Estonian National Male Choir RAM
The Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) was founded in 1944 by the legendary composer and leader of the Estonian choral movement, Gustav Ernesaks. Since then the choir has been conducted by several highly esteemed Estonian choral conductors, including Olev Oja, Kuno Areng, Ants Üleoja, and Ants Soots. From 2005 till 2008 Kaspars Putninš from Latvia was chief conductor. The current chief conductor is Mikk Üleoja.
In a co-operative project with conductor Paavo Järvi, the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO), the Estonian Girls Choir “Ellerhein”, and the Estonian National Male Choir (RAM) won a Grammy Award in 2004 in the category “Best Choral Performance” for their recording of Sibelius’ Cantatas (Virgin Classics, 2003). A year later their recording of Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” (recorded by the same label) was voted the orchestral album of the year in BBC Music Magazine.
In over 70 years, RAM has performed more than 7,000 concerts all across Estonia, the former Soviet Union, many Western European countries, Israel, Canada and the United States. In the early years, the Choir devoted its working repertoire almost exclusively to a cappella choral music, most of it was composed by its founder Gustav Ernesaks. Since that time, RAM has divulged itself into the classical mainstream and is now most famous for its interpretations of large-scale orchestral works, frequently performed with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors. At any given time, RAM has approximately 30 large-scale orchestral works available in its repertoire, and most of the current tours abroad are large-scale projects.
During the last decade, the choir has paid homage to the musical trends and performance styles of several different periods and regions, working Robert Sund, Josep Prats, Roman Toi, Chifuru Matsubara (Japan), Kaspars Putninš, Anatoly Grindenko, Lone Larsen (Sweden), Timothy Brown (UK), Vytautas Mishkinis, Toomas Siitan and Jaan-Eik Tulve. Performing oratorios, RAM has worked under the direction and became a favourite of world-famous Estonian maestros such as Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Kristjan Järvi and Eri Klas, and of conductors such as Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Riccardo Muti, Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Saulius Sondeckis, Leo Krämer, Christoph Spering, Gintaras Rinkevičius, Arvo Volmer, Andres Mustonen, Paul Mägi, Jüri Alperten, Vello Pähn, Tõnu Kaljuste, Nikolai Alekseev and many others.
Touring projects over the past years included the performance of the oratorio Des Jona Sendung by Estonian composer Rudolf Tobias with Neeme Järvi in St. Petersburg (May 2003) and Brahms’ Rinaldo in Lahti and Tampere, Finland (October 2003). In 2004, RAM opened the concert season of the Detroit Symphony, conducted by Maestro Neeme Järvi, followed by performances with the Cincinnati Symphony, conducted by Maestro Paavo Järvi. In 2005 and 2006 RAM performed again Sibelius’ “Kullervo” in Sweden, a.o. with the Swedish Radio Symphony in Stockholm. In 2005 the choir participated in the Festival of Estonian culture in Scotland. In autumn 2006 RAM undertook two very successful trips to Germany, performing with the Bochum Symphony and with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. In 2007 RAM participated in the Sibelius Festival of Konzerthaus Dortmund (a cappella and “Kullervo” with Tampere Philharmonic and John Storgårds) to greatest critical acclaim. 2008, RAM was invited to perform at the Bergen International Festival (a cappella and Schönberg’s Gurrelieder), the Swansea Festival (Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex), and with the Tapiola Sinfonietta in Finland. Projects in 2010 included performances with the Bremen Philharmonic (Markus Poschner), the Tampere Philharmonic (Hannu Lintu), the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra (Lothar Zagrosek), and the Orchestra de Paris (Paavo Järvi). In April 2011, RAM performed “Kullervo” with the NDR Radio Philharmonic Hannover (Eivind Gullberg Jensen), and October 2011 has seen RAM at the Festival d’Ile de France.
Highlights of the 2014/15 season included performances at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, the Usedomer Musikfestival and with the Rundfunk-Sinfonierorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski. In June 2015, RAM returned to the NDR Radio Philharmonic Hannover to perform Shostakovitch's Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar", conducted by Michael Sanderling who subsequently invited RAM to perform "Babi Jar" with the Dresden Philharmonic in February 2018. Engagements in 2019 and 2020 include among others the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg with Marko Letonja, the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich with Paavo Järvi, and the Hamburg State Philharmonic Orchestra with Kent Nagano.
RAM has recorded more than 15 CDs for Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Virgin, Finlandia, CCn'C, Forte, Alba and other record labels, among them a project of 5 CDs with Veljo Tormis’ complete male choir repertoire. This recording is a ground-breaking and exciting view on Estonian choral music.