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ERI KLAS, a native of Estonia, frequently guest conducts on the North American continent. Klas made his U.S. debut in 1991 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. In 1995 he made his debuts with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony following highly successful appearances at the Blossom and Ravinia festivals. Since then, he has appeared with most of the major North American orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Detroit, Montreal, Seattle, and St. Louis and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.
Equally in demand throughout Europe, Klas is currently the Principal Guest Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Tampere Philharmonic in Finland and the Tallinn Philharmonic in Estonia, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Finnish National Opera. He has guest conducted the Berlin and Munich Philharmonics and appears regularly throughout Europe and Australia.
Klas is closely associated with leading contemporary composers. He conducted world premieres of Alfred Schnittke’s Per Gynt and First Cello Concerto, as well as the world and U.S. premieres of Henryk Gorécki’s Flute Concerto. A great champion of Estonian composers, he has conducted world premieres of works by Pärt, Tamberg, Tormis, Tubin, and Eller, often introducing these works in the U.S.
Klas began his conducting studies at the Tallinn Conservatory and upon graduation went to St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) to work with Nikolai Rabinovich. He made his debut at the Estonian National Theatre in Tallinn in 1964 conducting Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In 1969 he was appointed assistant conductor at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, where he remained for 12 years. He has served as Music Director of the Estonian National Theatre and of the Royal Opera in Stockholm.
A former Estonian lightweight junior boxing champion, Klas is a member of the Estonian International Olympic Committee, serves as Chairman of the Estonian Cultural Committee, and is a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.