The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ENSO)
has its origins as a small radio orchestra in 1926. It has become Estonia’s representative orchestra over the years and has powerfully increased its international scope especially over recent years. High quality of ENSO’s recordings that has also attracted attention during recent years has been bespotted by several recognized music magazines and the recordings have been won several awards such as Grammy Award for the recordings of Sibelius’ cantatas (Ellerhein Girls’ Choir, Estonian National Male Choir, ENSO, conductor Paavo Järvi, Virgin Classics). In 2005 The New York Times named ENSO’s CD Peer Gynt (Virgin Classics) as surprise highlight of the year and in March 2006 it also won BBC Music Magazine's award for best orchestral album. Released in August 2007, the CD Magma of Erkki-Sven Tüür`s music, conducted by Paavo Järvi, (Virgin Classics) was chosen as the album of the month in orchestral category by BBC Music Magazine, and in the October issue of Gramophone Magma as well as ENSO’s CD of Ester Mägi’s music (Toccata Classics) appeared among the ten most outstanding new albums. In addition to close cooperation between ENSO and Virgin Classics the orchestra has also recorded music for ECM, Alba Records, Camerata, BIS, Antes Edition, Ondine, Finlandia Records, Consonant Works, Melodija and others. The orchestra is regularly also recording music for the Estonian Radio.
The concert venues outside Estonia have become more and more dignified. There was a tour in Italy in 2003 with 17 concerts. In 2006 ENSO performed very successfully with Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Olari Elts, at the concert in the Turin Cathedral. The Concert was dedicated to the music of Arvo Pärt and was a part of the culture programme of the Turin Olympic Games. The orchestra has toured widely throughout the world (Romania, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Switzerland, Spain, Russia and elsewhere), the present tour with its 18 concerts is the first visit to the United States. ENSO has taken part in numerous music festivals at home and abroad (Il Settembre dell’ Accademia 2008 in Verona, Baltic Sea Festival in 2005 and 2006 in Stockholm, Yehudi Menuhin Festival Gstaad Musiksommer in Switzerland, Europamusicale in Munich etc.).
The Principal Conductors of ENSO have been Olav Roots, Roman Matsov, Neeme Järvi, Peeter Lilje, Leo Krämer and Arvo Volmer. From autumn 2001 Nikolai Alexeev has been the Principal Conductor and Art Director of ENSO. From the season 2002/2003 Paavo Järvi has been active as the Artistic Adviser of the orchestra and from the season of 2007/2008 Olari Elts has been appointed as the Principal Guest Conductor of ENSO. The orchestra has also performed with many world-renowned conductors, such as Valery Gergiev, Mariss Jansons, Aram Khachaturian, Sir Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Leonard Slatkin, Igor Stravinsky, Evgeny Svetlanov, Yuri Temirkanov, etc. In addition to Estonian soloists ENSO has performed with many world-famous guest soloists, such as Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Paul Badura-Skoda, Lazar Berman, Bella Davidovich, Peter Donohoe, Emil Gilels, Olli Mustonen, Sviatoslav Richter, Kolja Blacher, Sarah Chang, Ida Haendel, Gidon Kremer, Viktoria Mullova, David Oistrakh, Vladimir Spivakov, Juri Bashmet, David Geringas, Natalia Gutman, Arto Noras, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Patrick Gallois, Aurèle Nicolet, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Patricia Rozario, Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, Peter Schreier, Håkan Hagegård, Sergei Leiferkus, Matti Salminen, etc.
The repertoire of ENSO includes music from the Baroque period to premiere performances of modern works. ENSO has been the first performer of the symphonic pieces of almost all Estonian composers including Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Eduard Tubin, Lepo Sumera, Eino Tamberg, Tõnu Kõrvits, Helena Tulve and Toivo Tulev.
The head of a musical dynasty, Neeme Järvi is one of today’s most highly respected maestros. He conducts the world’s most prominent orchestras and works alongside soloists of the highest calibre. A prolific recording artist, he has amassed a discography of nearly 500 recordings.
Over his long and highly successful career he has held positions with orchestras across the world. Last season he took up his tenure as Artistic and Music Director of the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. He is also currently Artistic Director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Emeritus of both the Residentie Orkest Netherland Hague and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He also holds the titles of Principal Conductor Emeritus of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Laureate of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Recent and future seasons include engagements with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Wiener Symphoniker, as well as the major orchestras in the USA, and regular engagements with the NHK and Singapore symphony orchestras. He also continues his regular relationships with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchetra, Swedesh National Orchestra of Gothenburg and the Royal Scottish National orchestras (for a number of recording and concert projects).
Highlights of an impressive discography include critically acclaimed complete symphony cycles of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss, Mahler, Dvořak, Glazunov, Grieg, Sibelius, Nielsen and Brahms. Järvi has also championed less widely known composers such as Wilhelm Stenhammar, Hugo Alfvén and Niels Gade, Franz Berwald, Johann Svendsen and Johann Halvorsen of Norway and composers from his native Estonia, including Rudolf Tobias, Artur Kapp and Eduard Tubin. Throughout his career he has recorded with Chandos, Deutsche Grammophon, BIS and EMI amongst others.
Future releases on Chandos include Tchaikovsky’s complete ballets, Symphonies and orchestral Music by a Swiss Composer Joachim Raff. Also music by Massenet, Chabrier, Saint-Saëns, Suppé, Atterberg, Xaver, Scharwenka, etc. Neeme Järvi has been honoured with many international awards and accolades. From his native country these include an honorary doctorate from the Music and Theatre Academy and the Order of the National Coat of Arms from the President of the Republic of Estonia, Mr. Lennart Meri. The Mayor of Tallinn presented Maestro Järvi with the city’s first-ever ceremonial sash and coat of arms insignia, and he has been named one of the “Estonians of the Century”. Neeme Järvi holds an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Detroit’s Wayne State University and the University of Michigan, as well as honorary doctorates from the University of Aberdeen and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. He has also received the Commander of the North Star Order from King Karl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.