Since Tõnu Kaljuste became the Swedish Radio Choir’s chief conductor in 1994, his countryman Arvo Pärt’s music has become a part of the Swedish concert repertoire. The characteristic and seemingly simple music has a depth and complexity that not all conductors are able to convey. Through their close collaboration over many years, Kaljuste has become the world’s foremost Pärt expert. Here, he and Tallinn’s Chamber Orchestra will perform an extensive programme, from Für Alina from 1976 to Vater Unser from 2011.

Many music lovers might know Arvo Pärt mainly through his choral music, either as one of many devoted Pärt lovers among the listeners, or as one of all the singers that have been fascinated by the seemingly simple, but deceptively complex sounds he builds. Unlike the avant-gardists of the 20th century, Pärt paints with pure, bright colours: triads, suspensions, tension and relaxation that everyone can understand and receive. But dismissing the music as simple or banal for this reason would be to do the music and the composer a great disservice. Beneath the surface is a depth and complexity that require thought and awareness from the interpreter; otherwise the music risks becoming a nice surface, but not much else.

Pärt’s countryman, Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, has, for many years, had a close collaboration with the composer, and has performed many of his works. It’s not for nothing that Kaljuste is known as the world’s foremost Pärt expert and interpreter, a person who has really managed to bring out the whole spectrum of colours in the music without getting stuck in the attractive surface. Here, he gives us a bouquet of Pärt’s instrumental pieces, such as Für Alina from 1976, which introduced the world to “tintinnabuli,” the self-termed style that has become Pärt’s trademark.

Pärt’s earlier works were inspired both by neoclassicists like Prokofiev and Bartók, and by Schönberg, serialism and twelve-tone technique. But when his music was banned by the Soviet government – Pärt grew up in the occupied Estonia – and he also found himself in an artistic cul-de-sac, he turned to early Western music, Gregorian song, the Renaissance, and the very oldest polyphony. When he returned from this artistic hibernation, Für Alina and other works showed a reborn composer, in some ways. All works at this concert were created after Pärt’s musical resting period.

From the meditative Spiegel im Spiegel – mirror in mirror – to L’abbé Agathon, based on a story from the time of the oldest Christian monasteries, an extensive portrait of a humble, honest and fascinating composer is drawn. Even though he is the most performed composer of our time, he’s no prima donna, nor holier-than-thou. In 2007, when he was named an honorary Doctor of Theology at the University of Freiburg, he told a moving story that is typical for him as a person:

“Some thirty years ago, I sought desperately for someone who could tell me how a composer was able to write music. One day, I met a simple street-sweeper who gave me a noteworthy answer: ‘Oh, the composer should probably love every single little sound.’ From that moment on, my musical thoughts moved in a completely new direction. Nothing was the same again.”

Text: David Saulesco



The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1993 by the conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, formed from a string orchestra at the Tallinn Conservatory. At its core, it is still a string orchestra, but it is now complemented with brass and wind musicians from the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Estonian National Opera. The orchestra has made celebrated recordings of works by several Baltic composers, such as Crystallisatio by Erkki-Sven Tüür, Litany and In principio by Arvo Pärt and Neenia by Heino Eller. They regularly tour and perform at festivals in for example Schleswig-Holstein, Turin and Bremen. The orchestra’s guest composers include Juha Kangas, Terje Tonnesen, Kristjan Järvi and John Storgårds.

The Estonian conductor Tõnu Kaljuste is familiar to Swedish audiences after his time as the Swedish Radio Choir’s Chief Conductor from 1994–2000. This versatile musician has been a driving force in awakening interest in the Nordic region to music from the Baltic countries. He founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and then, ten years later, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, both of which have become very successful and perform at the world’s major concert venues and festivals. He is known for his interpretations of the works of Krzysztof Penderecki, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis, and has won prestigious awards for his many recordings. Among his latest collaborations are the Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra, the Wrocław Philharmonic and the choir at Orquestra Gulbenkian in Lisbon.

Estonian lyrical soprano Maria Listra has a great love for theatre and music alike, which has inspired a multifaceted career as a singer. She was only young when she started performing in Estonia’s foremost concert halls, and she has sung with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, the Finnish-Estonian Baroque Orchestra, Corelli Baroque Orchestra, and Voces Musicales, among others. Apart from theatre projects, she has many chamber pieces and oratorios on her repertoire, such as Handel’s Messias, both Johann Sebastian’s and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Magnificat, countryman Rudolf Tobias’ Joonas, Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, and Estonian-Swedish Eduard Tubin’s Amores. Listra has also, since 2013, performed at recurring visits to the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu, playing roles such as Miss Silberklang in Mozart’s Der Schauspieldirektor, Christine in Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, and Franziska Caligari in Strauss’ Wienerblut. Listra is also passionate about inspiring a younger audience to discover and partake of musical drama and musical theatre, and has, for many years, done school shows and workshops to encourage schoolchildren to experience many different forms of music.

Violinist Harry Traksmann has been a member of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra since 1993, and was appointed concert master three years after joining. As an established violin soloist, he has performed with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, the Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, to mention but a few. Among the other ensembles he’s worked with, we can mention Estonian contemporary music ensembles NYYD Ensemble, YXUS Ensemble, and New Tallinn Trio. In 2014, he started teaching the violin at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre in Tallinn, where he studied himself in the 1990s, taught by Jüri Gerretz. In 1996, the same year he was appointed concert master of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, he was awarded a certificate at the Heino Eller International Violin Competition.

Estonian violinist Robert Traksmann is currently finishing his Master’s studies at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin, where he has been taught by Kolja Blacher and others. He has already performed in prominent ensembles like Gürzenich Orchester in Cologne, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Karajan-Akademie at the Berlin Philharmonics, YXUS Ensemble, and Vox Clamantis. He has also been a concert master for a number of youth symphony orchestras, and performed as a violin soloist with the Pärnu City Orchestra, Germany’s Youth Symphony Orchestra in Tübingen, the Virumaa Chamber Orchestra, and the Haapsalu Festival Orchestra. In 2010, he won first prize in the Pärnu Violinists’ Competition, as well as the special awards of both the Pärnu City Orchestra and the Eduard Tubin Society. As a chamber musician, he performs regularly with pianist Rasmus Andreas Raide and cellist Marcel Johannes Kits, a celebrated and award-winning constellation that has performed at several festivals and in concert halls across Estonia.

Leho Karin is one of Estonia’s most qualified cellists. He’s been a member of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra since 1993, performed in contemporary music ensemble NYYD Ensemble from 1993 to 2012, and has been a member of the YXUS Ensemble since 2013. He has also played the viola da gamba in ensemble GambarinG, and has taught the cello at Tallinn’s upper secondary music school since 1995. As a solo cellist, he has performed in Estonia, Finland, Sweden and Russia with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Saarbrücken’s Radio Orchestra, and more. He’s toured Europe, North America and Japan with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. He’s performed at some of Europe’s foremost contemporary music festivals, such as ArtGenda in Denmark, Baltic Arts in England, and Klangspuren in Austria with the NYYD Ensemble. Leho Karin’s solo repertoire includes the big classical pieces by Haydn and Tchaikovsky, but also 20th century works like Britten’s Cello Symphony, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Mania, and Eduard Tubin’s incomplete cello concerto. He has collaborated with many prominent Estonian composers, such as Galina Grigorjeva, Erkki-Sven Tüür and Helena Tulve.