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Special Performance of the Music of Arvo Pärt at the Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center

The Embassy of the Republic of Estonia is pleased to announce a special presentation of the music of Arvo Pärt at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, America’s National Cultural Center, in Washington, D.C. on the evening of Tuesday, May 27th

The concert will be performed by the esteemed Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) and its sister orchestra, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (TCO), at the center’s main stage, the Concert Hall. The renowned Estonian conductor, Tõnu Kaljuste, will lead the performance.  In addition to celebrating the music of the beloved composer, the concert, which is free to the public, commemorates the enduring, century long relationship between the Estonian Republic and the United States of America.

One of the best known cultural figures from Estonia and the Baltic region in the world today, Pärt was born in 1935 at the end of the second decade of Estonian independence, just before the country lost it to both the Russians and Germans, and then the Russians again for another half century.   A native of the town of Rakvere, the musical prodigy began to compose during the 1960s, when the country was still under Soviet occupation, and worked as a sound producer for Estonian radio from 1957 to 1967.

Ultimately Pärt found the pressures of working in the USSR too constricting, and in 1980 emigrated to Austria, where his signature musical style, which features the use oftintinnabuli, took mature form and began to get recognized.  The composer himself likens his remarkable music to “white light,” which after piercing the listener’s sensory prism acquires new and different shades.  Today he is considered the most performed contemporary music composer in the world.

The choir and orchestra will perform a multi-hued selection of Pärt’s works, including “Fratres,” “Adam’s Lament,” “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten,” and “Te Deum.”   The composer will be present, along with an official delegation from the Estonian government, led by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Pärt’s talented friend and colleague, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, has been a leading figure on both the Estonian and international music scene for over three decades.  Kaljuste founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir—Eesti Filharmoonia Kammerkoor in Estonian—in 1981, shortly after his friend, Arvo, left the still-occupied Baltic republic.   In 1993, two years after Estonia regained its independence, he founded the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (Tallinna Kammerorkester).

Kaljuste has since established himself as a leading interpreter of such varied foreign composers as Gyorgy Kurtag, Pietrari Inkinen, and Alfred Schnittke, as well as that of Pärt and fellow Estonian composers Erkki-Sven Tüür, Veljo Tormis, Heino Eller and Tõnu Kõrvits.

A celebrated figure in his own right, earlier this year Kaljuste won the Grammy Award for his recording of Pärt’s “Adam’s Lament” with both the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, along with their musical brethren from across the border, Sinfonietta Riga and Latvian Radio Choir.

Although Kaljuste and the choir have performed in the United States numerous times in the past, the May 27th concert at the Kennedy Center will be their first appearance there.  The concert is the first of a series of four performances that the EPCC and TCO will be giving in the U.S. in Washington and New York, between May 27th and June 2nd.

The initiator of the series is St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) in New York which will bestow an honorary doctorate in sacred music to Maestro Pärt at a special ceremony in New York on May 31st.

The concert begins at 6 P.M. and is free to the public.

In addition to the Estonian government, this very special evening was made possible thanks to the generosity of  a wide range of organizations, foundations and individuals within and associated with the greater Estonian-American community, whose donations help defray the costs of the performance.  The Embassy also wishes to extend its special thanks to the board of directors of the Kennedy Center for making its Concert Hall available for the performance.

For more questions about either the concert, the music of Arvo Pärt, or Estonian music and culture please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you and looking forward to seeing you and all our friends on Tuesday the 27th, at the Kennedy Center.

Or, as we say in Estonia, aitäh ja teretulemast!