In 2011, Paavo Järvi founded the Pärnu Music Festival, set in the charming sea-side resort 90km south of Tallinn, and created the Estonian Festival Orchestra as the festival’s main resident ensemble.

The hand-picked orchestra brings together the best of Estonian talent, along with leading musicians from Europe’s top orchestras which Järvi met during his conducting career. After several years of performing in Pärnu, they quickly gained international attention.

In August 2017, the Estonian Festival Orchestra made its touring debut, performing in neighbouring countries around the Baltic coast and at Scandinavia’s most renowned festivals, together with Paavo Järvi and soloists Lisa Batiashvili and Ksenija Sidorova. The tour was dedicated to the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the programme celebrated music from Estonia, its Baltic and Scandinavian neighbours, and featured works by Tüür, Shostakovich, Sibelius, and Nielsen.

For Paavo Järvi, the creation of the Estonian Festival Orchestra is potentially one of his most important musical achievements to date. It is a recognition of his native country and a celebration of its cultural identity within Europe. ​“An important component in creating the orchestra was to ​‘match-make’ the players in a professional way but within the festival atmosphere” says Järvi. ​“This unifying spirit is what drives the orchestra and makes me particularly proud as its father figure.”

“A very special lure on the Baltic Sea Festival’s progamme was the young teenage Dmitri Shostakovich’s first symphony from 1925, and it also became Paavo Järvi’s real triumph. Here was a young, hungry orchestra which was also very congenial; musicians who both can and will bite on the challenges which scores and conductor present them. What a mood of Bolshevik twenty-seventeen and a self-conscious teenage genius! Here you will find spooky cabaret, spanky puppets and pointed montage within the framework of a safe and small creative orchestration. Paavo Järvi triggered his festival musicians in silent movie tempo and with perfect articulation.”
(Dagens Nyheter, Camilla Lundberg, 26 August 2017)

“… The Sibelius symphony (no. 2) showed an orchestra with a nerve and willingness to play all the way … the energy and cohesion to create an uncontrollable and direct symphonic world that hit right in the diaphragm.”
(Politiken, Henrik Friis, 24 August 2017)