The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has become the best-known Estonian classical music performer and one of the best choirs in the world. In 2001-2007 the choir’s chief conductor and artistic director was Paul Hillier. The renown British musician has widened the choir’s perspectives and continued their success both in the recording field and as a performing group at prominent concert venues and festivals. Since September 2008 the chief conductor and artistic director is Daniel Reuss.
EPCC was founded in 1981 by Tõnu Kaljuste, who acted as artistic director and chief conductor for 20 years. It was first formed as an amateur chamber choir Ellerhein, founded by Tõnu Kaljuste's father Heino Kaljuste (1925-1989) on the 15th anniversary of the children's choir Ellerhein in 1966. In 1971 Tõnu Kaljuste became the conductor of the chamber choir Ellerhein, on the basis of which he formed the full-time professional EPCC.
At the 1991 Takarazuka Chamber Choir Competition in Japan the choir won three gold medals and was awarded the Grand Prix. Since then the choir has not been involved in any competition, the main activities having been concerts at home and abroad, and recordings under different recording and broadcasting companies.
EPCC gives 60-70 concerts per season and tours regularly in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan. Their repertoire ranges from Gregorian chants to late baroque and 20th century music. Works by Bach and contemporary composers, as well as Estonian choral music have a great importance in choir’s programs. Music by Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis has shared a very special place in the EPCC’s repertoire for many years.
The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has worked with various conductors and orchestras, such as Claudio Abbado, Helmuth Rilling, Sir David Willcocks, Dale Warland, Eric Ericson, Anders Öhrwall, Martin Haselböck, Ivan Fisher, Ward Swingle, Joseph Jennings, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Andrew Lawrence-King, Roland Böer, Toomas Vavilov, Anu Tali and others; Australian Chamber Orchestra, Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Rundfunk Orchester, Concerto Copenhagen, Concerto Palatino, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and others. Partnership with Tallinn Chamber Orchestra has been long and fruitful. These two groups have made several tours together, both in Europe and in the US, focusing mainly on works by Arvo Pärt, and recorded several CDs.
The choir has made numerous recordings for different broadcasting and recording companies. All these have received very high recognition from leading music critics and musical magazines from all over the world. The recordings for the recording company ECM (ECM NEW Series) include Forgotten Peoples and Litany to Thunder (the best choral CD in 2000 by the Diapason magazine in France) by Veljo Tormis, Kanon Pokajanen, Te Deum (with Tallinn Chamber Orchestra) and Litany (with The Hilliard Ensemble) by Arvo Pärt and Crystallisatio by Erkki-Sven Tüür. For Virgin Classics the choir has recorded Casting a Spell by Veljo Tormis and Beatus by Arvo Pärt. For Carus the EPCC and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra recorded 2 CDs of Mozart in 2000 (Litaniae and Vesperae et Litania), and 2 CDs of Vivaldi.
In the summer of 2002 the EPCC and Paul Hillier started cooperation with Harmonia Mundi USA. For the three-years project Baltic Voices, which’s main idea is to explore the breadth and depth of choral music from the countries around the Baltic Sea, the choir has recorded 3 CDs: Baltic Voices 1 was released in 2002, Baltic Voices 2 in 2003 and Baltic Voices 3 in 2005. Other projects with Harmonia Mundi have been Powers of Heaven in 2003 (Russian Orthodox Church music from the 18th century), Rachmaninov – All-Night Vigil in 2005, Da Pacem (works by Arvo Pärt) and A New Joy (Russian Orthodox Christmas music), both in 2006.
Paul Hillier and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir's recording of Arvo Pärt's Da Pacem (Harmonia Mundi) won the Grammy award for Best Choral Performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in 2007.
The recordings Te Deum, Litany, Crystallisatio, Kanon Pokajanen, Baltic Voices 1 and Baltic Voices 2 have been nominees for the Grammy awards.
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