The Kennedy Center

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber


The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) is one of the best-known choirs in the world. The EPCC was founded by Tõnu Kaljuste in 1981, who was the artistic director and chief conductor for twenty years. In 2001–2007, the English musician Paul Hillier took over; between the years 2008–2013 the artistic director and chief conductor was Daniel Reuss.

The repertoire of the choir extends from Gregorian chant and baroque to the music of the 21th century, ever special focus on the work of Estonian composers (Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Galina Grigoryeva, Toivo Tulev, Tõnu Kõrvits, Helena Tulve) and introducing it to the world. Each season the choir gives about 60–70 concerts in Estonia and abroad.

The EPCC has cooperated with a number of outstanding conductors and orchestras – Claudio Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Eric Ericson, Ward Swingle, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Nikolai Alekseyev, Olari Elts, Andrew Lawrence-King, Roland Böer, Frieder Bernius, Stephen Layton, Marc Minkowski, Christoph Poppen, Sir Colin Davis, Louis Langree, Paul McCreesh; with Norwegian, Australian, Lithuanian, Prague and Stuttgardt Chamber Orchestras, London Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Rundfunk Orchestra, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Palatino, Salzburg Camerata, Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, London Symphony Orchestra, Basel Chamber Orchestra and with Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.

The EPCC has been a welcome guest at numerous music festivals and outstanding venues all over the world, for instance at BBC Proms, Mozartwoche, Abu Gosh Music Festival, Hong Kong Arts Festival, Moscow Easter Festival, Musikfest Bremen, Salzburg Festspiele, Edinburgh International Festival, Festival Aix-en-Provence, International Cervantino Festival, Vale of Glamorgan, Bergen International Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Sydney Opera House, Wiener Konzerthaus, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Lincoln Center in New York etc.

Another important aspect in the choir’s life is recording music (for ECM, Virgin Classics, Carus, Harmonia Mundi, Ondine), resulting in award-winning CDs. EPCC recordings have won twice GRAMMY-Award for Best Choral Performance: in 2007 for the album Arvo Pärt. Da Pacem (conductor Paul Hillier, Harmonia Mundi) and in 2014 Arvo Pärt. Adam’s Lament (conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, ECM). All in all, the choir has 14 Grammy nominations with the works by Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and the music of Nordic countries. The EPCC recordings have won also the award Diapason d’or, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Danish Music Award etc.

The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1993 by conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. The predecessor of the orchestra was a string orchestra founded by Prof. Jüri Gerretz in 1989 from students of the Tallinn Conservatoire. Though it is a string orchestra the best wind players from the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Estonian National Opera participate regularly in the work of TCO.
Particularly in the early years the activity of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was very tightly connected with the work of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and mutual concerts brought much international recognition to both groups. In 1993 a CD with Arvo Pärt’s „Te Deum“ was released by ECM  and this recording was for one year in the top of several disc rankings and was much praised by important music critics. Later several important records were released by ECM: Erkki-Sven Tüür’s „Crystallisatio“, Arvo Pärt’s „Litany“, “In Principio“ and „Adam’s Lament“, Heino Eller’s „Neenia“ and others. The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has also recorded for Warner Music / Finlandia Records, Carus Verlag, etc.

From 1993-1995 and 1996-2001 the chief conductor of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was Tõnu Kaljuste. A very important figure for TCO has been Finnish conductor Juha Kangas who was the chief conductor 1995-1996 and the artistic advisor 2001-2003. During later years the activities of TCO have been supervised by the Artistic Director of the Tallinn Philharmonic Society Eri Klas. From September 2013 the chief conductor of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra is Risto Joost.

The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has performed at many prestigious music festivals: Festival of Bach Cantatas in Milan (1996, 1997), Bremen Music Festival (1998), Settembre Musica in Turin (2004), Budapest Autumn Festival (2005), Kaustinen Chamber Music Week (2005), Bergamo and Brescia Festival Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (2007), Festival Musiikkia (Rouvesi, 2012), Festival Cervantino (2012), Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (2013). TCO has been touring in the US, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and in most of the European countries.

Besides the conductors mentioned above the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has been conducted by John Storgårds, Pietari Inkinen, Okko Kamu and Jaakko Kuusisto from Finland, Richard Tognetti from Australia, Terje Tonnesen from Norway, Valentin Zhuk and Daniel Raiskin from Holland, Samuel Wong from Canada, Dmitri Sitkovetski from the UK and, of course, Estonian conductors like Eri Klas, Olari Elts, Paul Mägi, Arvo Volmer, Kristjan Järvi, Vello Pähn, Jüri Alperten, Andres Mustonen and others.

Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste has established himself as a leading interpreter of music by György Kurtag, Krzysztof Penderecki, Giya Kancheli and Alfred Schnittke, and in particular of Estonian composers such as Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Veljo Tormis, Heino Eller and Tõnu Korvits. He founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in 1981 and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra in 1993, and previously held the positions of Principal Conductor with both the Swedish Radio Choir and the Netherlands Chamber Choir.

He has collaborated with numerous choirs and orchestras including the RIAS Kammerchor, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Latvian Radio Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Radio Symphony, Oslo Philharmonic, Danish Radio Symphony, Orchestra dell.Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, NDR Radiophilharmonie Hannover, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken, Bremer Philharmoniker, Tonkünstlerorchester, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Japan Century Symphony Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Swedish National Youth Orchestra, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra and Irish Chamber Orchestra.

Tõnu Kaljuste made his debut at the Hamburg Opera in 2007 with Lera Auerbach’s ballet The Little Mermaid, the same year he conducted Beethoven’s Fidelio with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, followed by Haydn’s opera Il mondo della luna in 2008. From 1978-85 he was conductor of the Estonian National Opera, leading Britten’s Let’s Make an Opera - The Little Sweep, Mozart’s Bastian und Bastienne and Der Schauspieldirektor, Weber’s Der Freischütz and Veljo Tormis’ ballet Estonian Ballads.

A prolific recording artist, Tõnu Kaljuste has an extensive discography on the ECM, Virgin Classics and Caprice labels. For the Arvo Pärt album Adam’s Lament (ECM) with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Sinfonietta Riga, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and Latvian Radio Choir Tõnu Kaljuste was awarded with the Grammy Award 2014. Other recordings have won prizes including the Diapason d’Or, Cannes Classical Award, Edison Prize, Classic BRIT Award.

Forthcoming highlights include engagements with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonic Chorus, Camerata Salzburg and Latvian Radio Choir at the Mozartwoche Salzburg, with the RIAS Kammerchor and Ensemble Resonanz in Berlin and Amsterdam, at the Festival Wratislavia Cantans with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Malmö Opera Orchestra, Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de Espana and Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado de Sao Paulo.
Tõnu Kaljuste is a member of the Royal Music Academy of Sweden and recipient of the Japanese ABC Music Award and the Robert Edler Prize. Since 2004 he has been Artistic Director of the Nargen Opera Festival, an annual three-month event comprising music and opera performances on the Estonian coast.

Watch Past Performances

Video 5/27/2014: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra with conductor Tonu Kaljuste

The choir and orchestra performs works by renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. Presented in cooperation with the Embassy of Estonia.

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra with conductor Tonu Kaljuste