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 conductor Tõnu Kaljuste. During the past three decades, it has become one of Estonia’s signature orchestras and a welcome guest performer all over the world. The orchestra has gained recognition for its artistically integral programmes, style-sensitive play and mastery of interpretation. Its diverse repertoire includes music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic era but, importantly, also the musical works of the composers of 20th and 21st century, including lesser-known pieces and premieres.

The orchestra’s musicians are exceptional string players who also regularly perform as soloists and chamber musicians. Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has a long-standing cooperation with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir with internationally renowned joint performances and award-winning recordings. Tõnu Kaljuste, who was the orchestra’s first chief conductor, returned to the position in the autumn of 2019. Guest conductors such as John Storgårds, Pietari Inkinen, Jaakko Kuusisto, Paul Mägi, Neeme and Kristjan Järvi have all collaborated with the orchestra.

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.

Versatile violinist Harry Traksmann has been a member of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra since its founding in 1993 and concertmaster since 1997. He performs with contemporary music ensembles NYYD Ensemble, and NYYD String Quartet with violinist Juta Õunapuu, violist Torsten Tiebout and cellist Leho Karin. He is also a member of multiple-award-winning ensemble New Tallinn Trio with cellist Kaido Kelder and pianist Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann.

In 2014, he began teaching at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, where he himself once studied with Professor Jüri Gerretz. In 1996, Traksmann gained a diploma at Heino Eller International Violin Competition in Tallinn. In 1998, he participated at Kuhmo International Duo Competition in Finland with pianist Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann.

Robert Traksmann has performed as a soloist with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Germany, Pärnu City Orchestra and Virumaa Chamber Orchestra, among others. In the spring of 2015, Robert performed with his father, violinist Harry Traksmann, as soloists in Arvo Pärt and Robert Wilson’s project Adam’s Passion. Robert’s trio with Rasmus Andreas Raide and Marcel Johannes Kits has performed in Estonia’s prominent concert halls and won several prizes.

Among Robert’s achievements are also second and third prize at ESTA Estonian Competition 2007, and first prize, Eduard Tubin Society’s special prize and the prize of the Pärnu City Orchestra at the Second Pärnu Violin Competition in 2010. Since 2014, Robert has been studying at Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin under Kolja Blacher.

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.


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The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt was struggling with writer’s block from the end of the1960s until the mid-1970s when he was trying to find a style that worked for him. He eventually discovered that he could use inspiration from old forms, such as Gregorian chant and Renaissance music. Pärt invented the unique compositional technique Tintinnabuli (from the Latin tintinnabulum, ”bell”), and the meditative piece Spiegel im Spiegel was the first work in which he used this technique.

Text: Axel Lindhe