Peeter Lilje

PEETER LILJE

Principal conductor 1980–1991

Cooperation between Peeter Lilje and ERSO lasted for 18 years. Lilje conducted ERSO for the first time in 1975, his first public concert he gave a year later in Tartu where the program included Tubin’s Symphony No 9. The young conductor made the final changes to his performance together with the composer who was visiting Estonia then. Early in 1980, after Neeme Järvi’s emigration to the US, Peeter Lilje took over the duties of ERSO’s principal conductor and conducted all the concerts designated for Neeme Järvi in the 1979/80 season. In May of the same year, Lilje passed the final examination of Leningrad Conservatoire performing with ERSO in the Grand Hall of Leningrad Philharmonia. From the 1980/81 season he became the full-fledged principal conductor of the orchestra.

Under Peeter Lilje’s ERSO gave more than 400 concerts; numerous broadcasts are stored in the archives of Estonian Public Broadcasting, and several records were released.  His favourite composers included Brahms, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Mahler and Shostakovich. Lilje and ERSO were the first to perform the overwhelming part of Estonian symphonic music created in that period; e.g., he conducted the premières of Tamberg’s first three symphonies, his oratorio Amores, and Sumera’s Symphony No 2. The Estonian première of Tobias’ complete oratorio Jonah’s Mission in 1989 also received great attention. He continued the popular series ERSO Studio Hour, which was broadcast on both the radio and television.

In the 1980s the geography of ERSO’s guest performances broadened considerably; the orchestra went on week-long tours all over the Soviet Union. In 1986 the orchestra went on its first concert tour of Finland where it gave six concerts conducted by Lilje. Annual concerts in the Grand Hall of Leningrad Philharmonia continued until 1986; performances and recordings in Moscow also occupied an essential place.

Peeter Lilje conducted ERSO for the last time in Tallinn City Concert Hall on 17 September 1993.


Peeter Lilje (3 October 1950 – 28 October 1993) completed his violin studies at Valga Children’s Music School in 1964. In 1969 he graduated from Tartu Music School specializing in choral conducting (his teachers were Vaike Uibopuu and Valve Lepik) and in 1974 from Tallinn Conservatoire in choral conducting in Arvo Ratassepp’s class. He simultaneously studied orchestral conducting in Tallinn under Roman Matsov’s supervision and in 1980 in Leningrad Conservatoire in the class of Arvids and Mariss Jansons.  During his studies Peeter Lilje played the piano in several pop and jazz groups in Tartu and Tallinn.

As a student of Leningrad Conservatoire, Peeter Lilje already conducted performances at the Estonian National Opera, gave concerts with ERSO and, in 1978, made his debut at Leningrad Kirov Opera (now St Petersburg Mariinsky Theatre) where he conducted Verdi’s La Traviata.
From 1975 to his death, Peeter Lilje worked regularly at the Estonian National Opera. He also conducted at several theatres abroad, e.g. Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Leningrad Kirov Opera, Finnish National Opera, Staatstheater Schwerin, Latvian Opera.

From 1980–1990 was Lilje the principal conductor and artistic director of ERSO. Then and later he also conducted several Soviet and foreign symphony orchestras. From 1984–1987 he taught conducting at Tallinn Conservatoire where his students were Vello Pähn, Arvo Volmer, Erki Pehk, Tarmo Vaask, Lauri Sirp, etc.

From 1990 to his death in October 1993 Peeter Lilje worked as the principal conductor of Oulu City Orchestra in Finland. He also conducted operas at Oulu City Theatre and from 1990–1992 he was the principal guest conductor of Kuopio City Orchestra.

Recognitions: Laureate’s title at young musicians’ and actors’ festival of the Soviet Union (1976), Merited Artist of the Estonian SSR (1981), People’s Artist of the Estonian SSR (1987).


RECORDINGS OF PEETER LILJE & ERSO

For Peeter Lilje’s 60th birth anniversary in 2010, Tiina Mattisen, Maia Lilje and Maarja Kasema compiled an exhibition, which, by now, has been displayed at Estonia Concert Hall, Concert Houses of Vanemuine, Pärnu and Jõhvi, and Heino Eller Tartu Music School. The idea for the exhibition came from Kalle Randalu; its designer was Heili Roos. The exhibition includes photos from private collections, archives of the Estonian National Opera, ERSO and the newspaper Sirp, Estonian Museum of Theatre and Music and Estonian National Broadcasting. The exhibition was supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment.
View the exhibition
1. INTRODUCTION
2. CHILDHOOD FULL OF MUSIC
3. ON THE ROAD TO EDUCATION
4. LENINGRAD – THE MECCA OF MUSIC
5. TWO DECADES AT THE THEATRE ESTONIA
6. ERSO. PRINCIPAL CONDUCTOR, 1980–1990
7. ERSO. FROM MOZART TO MAHLER, FROM KARLSRUHE TO VLADIVOSTOK
8. ERSO. FOCUS ON ESTONIAN MUSIC
9. PARTNERS AND ROLE MODELS
10. FROM LENINGRAD TO FINLAND VIA THE WEST
11. HOME, SWEET HOME
12. THE OLDER I GET, THE MORE I NEED COMPLETE SILENCE

Exhibition Peeter Lilje 60