The Estonian Festival Orchestra was founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011 and made it’s debut at the newly inaugurated Pärnu Music Festival as the resident summer orchestra.

The long dreamed of ambition by Järvi to create a hand picked orchestra, bringing together the best of Estonian talent and leading musicians from from around the world, has resulted in performances which The Arts Desk reviewed as “begging comparison with the elasticity of Abbado’s concerts with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which is as good as it can get”. The BBC Music Magazine added “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.”

These reviews encapsulate Paavo Järvi’s goals in bringing colleagues and friends together to create a new orchestra which could grow out of the festival spirit. “An important component in creating the orchestra was to ‘match-make’ the players in a professional way but within the festival atmosphere” says Järvi. “If you are a young player in Estonia, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s often hard to make contact with a top player in the west. Now we can give these young musicians the advantage to both play with top colleagues from around Europe and get to know them as new friends. This spirit is what drives the orchestra and makes me particularly proud as its mentor.”

Estonia – with its relatively short lived history of independence and much longer history of occupation – retains a close identity with its neighbours: Finland, Denmark, Germany and Russia are all closely tied with Estonia’s history and culture and so is the music of composers such as Beethoven, Nielsen, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich which are integral to the orchestra’s repertoire.

In January 2018 the Estonian Festival Orchestra made its first major European tour and released its debut CD, featuring Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 and Sinfonietta, on Alpha Classics. In the summer of 2018 the orchestra went on to make its debuts at both the BBC Proms and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, followed by its first tour of Japan in Spring 2019. In 2020 the Estonian Festival Orchestra releases its 2nd CD dedicated to the music of Erkki-Sven Tüür in celebration of his 60th birthday. Tüür’s 9th Symphony – Mythos, which forms the centre piece of the album and is dedicated to Paavo Järvi, was recorded live at the 2018 world premiere performance in Tallinn. Both Incantation of Tempest and Sow the Wind were recorded live at the Pärnu Music Festival.