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Järvi Festival a Natural for Music-Loving Estonia

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Aug 13, 2011 - 7:41:49 PM in news_2011

Whose idea was the International Järvi Summer Festival, just completed in Pärnu, Estonia (July 28-August 4)?

Lukas Groen (photo by Naoki Tokuoka)

“Maybe it was (Valery) Gergiev’s idea,” joked Lukas Groen, chairman of the Festival board and manager of the affiliated Järvi Summer Academy, a master course for conductors founded by Neeme Järvi in 2000 in this resort city on the Baltic Sea.

Groen is from Rotterdam, site of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival, now in its 16th year.  Groen is also an alumnus of the Järvi Summer Academy and for the past five years, a resident of Estonia.

Actually, the Festival was in large measure Groen's idea, worked out last year in conjunction with Kristjan Hallik, Jüri-Ruut Kangur (conductor of the Estonian National Youth Symphony Orchestra) and members of the Järvi family after discussions by Groen and Neeme Järvi about the future of the Järvi Academy.

The opportunity first arose arose when the Järvi Academy separated from Pärnu’s David Oistrakh Festival in 2009. For two summers (2009 and 2110) the Academy continued on its own, working with the Estonian National Youth Symphony Orchestra to give the conducting students the opportunity to rehearse and conduct a live orchestra and present concerts.  Sharing teaching responsibilities were Neeme and Paavo Järvi and the distinguished American conductor Leonid Grin, who also delivered lectures for the students. 

“We did two years with the courses and this turned into a lot of concerts,” said Groen.  In effect it was a festival.  What’s more, it had not one, but potentially three well known conductors named Järvi (Neeme’s sons Paavo and Kristjan are also renowned conductors). 

“Neeme’s daughter (Maarika Järvi) plays the flute, and his nephews and nieces are playing on a professional level.  They all have lots of friends internationally, so it would be a very nice idea to make a real Järvi Festival, Groen said.  It’s a good name, it’s good for the country, and it’s good to attract an audience from abroad.”


The Festival, a non-profit association (MTÜ) under Estonian law, made its debut July 28, 2011 at Pärnu’s Kontserdimaja (Concert Hall) with Paavo Järvi, who is artistic adviser, conducting the newly created Järvi Festival Orchestra.  The program comprised Sibelius' Violin Concerto with soloist Anna-Liisa Bezrodny, Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”) and Estonian composer Tõnu Kõrvits 2007 tone poem “Sung into the Wind.”  There were ten concerts, half of them chamber music featuring over 20 Festival artists, a special guest artist, violinist Ivry Gitlis, and in addition to conducting, master classes in string and wind instruments.

Support for the Festival came from the government, sponsor Selver (an Estonian supermarket chain), ticket sales and participation fees for students in the conducting, string and wind instrument master classes.  “At least one-third is our own income,” said Groen.  “This is actually quite good, and there are possibilities for it to grow because this is the first time.  Some things are late, so dealing with sponsors is late.  I’m looking also for international sponsors to get participation fees down.

“We were completely in balance at the beginning of the festival, so everything depended on ticket sales,” he said.  “They were a little bit less than planned, so we are having a minus.”  Still, he is optimistic about attracting “enough sponsors in the future.”

“This year we actually have a lot of support from the musicians.  If you look at the amounts they are getting, especially compared internationally, I would say the festival is greatly sponsored by the Estonian musicians.  I don’t see this in many countries, but here there is the will, not only from the organization, but the musicians of Estonia, that something big happens, that they perform here and that people are coming to listen.  What they are doing is they are all coming back in the summer.”

The Festival operated this year with “four plus one” staff members, Groen said.  “We had four in the budget, but we changed this.  There needs to be somebody sitting hours behind a computer collecting names, addresses, writing things, organizing things, which is simply not done unless you have somebody separately to do that.”

The “plus one” is Kristi Kesamaa, “a very good person who has a great insight in how an organization should work.  She is my close assistant, also my memory and it works fine.”

The Festival managers, who divide up responsibilities, are Groen, administrative head and Järvi Academy manager; Hallik, who, with artistic adviser Paavo Järvi, is in charge of artistic matters; Kangur, conductor of the Estonian National Youth Symphony Orchestra; and cellist Marius Järvi, who represents the Järvi family.  Groen, Hallik and Piret Hallik-Sass (who does marketing and public relations) make up the three-member board.

As with most non-profit organizations, the Järvi Festival depends heavily on volunteers.  Doing yeoman’s work as Järvi Academy course and orchestra assistant – driving, keeping time at Academy conducting sessions, photocopying, even making a podium for the outdoor “bonus” concert August 6 on Leigo Lakes in South Estonia -- was George Butler, trombonist and teacher at the Lasnamäe Music School in Tallinn.

Also assisting with Academy matters was Yvonne Kool of The Netherlands.  Videographer and driver was Edmar Tuul, a conductor from Tallinn.  Tea Tuhkur, a member of the ENYSO, did photography, and there were volunteers for ticket sales and logistical things, as well.

Planning has already begun for the next Järvi Festival, which will be the last two weeks in July, 2012 (exact dates have not been set, said Groen). 

“We want to make some changes in the organization of the festival.  The audience and the musicians were enthusiastic, but we had all the activities within two weeks (most fell within ten days).  It was extremely ambitious, the quality was wonderful, and we are quite relieved to have pulled it off.  It’s a new thing.  It’s the first thing.”

Information about the first International rvi Summer Festival and the Järvi Conducting Academy may be found at www.jarvifestival.ee and www.jarviacademy.ee