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Guide to culture in Estonia

Interviews and features
Ester Mägi

In memoriam: Estonian composer Ester Mägi, regarded as the first lady of Estonian music, has died aged 99, on 14 May 2021. She is mainly known for her chamber music, choral compositions and her Symphony.

Video copyright: European Parliament Liaison Office in the UK

From Estonia
Music venues in Estonia
Estonia Concert Hall © G. Laak
Estonia Concert Hall
© G. Laak

The Estonia Concert Hall is very much the heart of local classical music scene. Apart from being home to the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, this unique venue also presents its own diverse concert season with prestigious guest artists as well as country’s own talented musicians.

The building itself is a gorgeous example of neoclassical style (architects A. Lindgren / W. Lönn, 1913, reconstructed 1947) and is considered as one of the most prominent cultural landmarks.

Historically, alongside concert activity, most important events are held here, such as Presidetial elections, Independence Day receptions and New Year’s Eve celebrations. 

For more information visit the webpage of the Estonia Concert Hall

Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre
Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre

The Concert and Performance Centre of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre combines excellent acoustics and modern technology. Inside the Centre is a large hall, a black box and multifunctional classrooms on the five floors of the new building. The acoustics of the hall were designed by Linda Madalik, the most experienced acoustician in Estonia, together with Danish specialists. The black box's innovative technical solutions are also suitable for the most daring creative projects in the field of music, theatre and other audiovisual arts. The new and modern hall complex of the Academy plays an invaluable role in preparing future musicians and actors.

The grand opening of the new Concert and Performance Centre took place on September 28, 2019, and it also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. 

For more information visit the website of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre.

Arvo Pärt Centre © Tõnu Tunnel
Arvo Pärt Centre

The work of Arvo Pärt has significantly changed our understanding of music and largely influenced the music of the second half of the 20th century everywhere in the world.

This unique building is in line with Arvo’s creative nature and is open to all music enthusiasts.

The goal of Arvo Pärt Centre is to preserve and explore the creative heritage of the composer in Estonia – his home country. The building includes a personal archive, a library, a 150-seat auditorium, an exhibition hall, a video room, and classrooms. Workshops and concerts are organised there as well. 

The guided tour is a good way to explore Arvo Pärt’s manuscripts or listen to his music.

For more information visit the website of the Arvo Pärt Centre.

Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds © Aivar Pihelgas
Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds

Completed in 1960, Tallinn's Song Festival Grounds were the first modern post-war construction to be built in the city. Unique in Europe, they were designed by Alar Kotli, Henno Sepmann and Uno Tölpus. Their design took into account the nature of the land they were to be built on: audiences would be seated on the slope of the hill, so the song arch would need to echo sound to them. 

The Song Festival Grounds are a popular venue for events. It is best known as the place where every 5 years the Song Festival is held, in which nearly 25,000 singers take part, attracting an audience of nearly 100,000. Anyone interested can climb to the top of the tower, which is 42 metres high and from which you can see all the way out over the city and bay. And if you have binoculars with you that are powerful enough, you should be able to see far out into the Gulf of Finland!

For more information visit the website of Talinn's Song Festival.

Music Festivals in Estonia

Estonian Music Days & Baltic Music Days 2021

22 April-2 May, 2021 (Online) Watch here
Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia
Artistic Directors: Helena Tulve, Timo Steiner, Märt-Matis Lill

Founded in 1979, Estonian Music Days has been organised by the Estonian Composers’ Union for more than 40 years. A high number of new commissions each year has made it the main festival focusing on Estonian contemporary music. The theme of this year’s festival is ´DNA´ and it takes place in Tallinn and Tartu between 22 April and 2 May.

Website of Baltic Music Days / Website of the Estonian Composers Union

Organiser: Estonian Composers’ Union

Contact: mariliis@helilooja.ee

Suure-Jaani Music Festival

17-23 June, 2021
Suure-Jaani, Estonia
Artistic Director: Andres Uibo

Founded in 1997 in honour of Estonian composers’ dynasty Kapp, originally from Suure-Jaani, the festival programme embraces primarily Estonian music. In addition to traditional concerts, performances and talks take place. However, the highlight of the festival is always a 3am concert on Hüpassaare bog island.

Click here to visit the festival website.

Contact: kati-kristella.kivisild@pohja-sakala.ee

29th Rapla Church Music Festival

26 June – 11 July, 2021
Rapla and environs, Estonia
Artistic Director: Pille Lill

Since the beginning in 1993, the Rapla Church Music Festival has focused on the rich heritage of sacral music repertoire. The majority of concerts are performed in churches across the town of Rapla and its environs. The festival also holds a Summer school, which includes master classes for string players, vocalists and conductors.

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Rapla Church Music Festival NGO

Contact: kmf@eelkrapla.ee

Haapsalu Tchaikovsky Festival

1-4 July, 2021 
Haapsalu, Estonia
Head of Programming: Tuuli Metsoja

Haapsalu Tchaikovsky Festival is taking place in a popular summer resort of Haapsalu where the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky had spent his holiday in 1867. For that reason, the festival is dedicated to the composer’s work. The programme offers audience a fantastic possibility to enjoy music, ballet and theatre performances by high-level international artists in several venues of the town.

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Foundation Eesti Kontsert

Contact: tuuli.metsoja@concert.ee

Festival Glasperlenspiel

8-13 July, 2021
Tartu, Estonia
Artistic Director: Peeter Vähi

The annual crossover classics festival, named after Hermann Hesse’s famous novel Glasperlenspiel (Glass Bead Game), takes place in the university town of Tartu. Over the years, some of the most remarkable international artists have performed at the festival. The programme in 2021 marks the death of Dante 700 years ago with performances by Kremerata Baltica, Baroque Orchestra of Israel, Estonian National Male Choir and many others.

Click here to visit the festival website

Producer: Estonian Record Productions (ERP)

Contact: kadri.kiis@erpmusic.com

28th Haapsalu Early Music Festival

22-25 July, 2021
Haapsalu, Estonia
Artistic Director: Toomas Siitan

Embraced by the Baltic sea, cozy resort town Haapsalu has become a well-known summer destination for Early Music fans in and outside of Estonia. For 27 years, the Festival has allured its audience to spend a prolonged weekend with top-notch artists from around the world, encompassing concerts from solo recitals to oratorial works, taking place in medieval Dome Church and in the smaller St. John’s Church nearby.  

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Studio Vocale NGO

Contact: toomas.siitan@gmail.com

VM Fest Mustvee International Sacred Music Festival 

3-8 August, 2021
Mustvee, Estonia
Artistic Director: Valery Petrov

VM Fest Mustvee is a multicultural festival on the shore of Lake Peipus that brings together the best professional musicians from all over the world.  The small and charming town of Mustvee has five temples of five different Christian confessions, where choral, instrumental and solo concerts are performed. 

Click here to visit the festival website

Contact: valery@orthodoxsingers.com

Birgitta Festival (CANCELLED)

6 - 14 August, 2021 
Tallinn, Estonia
Artistic Director: Dmitry Bertman

Birgitta Festival is a well-established international music theatre festival. Since 2005 it has taken place at a unique location, the 15th c. St. Bridget’s Convent in Tallinn. Every year, it brings together more than 8,000 people to enjoy the high-level programme of opera, ballet, music galas, new music and theatre performances by the best musical theatre companies from across the world.

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Tallinn Philharmonic Society

Contact: margit.tohver-aints@filharmoonia.ee

Nargenfestival: Arvo Pärt Days

2-11 September, 2021
Concert venues across Estonia 
Artistic Director: Tõnu Kaljuste  

Founded in 2010, the Arvo Pärt Days festival takes place in early September across Estonia and it always ends on Arvo Pärt’s birthday on 11th September. Festival programme comprises of mainly the choral and orchestral works by Pärt, as well as the works by other composers whose music resonates with Pärt, both spiritually and musically. The award-winning international and local ensembles, choirs and artists are regular performers at the festival.

Click here to visit the festival website.

Organiser: Lootsi Koda

Contact: tikerpuu@msn.com

Nargenfestival: Cyrillus Kreek Days

May-June, 2021
Haapsalu, Hiiumaa, Saaremaa, Ridala and Tallinn, Estonia
Artistic director: Tõnu Kaljuste

Cyrillus Kreek Days is named after the Estonian composer Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), one of the most important innovators of Estonian choral music. His work almost entirely consists of the arrangements of Estonian folk music. Nargenfestival has organised the festival since 2007. In addition to Kreek’s music, the programme in 2021 comprises of the works by younger Estonian composers such as Tõnu Kõrvits and Pärt Uusberg. 

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Lootsi Koda

Contact: tikerpuu@msn.com

XVI Tallinn Guitar Festival

12-18 June, 2021
Tallinn, Estonia
Artistic Director: Tiit Peterson

Tallinn Guitar Festival is a leading festival of its genre in the Baltic States and a guitar festival with the longest tradition in Northern-Europe, held annually since 2006. Festival has brought together the top guitarists and musicians of all styles and generations, offering memorable concerts at the most emblematic venues of Tallinn. 

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser Tallinn Guitar Festival NGO

Contact: tiitpeterson@hot.ee

Mustjala Festival 2021

25 June – 10 July, 2021
Mustjala, Saaremaa, Estonia
Artistic Director: Aare Tammesalu

The Mustjala Music Festival has enriched Estonias’ cultural life since 1995. The festival presents both classical and jazz music concerts, performed by a variety of Estonian and guest artists. The concerts are held at the most unusual and exotic places on the island of Saaremaa: church venues, the unique Tagaranna fishing village and the former military cannon foxhole on Ninase Peninsula.

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Loovüksus NGO

Contact: aare@tammesalu.ee

The Music of the Seven Cities Festival

2-11 July, 2021
Ida-Viru county, Estonia
Head of Programming: Piia Tamm

The Music of Seven Cities has become a major summer event in East Estonia, taking place in exciting concert venues of Ida-Viru County. The original idea of the festival – seven days, seven concerts, seven cities – has grown over time. Today, it offers a great range of musical genres to an audience keen to discover unique Estonian cities such as Narva, Kohtla-Järve, Jõhvi, Narva-Jõesuu or Sillamäe.

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Foundation Eesti Kontsert

Contact:  piia.tamm@concert.ee

Pärnu Music Festival

12-19 July, 2021
Pärnu, Estonia
Artistic Director: Paavo Järvi

The Pärnu Music Festival and Järvi Academy were founded by Paavo and Neeme Järvi in 2011, and its family atmosphere creates a unique summer idyll on Estonia’s Baltic coast. The week long festival takes place in the elegant 1,000 seater concert hall, where orchestral music is at the heart of the programming.

Click here to visit the festival website

Contact:  kristjanhallik@yahoo.com

Saaremaa Opera Festival

20-25 July, 2021
Kuressaare, Saaremaa, Estonia
Artistic Director: Arne Mikk

Saaremaa Opera Festival is the most popular opera festival in the Baltics, held since 1999 in the historic Kuressaare Castle courtyard on the island of Saaremaa, where every summer an opera venue with 2000 seats is set up specially for the festival. Over the years, the festival has hosted acclaimed guest productions from theatres across the world: China, Georgia, Turkey, Russia, Poland, USA etc. In 2021, the featured guest will be Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. 

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Foundation Eesti Kontsert

Contact: kertu.orro@concert.ee

X Pühalepa Music Festival

6-8 August, 2021
Pühalepa, Hiiumaa, Estonia
Artistic Director: Endrik Üksvärav

X Pühalepa Music Festival takes place from 6-8 August on the island of Hiiumaa. It focuses on early music and contemporary works, including music by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, born in Hiiumaa. Tüür´s music always holds a special place in the festival programme. Main venues are Pühalepa and Kärdla church. 

Click here to visit the festival website

Organiser: Kerema Kultuurikoda NGO

Contact: endirigent@gmail.com

XVII Tallinn Chamber Music Festival

24-30 August, 2021
Tallinn, Estonia
Artistic Director: Maano Männi

The Tallinn Chamber Music Festival, founded in 2005, has become a major summer classical music event in Estonia’s capital. Its programme includes the most outstanding Estonian artists alongside many well-known international guest performers. Concerts take place in various historical venues at the UNESCO World Heritage site - the medieval Tallinn Old Town.

Click here to visit the festival website.

Organiser: Muusikute Täiendõppe Keskus NGO

Contact: plmf@plmf.ee