Olari Elts
© Marco BorggreveArtist

„His reading of Beethoven's First Symphony was packed with personality.“

The Birmingham Post
6 / 23


Olari Elts’s passion for distinctive programming rich with invention has earned him much praise on the international music scene. He appears with orchestras such as the Orchestre e Coro dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome, Wiener Symphoniker, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, SWR Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Staatskapelle Weimar, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Netherland Radio Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Lyon, Orquesta Sinfonica do Porto Casa da Musica, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

In 2015/16, Elts makes his debuts with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino, Hungarian National Symphony Orchestra Budapest and Brno Philharmonic featuring E.-S. Tüür’s percussion concerto Magma with Colin Currie. He is returning to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Finnish Radio Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon, Orquestra Sinfonica do Porto, Slovenian Philharmonic and Estonian National Symphony. Across the continents he performs with the Seattle and Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras.


Olari Elts is also well known for his work with chamber ensembles. This season he will work with Tapiola Sinfonietta, Munich Chamber Orchestra with the Choir of the Bavarian Radio in an all-Baltic composer programme and also with Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a programme focus-sing on destiny which includes Brett Dean’s The Testament and Beethoven Symphony No.5. Soloists with whom he collaborates include Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Olli Mustonen, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Simon Trpceski, Stephen Hough, Isabelle Faust, Baiba Skride, Gautier and Renaud Capuçon, Sol Gabetta, Alban Gerhardt, Kari Kriikku, Martin Grubinger, Sally Matthews and Lilli Paasikivi.

In the opera field, Elts has successfully led a new production of Eugene Onegin for Arctic Opera taking it on tour through Norway in February 2015. He has led several productions at the Estonian National Opera, including Britten’s Albert Herring and Puccini’s Il Trittico, as well as Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Idomeneo with both Latvian and Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted Berlioz’s La Damnation du Faust at the Opéra de Rennes in 2010

Elts’s passion for fellow Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür’s music was marked by the release of an all-Tüür recording in 2014 including Symphony No. 5 for electric guitar, orchestra, big band and the accordion concerto Prophecy (Ondine).

Olari Elts continues as the Principal Guest Conductor of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. Positions he has previously held include Principal Guest Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic from 2011-2014, Principal Guest of the Orchestre de Bretagne from 2006-2011, Principal Guest Conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra from 2007-2010, Principal Conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra from 2001-2006. Born in Tallinn in 1971, Olari Elts is founder of his contemporary music ensemble, NYYD Ensemble.

SEASON 2015/2016


“What made it really special was Elts’s remarkable handling of the orchestral texture, exquisitely balanced to revealing effect, so that you heard things you’d swear were never there before – but thankfully, never feeling in the slightest calculated.”

The Scotsman, David Kettle, 11.04.2016

“Olari Elts is a regular collaborator with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but it hasn’t meant that he has ended up doing things out of habit. Quite the reverse. He approached Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as though it was being played for the first time, with sparkling energy, clear articulation and a sense of narrative drive that rendered the whole thing sort of unarguable.”

Seen and Heard International, Simon Thompson, 08.04.2016

“Olari Elts went on to sculpt Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony in big, sweeping gestures and a positively lurid palette of orchestral colours. [...] This was broad-brush Shostakovich, thrillingly physical and reeking of vodka and boot-leather. The ending drew cheers.”

Birmingham Post, Richard Bratby, 05.02.2016

“Elts guided an inspired Seattle Symphony orchestra with the precision of an artisan, arising new and surprising nuances from Haydn´s music.”

Opera World, Carlos J. Lopez, 23.01.2016

“The true star of the show, though, was Estonian conductor Olari Elts, who rather magically managed to conjure quite analytical, microscopically detailed performances that still sparkled with spontaneity and fresh, vivid life.”

The Scotsman, David Kettle, 11.05.2015

“Elts made his impromptu appearance a highly entertaining, highly intoxicating, even at times very beautiful experience. he has a charisma that is boyish and ebullient. It certainly came over.”

The Scotsman, Ken Walton, 03.12.2014

“Elts drew richly burnished tone from the orchestra's eloquent strings in both pieces, and the brilliance of Shostakovich's fast movement [of the Ninth Symphony], by turns skittish and saturnine, benefitted from the contrast with the Moderato's inwardness.”

Seen and Heard International, Bernard Jacobson, 07.02.2014

“Elts maintains a serious podium demeanor but conjures a sensuous and scintillating palette from the players.”

Memeteria, Thomas May, 31.01.14

“He entered it with the opening number, Szymanowski's Concert Overture, as stirring a send-off as any concertgoer could wish for and one of those works pitched beyond what a full symphony orchestra might reasonably be expected to be pursuing in terms of where music was headed at the time.”

South Wales Argus, Nigel Jarrett, 19.11.13

“But the surprise at the concert was Estonian Olari Elts, who inspired the orchestra to deliver outstanding performances of Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to “Oberon,” Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, and Hindemith’s “Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber”

Oregon Music News, James Bash, 01.03.13

“Under the baton of Olari Elts the Helsinki Philharmonic was again the pithy, articulating, determined and competent in balance orchestra that it really is.”

Helsingin Sanomat, Jukka Isopuro, 23.01.12

“Both Haydn's sunny Symphony No. 86 and Mendelssohn's familiar Symphony No 4, the "Italian," received excellent interpretations from the small orchestra under Elts' direction. Conducting mostly without baton, he drew a Baroque-infused performance of the first, with crisp articulation, no vibrato and clean tone with lively tempos. He brought out Mendelssohn's joyful start and melodic colors with clear leadership indicated by his expressive hands. This is a conductor we should bring back.”

The Seattle Times, Philippa Kiraly, 22.01.12

“The BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Olari Elts gave a compelling, almost overwhelming performance of the work, thoroughly exciting as an aural experience and ethically searching.”

Seen and Heard International, Glyn Pursglove, 17.01.12

“Elts showed immense sympathy for his Estonian compatriot's vision. This was the high point of the concert.”

The Guardian, Rian Evans, 13.01.12

“Elts is a fascinatingly resourceful conductor, his body-language terse but so expressive (I loved his baton corkscrewing articulation out of various wind sections). His reading of Beethoven's First Symphony was packed with personality. light and as intimate as chamber-music in parts, and textural detail was laid out with clarity.”

The Birmingham Post, Christopher Morley, 30.01.11

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Erkki-Sven Tüür: Symphony No. 5Sep. 2014, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Erkki-Sven Tüür: OxymoronOlari Elts leading NYYD Ensemble and Estonian National Symphony Orchestra in recordings of pre-eminent Estonian composer Erkki-Sven TüürMar. 2007, ECM Records, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Eesti Heliloojad - Estonian Composers IOlari Elts with works by Eesti HeliloojadOct. 2001, Eesti Raadio, CD
Nüüd NowOlari Elts with the NYYD Ensemble and works by Estonian composersMar. 2001, Elwood Muusik, CD