World-renowned Estonian conductor to quit

  • 2000-08-31

TALLINN (BNS) - Tonu Kaljuste, chief conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, one of the best known Estonian choirs, will quit his post next spring in protest against Estonia's cultural policy.

According to Kaljuste, he will leave the choir he set up himself because he is disappointed in the state management and financing of Estonian culture, the daily Eesti Paevaleht reported.

"I cannot continue as chief conductor and artistic director because the aims and visions of the future I have expressed to my employer have not been supported by deeds," Kaljuste told the paper.

One of the reasons for Kaljuste's resignation is that for years the state has failed to find enough money to raise the pay of the highly professional singers, who currently receive the average Estonian wages, about 5,000 kroons ($ 288) a month.

The Philharmonic Chamber Choir is one of Estonia's four professional choirs, and the working days of its 28 singers consist of rehearsals and performances, to which must be added individual work and the need to be always in good form.

Director Kadri Leppik said that the choir's budget for this year was 8.5 million kroons. Of this, 4.7 million kroons comes from the state budget, and the rest is earned by the choir itself, mainly by foreign tours.

Culture Minister Signe Kivi, who has known Kaljuste for years, said that the shortage of money, which haunts all cultural institutions, cannot be the main reason for Kaljuste's resignation. Twenty years of conducting a choir is a long time, and Tonu Kaljuste is now a name of a class to which all the world is open, Kivi said.

In addition to the Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Kaljuste also heads a choir of the Swedish Radio and a Dutch chamber choir, both of which have won coveted classical music prizes in the recent years.