The chief conductor of the Tonkünstler Orchestra, Kristjan Järvi, was born in Tallinn in Estonia but moved as a child with his family to New York, where he grew up amidst the great musical variety of Manhattan. He studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music (with Nina Svetlanova) and conducting, but his interests extended far beyond the realm of classical music. Thanks to his European origins and his training in America, he personifies both the Old and the New World in his musical activities. This duality is also reflected in his two jobs: principal conductor of both the Tonkünstler Orchestra and New York’s Absolute Ensemble, which he founded in 1993.
Under Järvi’s leadership, the Absolute Ensemble plays music ranging from Baroque to rock and makes regular guest appearances at the most important festivals and at musical centres throughout the world. CD recordings with Järvi and the Absolute Ensemble have been nominated for the Grammy Award and honoured with the German Record Critics Award. The ensemble’s latest album is called Arcanum.
Järvi worked for three years assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, making his conducting debut with them at the Hollywood Bowl, and for four years he was principal conductor of the Norrlands Opera Symphony Orchestra of Umeå in Sweden. He has appeared a guest conductor with such celebrated ensembles as the Russian National Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra London, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, Budapest Festival Orchestra and Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Included in his repertoire are pieces from the Vienna classic period and the great symphonic works of the Romantic period and 20th century as well as contemporary music (he has conducted the first performances of works by Erkki‐Sven Tüür, Peeter Vähi and also the music of Arvo Pärt). In 2007 Järvi also conducted the new production of John Adams' Nixon in China at the Cincinnati Opera.
The New York Times described Kristjan Järvi as 'a technically adroit conductor and kinetic stage presence, with a wavy mane of long blondish hair and an impish smile that suggests he finds the job of smashing categories tons of fun.'