Estonian President, Minister of Culture, colleagues remember conductor Eri Klas

Director Eri Klas at the XXV Estonian Song Festival in 2009. (Argo Heinmaa/ERR)
3/1/2016 2:13 PM
Category: Culture

Eri Klas, Estonian conductor famous for his decades-long career involving a long list of orchestras the world over, died of a heart attack last week. In the days following, various figures, ranging from the director of Tallinn Music High School to the Minister of Culture, President of Estonia and colleagues from abroad have reacted to his death.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia

"In a country where music forms part of our national story, Eri Klas will be remembered as one of the greats. He brought so many of us closer to music, and helped familiarize the breadth and wealth of it both in Estonia and around the world."

Recalling the 1980s, Ilves shared, "I remember the first time I met Eri Klas, 30 years ago in Munich; he was one of few who dared contact Radio Free Europe themselves. Our chat was filled with both worry and hope—but moreso hope."

Indrek Saar, Estonian Minister of Culture

"Maestro Eri Klas was a cultural ambassador to the world, and in demand by top orchestras in metropolises the world over. He was equally loved in Estonia as well... An outspoken participant in our cultural life."

Timo Steiner, Director of Tallinn Music High School and host of ETV program "MI"

"When I think of Eri Klas, the first thing that comes to mind was his incredible attention to detail. Of course he was wonderful at making music, but he still managed to spare attention for other things as well—if something stood out to him, he would track down the phone number of the person involved and contact them." He recalled Klas frequently calling him after the latest episode of "MI" had aired to share with Steiner what he had liked about it.

Steiner said that it would be impossible to overstate his contribution to Estonian music, adding, "A great number of Estonian works were first performed by him. Untold numbers of new scores hit his desk."

Tiia Teder, Editor-in-Chief, Klassikaraadio

"Eri Klas was a bit of a father figure in the Estonian music world," Teder said, speaking on the Vikerraadio program "Uudis+". She recalled how Klas loved to hug all of the staff members at Klassikaraadio. "I am surrounded by people who are sad," she said, "Yet they can all recall happy memories involving Klas—a small meeting, a memory."

Teder added that Klas always gave 200%. She continued, "He couldn't ever be sick. Rather, he always wanted to be right there in the thick of things, where he remained up until recently."

Arne Mikk, opera director, longtime Principal Director at Estonia Theatre

Mikk stressed Klas's huge contribution to Estonian culture in establishing the Estonian National Culture Foundation, which has supported both Estonian culture and countless contributors to it since the foundation's establishment in 1991.

Summing up his close friend, Mikk also stated, "In all my many years at 'Estonia', he had been my closest friend and colleague. Nobody's death is unavoidable, but he was one of a kind, and will remain so. His life's work has been so great that it requires a lot of time and deep thought to really comprehend it all."

Birgitta Svendén, General Manager and Artistic Director, Royal Swedish Opera

"Really sad. We who worked with him will remember a wonderful musician with a great, warm and temperamental soul."

Britt-Marie Aruhn, Royal Court Singer, Royal Swedish Opera

"A great musician with a big, warm heart! I am so thankful for all performances and concerts we had to do together!"

Håkan Hagegård, Royal Court Singer, Royal Swedish Opera

"A colorful musician and man I will always remember—once in Manila, where he was with the Bolshoi Ballet, and in several other contexts."

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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