlessly search the past for the cause of our problems like a former colony that continues to blame it all on some 19th century injustice.

Standing on this foundation, we compare ourselves to our neighbours, both in what is good and what is not. At times, these concerns can tend to be too big. Things tend to get magnified in comparison.

Let us not forget that we are able to measure and evaluate ourselves precisely because we are standing straight and on firm ground.

Those who are younger amongst us do not even know that in the past our coastline was fenced off with barbed wire. In twenty-two years we have come so far that alongside our partners in NATO and the European Union we no longer need to fear a repeat of recent history.

Within the twenty-two years of restored independence, the Estonian state has come so far that we no longer compare the present day to the occupation or the Singing Revolution. We compare ourselves to countries in which freedom and democracy are natural.

This is the right, in fact, it the only possible way. We are and must be more demanding of our state. Yet in a democratic state this means that we must also be more demanding of ourselves.

In a democratic state the rulers are not “they”, just like there is no “Brussels” somewhere far away “demanding” something from us without our consent or in violation of agreements that we have contracted.

In a democratic state, every complaint against the state or its rulers is directly or indirectly a complaint against ourselves.

More social empathy needed

Within one generation Estonia has changed beyond recognition. Our concerns have changed as well. If the historical burden has to a large extent fallen off its cart, we now face the question: How do we proceed from here?

We are still recovering from the economic crisis that shook the whole world for quite a few years. The level of unemployment that plagued us a couple of years ago has now dropped below the European average. Already, entrepreneurs complain that incomes are rising too quickly, driving up inflation. Unlike in many other European countries, the Estonian economy is growing.

Yet how and why should those people whose worries include the daily effort to make ends meet rejoice at these macro-economic figures? Those people whose income does not reflect the recovery of growth and who follow the growth of prices with concern?

I know of no quick fix. It also took us a number of years to climb back up from the bottom of the crisis. Economic growth creates the means for the growth of wellbeing in the entire country, albeit not immediately, and not for everyone at once.

The growth of the Estonian economy cannot delight those people for whom the state’s support is not enough to avoid poverty. Couldn’t the rules of our social policy be a bit more flexible, at least temporarily, in order to assist our people?

We must accept that the ups and downs of the economy are a truly difficult phenomenon for some. So let us find alleviating measures, together.

As I said, this is something that we can do when our economy is growing. But there will certainly not be any improvement without growth, as we can see in many other countries.

I would especially like to thank and recognise Estonia’s older generation who survived the loss of independence, survived the horrors that followed, and often, with the restoration of independence, lost everything they had been able to accumulate in the meantime.

Despite all this, you have retained your optimism towards Estonia, thank you.

The state needs to interact better with the people

If during the past five years of the global economic storm we have to a large extent been influenced by external forces, the same does not apply for relations among ourselves, between people, and with the state.

If the state treated the people with similar care and love as most of us treat the state, we would have a lot more of true patriotism, instead of phoney one.

We should not create any illusions about panaceas to solve all problems at once. As if all would be well if we changed one minister or the entire government. As if we would get better decisions if decisions were to be made not by parliament, but by means of the internet or in referenda.

No, I do not consider the current government to be irreplaceable, nor do I consider the way our decisions are made to be the best. Both will inevitably change if only the citizens so wish.

This is a cornerstone of democracy. Over the past years, this has also been the citizens’ clear message to politicians.

One of the greatest virtues of democracy is the legal transfer of power without the spilling of blood, in which the state continues, and decision-makers change. Democracy teaches us that if one is insensitive or deaf to the murmurings of the people, someone else will soon come to power, already after the next elections.

If the feeling spreads in a democratic society that those in power are unwilling to listen, other means will be sought to make one’s voice heard. This is why the People’s Assembly or “Rahvakogu” was created at the end of last year. And today, I recognise its work.

This fresh initiative, based on the citizens’ free will, has already proved to be a place for citizens to propose ideas that soon enough could become laws.

The Rahvakogu, I emphasise, was created by the citizens, among them by politicians convinced of the inevitable need for change, and for the citizens, in the interests of the health and future of Estonian democracy.

Looking back on last year’s indignation the question has been asked: Has the parliamentary way of making decisions that we have become used to, exhausted itself?

Populism is not a long term solution

Experience from history and elsewhere proves that in referenda it is not always more just or humane values that come on top, as those who support this idea would hope.

A referendum could support the restoration of the death penalty, the abolition of minority rights, or the reduction of education spending. Let us recall how ten years ago in France some people’s bias towards eastern Europeans – epitomized by the Polish plumber – decided the result of a referendum.

This is why representative democracy has been successful: Elected members of parliament must take responsibility, must dare to vote in the interests of the state and its people, and to disregard the populism that has occasionally been fired up.

We must, however, think seriously about how to make decisions in the future so that not only would the concerns of all interested parties be heard, but also be taken into account.

This also means that decisions would be explained. That the government would neither be nor seem to be deaf or dumb; that the powers that be would not look down upon the voter; that government representatives would not descend to a base and spiteful level of communication.

Estonia’s international reputation all time high

I personally am of the opinion that Estonia is doing quite well. I am sincerely proud of my country. When during foreign visits I listen to praise for Estonia’s achievements, in my thoughts I always thank the entire people, every Estonian mother and father, every senior citizen and youth, every worker and employer, every artist and every statesman.

I thank everyone whose care, skills and dedication have brought Estonia its probably all-time best international reputation. A reputation that has not been fashioned but that has developed based on our deeds and skills, on Estonians’ enterprise, ingenuity and open way of thinking.

We might not even know that the world’s most famous composer of classical music alive is Arvo Pärt from Rakvere. That no-one else has recorded as much classical music as the Estonian conductor Neeme Järvi.

Tiger Leap, Skype, the digital prescription, the e-police and e-tax and customs board, as well as the X-Road’s database environment are studied or copied by countries across Europe and even further.

These examples, many more of which I could have named, prove that here in Estonia we can continue to do great things. Even if the greatest thing of all, our very own state, is something that we have already accomplished.

Yes, I know it is easy and popular to scoff and laugh at admitting Estonia’s success. As if we should be ashamed of our achievements and speak about them only in a lowered voice. Not forgetting to emphasise things that continue to be bad or remain unaccomplished. One does not exclude the other.

Dear friends, let us be justly proud of our state and common achievements, but let us also honestly face the things that we have failed to do. Especially today when exactly five years separate us from Estonia’s great jubilee. And why not from a perspective that would demand the fixing of these things by Estonia’s one hundredth birthday.

Tough challenges ahead

Let us look beyond the horizon of the approaching elections. Let us carefully weigh the choices we will be given. Because our situation in the coming five to seven years will change markedly. Although we cannot predict everything that could happen over those years, we already do know some things.

We know that by 2018, due to low fertility rates and higher life-expectancy, the labour of three people will have to suffice to support five.

Our entire system of social security and benefits will rest on the shoulders of those people. All of it: schools, pensions, child support, the police and rescue services, the health insurance fund, and unemployment insurance.

Let us also consider the fact that as we become richer – and this is exactly what we want – this increasingly requires more effort and responsibility.

Should our relative wealth grow with the continuation of economic growth, this will also mean that when the next financial framework period begins in 2020 we may not get as sizeable a piece of the pie as our government obtained this time round just two weeks ago.

It could be that we ourselves will have become net contributors, as incredible as this may sound today. But it is entirely possible. Because we are already so close to the 75% level of the European Union average GDP, a threshold from which onwards a country can no longer be a net recipient of European funds.

What kind of a conclusion can we draw from this? In brief, we must learn to manage in a different way. Firstly, we must find or invent a model of the state for such circumstances, a model that is not only more resilient to these changes, but one that also ensures the sustainable improvement of people’s livelihoods here.

In the coming seven years we must become clever enough to manage on our own. We must also use the European Union support we receive up until then to create something sustainable – something that later on will be able to continue and develop by itself.

Let us distinguish the most important

And hence my appeal. Let us fix Estonia by its one hundredth birthday. The French built the Eiffel Tower for their century-jubilee. Let us build a metaphoric tower, one that shines bright and is visible from far away in its innovativeness and inventiveness, in its shrewdness and also its tone, a friendly, argumentative and efficient one.

Such a timeframe and financial limit, a predictable yet definitive possibility of the closing of the window of financial opportunity, sets concrete milestones – goals that are not impossible to achieve, but which do require consensus and longer term planning than merely for one election-cycle.

This should not be something insurmountable for us. Planning for the next general song festival begins at once when the fire of the previous one has gone out at the song festival grounds. 50 000 singers – this means that every twentieth Estonian takes part in the preparations, practising during their free time.

How then could other things be beyond our means, for instance to fix Estonia?

In order to reach this goal we need debates and also balanced decisions as a result of them. We need enforceable action plans, not development plans that are written for the sake of writing and then immediately forgotten. We need ideas, ideas that are innovative and possibly atypical, but certainly not slogans.

These ideas and action plans must take into account Estonia’s needs, not arguments about whom, how, and how much to tax. We will come to taxes once we know the answer to the question of what to do in order that the state may function prudently.

We need a debate on what to do with our education system as the number of schoolchildren rapidly declines, not fearing difficult decisions, but making sure that quality is preserved.

Without pathos and populism we must reach consensus on how to organise life in the countryside so that enterprise may be possible there; so that people who want to live in the countryside would not have do so at the cost of their families and wellbeing.

It should not be a heroic act to live anywhere in Estonia. And we must also see what we can do, if anything, in order that our connections with the outside world may not diminish.

Instead of arguing about whether different universities need the same syllabi, we need a debate and decisions on what should be taught, and to what extent, in order that people may have jobs in Estonia with salaries that make it possible to live here after they graduate.

As citizens who are demanding of our state, as the owners of our state, we could compile a list of problems that await at least some kind of solution within the next five years.

We need a debate in which we can list all our wishes, calculate their price and then let the voters choose whether they are willing to pay for it all.

Otherwise we cannot solve anything and will remain trapped in our dreams and nightmares.

We can reach Estonia’s big goals if we jointly take counsel. Let us debate these issues in the spirit of Artur Alliksaar, now that we have our freedom and we perceive that

Freedom is to seek.
Freedom is to err
Freedom is to lose, and to find again
An endless insatiability.

But here sprouts another need. We ourselves and the state power that is the government as well as the political parties of the Riigikogu that do not belong to the government, must be prepared to make big decisions. This is why we have elected you.

There is no need to spend time on petty popularity-seeking laws that in the end recall meaningless activities. Laws abolishing the land tax for homes and curbing monopolies are not the kind of things that bring us closer to important decisions.

We do not need the kind of obstructionism that mires the entire parliament’s reputation and that gives the impression of it all being a political game.

We must pay for our own state. With money, but first and foremost with work, care and a will to stay together. If we do not want to or feel we cannot do so, then let us be prepared to demand less of our state. This too would be our free choice as the citizens and owners of this state.

We do not have to do as the French did, and give our state an Eiffel Tower as a present on its one hundredth birthday. Let us provide solutions and decisions in the fields that I spoke about a minute ago.

I hope that in the coming eighteen months we can exchange so many ideas on these topics that every citizen can pose questions to and demand solutions from the candidates before the 2015 parliamentary elections. I believe that politicians have also understood that compared to five years ago the voters are a lot more demanding today.

I hope to, and also believe we will see a new quality that shall arise from our people’s increased awareness of everything to do with governance. The voluntary sector or the “vabakond” – a term that didn’t even exist five years ago – has appeared in all possible forms.

Some of its phenomena are brittle, others more serious. It is no longer possible to ignore this almost unnoticed growth of awareness in the governing of the Estonian state.

Estonia is like a wild strawberry

As citizens we are all owners of our state. And an owner takes responsibility and cares. Just as we grew from the Noor Eesti, or Young Estonia movement into a European state, we will also become a more open and modern people who can cope with anything that we are faced with. But only if we are prepared for this.

All that is dear and sweet does not have to be big and grand. Estonia is like a wild strawberry: pristine and small, difficult to find and those who do not know how to, fail to recognise and value it. But once we possess it, once it is ours, then it is one of the best things of all. Our home is a wild strawberry field.

And what Estonia will be like tomorrow, is up to us.



The opinions in this article are those of the author.

Photos: Andres Putting

Estonia’s lake-maker lives his dream (video)

The man behind Leigo Lake Music Festival, Estonian Tõnu Tamm has dedicated the past two decades of his life to his obsession of creating artificial lakes.

Tõnu Tamm by Leigo lake

Surrounded by water in the south of Estonia, his enthusiasm is infectious as he insists everyone should do their bit for the environment and take tiny steps that help bring calm to a troubled world.

“People might think it’s very hard to make a lake, but you just need a suitable landscape and some knowledge, including about dams,” the 71-year-old told AFP.

“It all started in the spring of 1981. After spending all our summers from 1966 to 1980 on wild nature trips to Siberia, where I made several TV documentaries, I decided with my wife Tiiu-Mall to buy a summer cottage in Estonia,” he explained.

At the time, Estonia was under Soviet rule. As in other communist-bloc states, escape to the countryside was one way for urban dwellers to forget the political sloganeering of daily life. Despite the Soviet command economy, it was still possible to buy a cottage or exchange a city apartment for one.

“The plan was just to have a cottage to relax at weekends and retire when we got old. But when we arrived here, for one day only, the beauty of nature stunned us so much that we decided to stay forever,” Tamm said.

Having loved the lakes he saw on his travels, he dreamed of having one near his new home. “So I decided to make a lake myself. And suddenly making lakes just became part of my life,” he explained.

After the nation of 1.3 million regained its independence peacefully in 1991, it became possible to buy privatised land and homes in exchange for coupons issued for the number of Soviet-era working years in a family.

Tamm gradually expanded his holding to 250 hectares (618 acres), turning fields into 14 lakes which cover 39 hectares in total.

The biggest lake covers 10 hectares and is 400 metres (1,300 feet) long, and has gradually filled with fish.

“People like how Tõnu Tamm and his family have put nature at work in Leigo,” Sirje Laansoo, a 50-year-old cosmetologist from the capital Tallinn, told AFP. “Whenever we go there with family, they have a magic feeling, and that’s what attracts people to return,” she said.

The biggest lake Leigo is where he indulges his other passion: classical music. Tamm built two concert stages and now draws thousands of music lovers to an annual festival “Leigo Lake Music Festival”, which he launched in 1998 — as well as the likes of star conductors Neeme and Paavo Järvi, who hail from Estonia and perform here for free.

“We make a decent income from farm tourism because people like to have various celebrations or just a quiet vacation here. But the festival, which takes a huge amount of work to organise, generally brings in less money than we invest,” Tiiu-Mall Tamm told AFP.

“But we keep on going, because the music festival and gratitude of people attending and performing has brought so much meaning to our lives,” she added.

Her husband already has his sights on something new. “I dream of a day when Swan Lake will be danced on the lake, with a stage slightly below water level,” he said.

“The key to happiness is creativity,” Tõnu added.

More information on Leigo Farm and Leigo Lake Music Festival:

This story was first reported around the world by Agence France-Presse and published by

Photos: Agence France-Presse and Wikipedia

Review: Kristjan Järvi’s debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Kristjan Järvi made his debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker in a performance teaming with the inexhaustible energy for which the youngest son of Neeme Järvi is renowned. In an age where conductors often approach music with an overly academic ethos, one which would restrict the aural size and metaphysical scope of the music, Kristjan Järvi has remained committed to pushing boundaries and expanding horizons.

The reductive approach to musical performance is no more apparent than in contemporary performances of Beethoven. In spite of this worrying trend, Järvi has gone against the grain and recently recorded Mahler’s revolutionary re-orchestration of Beethoven’s 9th symphony with the Tonkünstler Orchestra. It is one of only three commercially available recordings of Mahler’s re-working of Beethoven’s 9th.

Living in an era when orchestral conductors appear to increasingly specialise in one or two specific genres of music, it is refreshing that Kristjan Järvi is equally comfortable conducting in the high classical tradition, as he is in the romantic tradition. His recordings of modern music are likewise highly compelling, and are frequently lauded as such. His 2010 recording of Pärt’s 3rd symphony is universally regarded as the definitive version of Pärt’s most well-known symphony.

Järvi’s debut in front of what is quite possibly the world’s finest orchestra, was long over-due, especially since his brother and father have led the Berliners on many occasions. The Berliner Philharmoniker are indeed an orchestra whose sound is instantly recognisable. Whilst the sound has evolved over the decades, it is the rich, heavy, lush yet aggressive sound developed by Herbert von Karajan that has remained with the orchestra ever since the death of their longest serving director in 1989. Standing before such a band for the first time might well be an intimidating experience for a young maestro, but for Järvi this did not seem to be the case. He appeared entirely in his element, commanding the podium with his overtly expressive and at times dance like gesticulations.

Kristjan Järvi

The centrepiece of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony, one of the most important pieces in the symphonic repertoire. Whilst the 4th is a widely performed piece of music, it is all too easy for a conductor to take the majesty of such a piece for granted.

A conductor ill at ease with Tchaikovsky’s compositions may will sit back and allow the deeply involved melodies to act as a substitute for a more individuated voicing of the piece. It is crucial however to remember that whilst Tchaikovsky is rightly remembered as one of orchestral music’s most able melodists, Tchaikovsky was also a master at transforming complex harmonies into lucid aural narratives. He was also far more adventurous with rhythmic syncopation and a far more innovative orchestral arranger than he is often given credit for.

These more subtle elements of Tchaikovsky’s genius became instantly apparent from the opening horn fanfare of the first movement. Järvi was not content to suck the rhythmic and dramatic life out of the symphony by allowing the melodies to float lugubriously over metronomic tempi. His heavy emphasis on tempo rubato and dramatic dynamic surges place him in the proudest tradition of Tchaikovsky performance alongside the great masters of the 20th century; the titans Svetlanov and Mravinsky in particular. In many ways, Järvi ‘s combination of comfort and ability to take creative risks with music speaks to a broader phenomenon within the Estonian classical tradition.

Estonia’s classical music culture has remained unique amongst the great European traditions of classical music. Since the middle of the 19th century, virtually all important orchestral music has sprung either from the Austro-Germanic tradition or the artistically polar Russian tradition. Smaller, but significant central European traditions of orchestral music such as the Czech, Hungarian or Polish traditions have always been more stylistically related to Vienna than to either St. Petersburg or Moscow. Inversely, the music of the Caucuses and Balkans has always been more implicitly related to the Russian tradition than that of the Austro-Germanic tradition.

Estonian performance and composition is not so easy to place. It is something rather apart from both behemoth traditions, this in spite of the majority of Estonian musicians during the 20th century receiving their training in either Leningrad or Moscow. Because of this however, Estonian classical performers like the Järvis have been embraced by audiences from both of these grand traditions and indeed in the wider world. Instances of tension between traditions witnessed in Svetlanov’s punchy, rhythmically explosive Bruckner, so alien to the Germanic ear or Karajan’s steady and heavily legato laden approach to Rimsky-Korsokov so alien to the Russian ear, represent stylistic tensions that mostly bypass Estonian musicians who exist in a sphere outside the tacit dogmas of the two larger traditions.

This is why the two smaller pieces from Kristjan Järvi’s performance in Berlin did not feel as though they were merely incidental to Tchaikovsky’s grand 4th. Carl Neilson’s En Fantasirejse til Færøerne was played with a kind of intensity that made the piece by the post-romantic composer spring to life in a highly refreshing way, and likewise – Järvi’s deeply meditative, yet never undramatic reading of Olivier Messiaen’s L’Ascension demonstrated that it is indeed possible to place a deeply impressionistic piece in a mostly romantic programme without doing so by exploiting the resonant pathos of the larger romantic piece.

The response of the deeply critical audience in the Philharmonie to Järvi’s performance was highly reassuring. Järvi received resounding applause from the Berlin audience, not least after the heroic coda of the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony.

One can only hope that Kristjan Järvi will be making many more appearances in Berlin over the coming years. Indeed, as the Berliner Philharmoniker have not had a German or Austrian director since 1996, the possibility of an Estonian director of the most forward looking orchestra in Europe is more promising than one could have imagined just 20 years ago. Until then, Estonia and the wider classical world will await the next appearance by the youngest and perhaps most energetic of the Järvi’s before one of the world’s top music ensembles.


Cover: Kristjan Järvi (photos courtesy of and Kristjan Järvi).

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