Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) is one of the best-known Estonian music ensembles in the world. The EPCC was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste, who was the artistic director and chief conductor for twenty years. In the years 2001–2007, the English musician Paul Hillier took over. Between the years 2008–2013 the artistic director and chief conductor was Daniel Reuss and in the years 2014–2021 Kaspars Putniņš. Since August 2021 the artistic director and chief conductor is Tõnu Kaljuste.
The repertoire of the choir extends from Gregorian chant and baroque to the music of the 21st century, with a special focus on the work of Estonian composers, such as Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Galina Grigoryeva, Toivo Tulev, Tõnu Kõrvits, Helena Tulve, and introducing their output to the world. Each season the choir gives about 60–70 concerts both in Estonia and abroad.
The EPCC has cooperated with a number of outstanding conductors including Claudio Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Eric Ericson, Ward Swingle, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Nikolai Alekseyev, Olari Elts, Gregory Rose, Andrew Lawrence-King, Roland Böer, Frieder Bernius, Stephen Layton, Marc Minkowski, Christoph Poppen, Sir Colin Davis, Michael Riesman, Louis Langree, Paul McCreesh, Gottfried von der Goltz, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Anu Tali, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Peter Phillips, Gustavo Dudamel etc.
The EPCC has also worked with the following world-class orchestras such as the Norwegian, Australian, Lithuanian, Prague and Stuttgardt Chamber Orchestras, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Berlin Rundfunk Orchestra, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Palatino, the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra, the Salzburg Camerata, Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, the Philip Glass Ensemble, the North Netherland Symphony Orchestra, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Basel Chamber Orchestra, the Sarasota Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra.
The EPCC has been a welcome guest at numerous music festivals and outstanding venues all over the world including the BBC Proms, the Mozartwoche, the Abu Gosh Music Festival, the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the Moscow Easter Festival, the Musikfest Bremen, the Salzburg Festspiele, Mozartwoche, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Festival Aix-en-Provence, the International Cervantino Festival, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, the Bergen International Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, the Sydney Opera House, Wiener Konzerthaus, the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Versailles Opéra Royal, Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, LSO St Luke’s and Barbina Centre in London, the Esplanade in Singapore, the Flagey in Brussels, the Kennedy Centre in Washington, the Lincoln Centre and Carnegie Hall in New York, the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles etc.
Another important aspect in the choir’s life is recording music (for ECM, Virgin Classics, Carus, Harmonia Mundi and Ondine), resulting in various award-winning CDs. The EPCC recordings have twice won a Grammy-Award for Best Choral Performance: in 2007 for the album of Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem (Harmonia Mundi) with conductor Paul Hillier and Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament (ECM) with conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. All in all, the choir has 15 Grammy nominations with works by Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür and the music from the Nordic countries. In 2018 the recording „Schnittke – Psalms of Repentance. Pärt – Magnificat & Nunc dimittis” (BIS), conducted by Kaspars Putniņš, won Gramophone Award. The EPCC recordings have also won the award Diapason d’Or, Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, Danish Music Award, de Choc de l’Année Classica 2014, and more. In 2020 BBC Music Magazine has named EPCC as one of the 10 best choirs in the world.
Tõnu Kaljuste is a world-renowned choir and orchestra conductor. His most historic achievement to date is the Grammy for Best Choral Performance for the Arvo Pärt album Adam’s Lament in 2014. His recordings have had a number of Grammy nominations in various categories from opera (David and Bathsheba of the Norwegian composer Ståle Kleiberg) to symphonic music. In 2019 he won the International Classical Music Award for the recording of Arvo Pärt’s symphonies with the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra.
Kaljuste’s recordings have won several other prestigious prizes such as the Cannes Classical Award (1999), Diapason d’Or (2000), Edison Musical Award (2000) and Classic BRIT Award (2003). He has recorded for the ECM Records, Virgin Classic, BIS and Caprice Records labels.
Tõnu Kaljuste has established an international reputation with his mastery of a diverse repertoire ranging from operas and classical symphonic works to modern music. He has collaborated closely with legendary composers of Northern and East European modernism, such as Alfred Schnittke, György Kurtág, Krzysztof Penderecki, Giya Kancheli and Einojuhani Rautavaara, and has proven himself an expert and a committed advocate of the music of the Estonian composers Arvo Pärt, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Tõnu Kõrvits, Veljo Tormis and Heino Eller.
Collaboration with leading orchestras and choirs in Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA has added an extra dimension to Kaljuste’s international renown. Kaljuste has been the Principal Conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Swedish Radio Choir and was named Conductor Laureate of the latter in 2019.
Tõnu Kaljuste served as Professor and Chair of the Conducting Faculty of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre from 2010 to 2020. He is the founder of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra (1993) and since the 2019/20 season once again its Principal Conductor and Artistic Director. Kaljuste founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in 1981 and is back after 20 years, from August 2021 as its Principal Conductor and Artistic Director. Kaljuste has served as Artistic Director of Nargen Opera, the project theatre that he launched, since 2004 and led Nargenfestival, a notable event in Estonia’s music calendar, since 2006.
Tõnu Kaljuste is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and a recipient of the ABC International Music Award of Japan and the Robert Edler Prize for choral music.
Tõnu Kaljuste has been honoured with many awards in his native Estonia: the Order of the White Star, 4th Class (1998) and the Order of the National Coat of Arms, 2nd Class (2000), the first St Mary’s Medal of St Mary’s Cathedral congregation in Tallinn (2000), Main Prize of the Culture Endowment of Estonia (2004), several national culture awards for the performance of Veljo Tormis’ music (Estonian Ballads in 2005, Estonian Women’s Songs in 2007, Estonian Men’s Songs in 2009), the interpretation award of the Estonian Council of Music (2010), Culture Award of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2011).