Jarvi named orchestra chief in homeland Estonia


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 17, 2009 at 1:11 PM EDT

Estonian-American conductor Neeme Jarvi is to take the helm of Estonia's National Symphony Orchestra three decades after fleeing Soviet rule in the Baltic state.

"The Estonian national symphony orchestra is the flagship of Estonian music and culture and I am really moved to return in front of the orchestra where my career started," Jarvi told reporters Monday after signing a contract which begins in 2010.

Jarvi, now 72, won renown after joining the orchestra in 1963, when Estonia was still a Soviet republic.

He went to the United States with his family in 1980, with just 200 dollars to his name, but was immediately snapped up by Columbia Artists.

He appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

Jarvi, who is currently chief conductor of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, has has also recorded more than 400 discs while also seeking to promote his homeland's rich musical heritage.

"It is impossible to overestimate his role in Estonian music and promoting Estonian music abroad," Andres Siitan, director of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, told AFP.

"We are really glad he accepted our proposal after our current conductor Nikolai Alexeyev, from Russia, decided to seek other challenges following nine years of doing an excellent job in Estonia," Sittan added.

Jarvi's three US-raised children are also musicians.

His eldest son, 46-year-old Paavo, is lead conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the United States, as well as Germany's Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.

Next year, Paavo is to become musical director of France's Orchestre de Paris.

Daughter Maarika, 45, is a flautist, while youngest son Kristjan, 37, conducts the Vienna Tonkunstler Symphony Orchestra.

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