Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniaorkester, ERSO) started out in 1926 as a small radio orchestra. Over the years, it has become the most prominent orchestral ambassador of Estonia abroad, powerfully increasing its international scope particularly in recent decades. Since the 2020/21 season, its Chief Conductor and Artistic Director is Olari Elts. Neeme Järvi, the longest-serving chief conductor of the ERSO, continues to cooperate with the orchestra as an Honorary Artistic Director for Life and the Artistic Adviser of the orchestra is Paavo Järvi.Read more
The orchestra performs with renowned conductors and soloists from around the world, including, of course, most prominent Estonian musicians. ERSO’s CDs demonstrate a quality that has been recognised by several renowned music magazines and the orchestra has won several prizes, including a Grammy Award for the recording of cantatas by Sibelius. Its home venue is the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn and it has dazzled the world with numerous tours and participated in reputable international music festivals. They have played in prestigious venues such as the Konzerthaus Berlin, Musikverein in Vienna, Rudolfinum in Prague, Brucknerhaus in Linz, the Avery Fisher Hall (current David Geffen Hall) in New York, the Grand Hall of Saint Petersburg Philharmonia and the Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, the Kölner Philharmonie, the Helsinki Music Centre, Berwaldhallen in Stockholm, and many more. In 2019, ERSO and Neeme Järvi opened the highly acclaimed Festival Radio France Occitanie Montpellier. In 2021, ERSO and Olari Elts participated in Eufonie International Festival of Central and Eastern Europe in Warsaw.
The orchestra has enjoyed fruitful cooperation with highly acclaimed record companies such as Chandos, BIS, and Onyx, and in the past also with Alba Records, Harmonia Mundi, and Melodiya. In addition to local radio and television channels, ERSO’s concerts have been broadcasted by Mezzo, medici.tv and they have also reached many radio listeners via the EBU. In 2020, the orchestra launched its own channel – erso.tv.
As for conductors and soloists, ERSO is fortunate to perform with the very best from all around the world, including front-rank Estonian musicians. Commanding a repertoire that ranges from the Baroque period to the present time, the ERSO has had the honour to premiere symphonic pieces by almost every Estonian composer, including Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits, and Eduard Tubin.
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Olari Elts, conductor
Olari Elts’ passion for distinctive programming rich with invention has earned him much praise on the international music scene. He began his tenure as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra in 2020. Since 2018, he is also Artistic Advisor of the Kymi Sinfonietta.
Olari Elts has appeared as a guest conductor with such orchestras as Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Finnish Radio Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Netherlands Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, RTÉ Dublin Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de France, Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Budapest Festival Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra Ottawa, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Soloists with whom he collaborates include Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Gautier and Renaud Capuçon, Brett Dean, Isabelle Faust, Alban Gerhardt, Martin Grubinger, Martin Helmchen, Stephen Hough, Lucas & Arthur Jussen, Kari Kriikku, Simone Lamsma, Karita Mattila, Alexander Melnikov, Maxim Rysanov, Baiba Skride, Lara St. John, Simon Trpčeski, and Antoine Tamestit.Read more
In the 2021/22 season, Elts will lead the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra on tour to Poland, as well as guest conduct orchestras with which he has regularly collaborated such as Helsinki Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Weimar, Slovenian Philharmonic and Sinfonietta Riga. He also looks forward to his debut with Oslo Philharmonic, Prague Radio Symphony, Polish Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk, and further afield with Orchestre Symphonique de Quebec in Canada and National Symphony Orchestra in Taiwan. Other highlights include conducting a new ballet production based on the life of Sibelius, in celebration of the Finnish National Ballet’s 100th year anniversary.
As a champion of contemporary Baltic composers such as Erkki-Sven Tüür and Heino Eller, Elts has released recordings of Heino Eller’s Symphonic Poems as well as Eller’s violin concerto with Baiba Skride and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Also widely celebrated by critics are his Ondine recordings of Erkki-Sven Tüür works with Tapiola Sinfonietta including the viola concerto with Lawrence Power, and Tüür’s Symphony No. 5 for electric guitar, orchestra, big band and the accordion concerto Prophecy with the Helsinki Philharmonic. His 2016 recording of Brahms’ arrangements (Glanert, Berio) with Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra also won high praise. Elts’ discography also includes the Borgström and Shostakovich violin concertos with Eldbjørg Hemsing and the Wiener Symphoniker under the BIS label, and Poul Ruders Symphony No.5 with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra by Bridge Records. His upcoming release will feature music by Kalevi Aho, recorded with the Kymi Sinfonietta under the BIS label, and another disc of the same composer recorded with the Antwerp Symphony.
Elts also made his mark in the opera field, having conducted titles such as Eugene Onegin, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Idomeneo, Berlioz’s La Damnation du Faust, etc. Crossing genres, Elts toured to the Konzerthaus Berlin with the theatre-concert production which combines Mendelssohn and Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the Tallinn-based theatre company NO99. For Bernstein’s 100th anniversary, Elts conducted the film “On the Waterfront” with live orchestral accompaniment of the soundtrack.
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Barry Douglas, piano
Barry Douglas has established a major international career since winning the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition, Moscow. As Artistic Director of Camerata Ireland, the only all-Ireland orchestra and the Clandeboye Festival, he continues to celebrate his Irish heritage whilst also maintaining a busy international touring schedule. In January 2021 Barry Douglas was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to music and community relations in the 2021 New Year Honours List.
In recent seasons Barry performed with a list of orchestras that includes the London Symphony, St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Russian National, Vancouver and Colorado Symphonies, and the Halle Orchestra. In 16/17 he marked the 30th anniversary of his Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition win with full Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto cycles with the RTE Orchestra in Dublin and the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast. Also noted for his promotion of contemporary repertoire, he performed the premiere of Kevin Volans’ fourth piano concerto with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the European premiere of the Penderecki Piano Concerto.Read more
Other recent highlights include a major UK tour with the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, and appearances with the RTE, Barcelona and Sydney Symphonies as well as a continuation of his collaboration with the Borodin String Quartet. A highly sought-after recitalist and chamber musician, he has given performances across the globe from Royal Albert Hall, Barbican and Wigmore Hall and the Verbier Festival to the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, Grand Theatre in Shanghai and other cities in China.
He has previously given concerts with the BBC Scottish Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, Singapore Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, Staatskapelle Halle, Orchestre National de France, Seattle Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestras, among others.
Barry is an exclusive Chandos recording artist. He recently completed a six-album recording of the full works for solo piano of Brahms. International Record Review wrote that “this is indeed Brahms playing of the utmost integrity and authority… this cycle looks set to become a benchmark version.” His current recording projects focus on the solo piano works of Schubert and Tchaikovsky. Also with Chandos Barry is exploring Irish folk music through his own arrangements, working with ancient melodies through to pieces by contemporary song writers.
In 1999 Barry Douglas founded the chamber orchestra Camerata Ireland to celebrate and nurture the very best of young musicians from both Northern and the Republic of Ireland. In addition to striving for musical excellence, one of the orchestra’s aims is to further the peace process in Ireland by promoting dialogue and collaboration through its musical education programmes. Barry regularly tours with Camerata Ireland throughout the world. Highlights of past seasons were Camerata Ireland’s debut at the BBC Proms in London and a world premiere of a new cantata commissioned by The Honourable The Irish Society, “At Sixes and Sevens”, alongside the London Symphony Orchestra to celebrate Derry-Londonderry becoming City of Culture 2013.
Barry Douglas received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year’s Honours List for services to music.
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