Lossimuusika: Leonora Palu (flute), Kristo Käo (theorbo, classical guitar)

25th of March 2016. The ‘Lossimuusika’ (literally ‘castle music’) is a series of chamber concerts that takes place in the summer residence of the emperor Peter I. We played a mixed program of J.S. Bach, C.P.E Bach, Couperin, Reinvere,Takemitsu and Telemann. I think Telemann was Leonora’s solo.

Total effort was 37 h (includes driving to Tallinn and back to Tartu) which means it was a rather time consuming project. However, we had played all those pieces before. Just that I had not played the Bach’s C major (the one that is actually C.P.E.’s) on theorbo before nor the C.P.E. G-major.


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Early Baroque with Ensemble Floridante

March, 21st, the European Day of Early Music. At St Mikael’s, Tallinn. Ensemble Floridante: Meelis Orgse – baroque violin, Saale Fischer – harpsichord, Tõnu Jõesaar – viola da gamba, Kristo Käo – theorbo. Program: “Alla romana” About 50 listeners which is pretty good considering there was another baroque concert in a neighbor church.

Photos from the rehearsal by Kris Moor:

Estonian Chamber Music with Accordeon, Guitar and Violin

March, 5th at St Luke’s Tartu. Contemporary Music Festival dedicated to Heino Eller. Kadri Sepalaan – violin, Külli Kudu – accordeon, arrangements, Kristo Käo – guitar, theorbo. Program: Jõeleht, Arro, Steiner, Jaanson, Eespere, Sumera. A beautiful contemporary sacral building and good acoustics, too. Audience: about 30 which is normal.

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Playing a Martin From Year 1921

During my recent stay in the United States I had the rare chance to play a Martin from 1921 which is in a very good shape. I almost never touch anything that has other than gut or nylon strings but this time I thoroughly enjoyed playing this beautiful instrument. I think this is as close as it gets to a classical guitar. Even gave a short concert to a man who by coincidence was also born in 1921: a former tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, and vocal teacher Mr Ray Smolover.

After taking some pictures I thought I would record a little piece to remember that occasion. Didn’t have a better idea than to play this Tarrega prelude which at least demonstrates a wide range of positions etc. The basses are a bit dull but lets admit – the strings were pretty old.

The other instruments on the pictures were also fun to play: another Martin from 1964, a Telecaster from 1956 and a Gibson from 1978. But these already fall out of my profile and interests.

2015-02-01 12.11.34 Martin 1921 2015-02-01 12.08.50Telecaster 1956 Gibson 1978 Martin 1964

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Duo Floridante and Sensitive Baroque in Liepaja

The beginning of January saw two members of our baroque ensemble Floridante – Meelis Orgse and me – performing a duo program Sensitive Baroque in the Hika Hall of the Hotel Promenade in Liepaja, Latvia. The program mostly consisted of works by the early Italian baroque masters but not only:

Girolamo Kapsberger (1580 – 1651). Toccata II arpeggiata
Dario Castello (c.1590 – c.1658). Sonata prima
François Couperin (1668 – 1733). Concerts Royeaux: Premier Concert (Prelude, Allemande, Sarabande, Gavotte, Gigue)
Bellerofonte Castaldi (ca. 1581 – 1649). La Follia
Giovanni Paolo Cima (c. 1570 – 1622). Sonata a 2. Violino o violone


Giovanni Battista Fontana (ca.1580/89 –  ca.1630). Sonata seconda a violino solo
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750). Partita BWV 1004: 5. Chaconne
Francesca Caccini (1587 – after 1641). Lasciatemi qui solo    
Antonio Bertali (1605 – 1669). Chiacona

By the way, our band Floridante is now represented by Estonian Record Productions:

Some photos by Ilze Dimza:







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Charpentier for Christmas

Between Christmas and New Year I was invited to play with the Corelli Baroque Orchestra. The program consisted of music by Marc Antoine Charpentier: the famous Te Deum, Messe de minuit pour Noel, and a Concerto for strings.

The concerts took place in the St John’s of Tartu and Tallinn. Both freshly renovated and beautiful churches. The concert in Tallinn (the capital) was broadcasted live and recorded by radio.

Now, a year after taking up the theorbo I have played a bunch of different programs with smaller and bigger ensembles, duos, and solo. Based on the initial experiences I can bring out some benefits of being a theorbist as opposed to being a classical guitarist: First, theorbo is an established instrument that has a place in various types of ensembles. Secondly, it gives me a possibility to play all the great repertoire and to work together with professional musicians (one may ask, why cannot a classical guitarist hang out with real musicians? Well, look around and see what and with whom they actually play!). Lastly, I like the instrument’s sound, touch and era.

So, this year is going to be almost entirely a theorbo year. I know it already if I look at my calendar and see what is coming up.

Some photos from a reherseal by Kris Moor:

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Russian Songs with Alexander Ivashkevitsh

It was already a a few yers ago when we first performed with Alexander . I had played at his famous tap dance show and accompanied him a couple of times. We also recorded some music a while ago. But last year we took it up more seriously and have performed with a full program since then. We both play guitars, Alexander sings. I do a couple of solos and Alexander reads some poems. The feedback from audience has been so great that I would do it again and again. The slavic audience is very different from the rest. Come and see.


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Unusual Venues Vol 2

Today at midnight I will play a recital at the Old Water Tower of Viljandi. It is part of the annual Viljandi Guitar Festival who published a short interview with me on that occasion (not my translation!):

Vana veetorn

Viljandi’s Old Water Tower. From the website VisitEstonia.com


1) On which aspects of your performance would You recommend the audience to concentrate?

Let’s say that someone is creating a new product. Before you can start selling it you have to calculate the fit between the product and the market. A musician’s product is the repertoire. It goes the same with organising a concert – you need to match the performer and the audience. Then the audience will focus mostly on the music and the minority on the musician. But there’s always those who feel that they are in the wrong place.

Last spring I went to Pat Metheny’s concert and I counted seconds to get home. The problem wasn’t about me or the performer, I just didn’t fit the target group. So it doesn’t matter what I should have focused on, but sometimes a little bit of education can give you a new perspective. Since I play some very old and very new music at my concerts, I always try to share the history of the pieces.

2) What was the first song You learned to play on your guitar?
Honestly – I can’t remember. It was more than 20 years ago and because my music studies started accidentally, there weren’t any idols whose music I practised or listened to. It’s easier with first recordings. In 1994-95 I recorded couple of duos with Andre Maaker in Kuressaare. I haven’t found them in Estonian Radio Archive but these are probably the first recordings. From my old tapes I have found some Brazilian music, a bit of Valgre’s music and some material recorded with my ’basement bands’ are most likely on the tapes as well.

3) What inspires You?

I think there are two options: firstly that inspiration is a romantic make believe and the second option is that I have never experienced it. It would also be nice if both of them turned out ot be true.

4) What is Your next musical goal?
I’m currently busy with practising tiorba and firstly I have to overcome the techincal difficulties. Then come the musical ones. With guitar I’ve realised that you can’t do everything with high quality. You can’t be a flamenco guitarist, classical musician and play modern music all at the same time. Classical music comes with the teaching job. I spend many years to master the flamenco techniques but didn’t become a gipsy. Estonian contemporary music sounds more logical to me – Estonian composer, Estonian musician, an instrument made by a local and music recorded in Estonia. For the perfect combination you would also need a local audience but that doesn’t always happen.

5) Can You bring out your best concert experience?
Last year I gave approximately 100 concerts and the most positive were the school concerts. As a listener I visit concerts very rarely and when I do, it’s usually because of work. It’s a total pain for me to sit in a concert hall and this form of listening to music doesn’t work for me. Generally I listen to music quite rarely. When I do, it’s due to my work process – either the pieces I have to learn or my students’ recordings.

Couple of years ago I sometimes listened to metal. I remember the Swedish death band Unleashed and Obituary from the USA in Tallinn and Helsinki. I still listen to death metal when I drive and even though there’s a certain amount of theatricality, I find it more honest and believable than most of the classical and jazz music. It brings you the emotions not knowledge and it gives me a break from analytical and evaluative listening.

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Playing at Unusual Venues: Hospital and Jail

lk7_muusikapaev_plakatYesterday was the international day of music – 1st of Oct. On that occasion Estonian Music Council organized 147 free concerts around the country. The performers included all major orchestras, most of the important chamber ensembles and soloists. The venues ranging from schools, trains and plain to jail and mental hospital. My day started at 10:30 with a concert at the University’s Psychiatric Hospital. A nice atrium, like a church. About 50 listeners. Then I continued at the hall of the University’s Clinics main building. About 50 listeners as well.

The third concert was in Tartu Prison’s chapel where the soprano Pirjo Püvi joined me. 50 male prisoners from all criminal specialties. All concerts were shortish – 30 min. I played my classical and flamenco guitars and the theorbo.

What is the magic of strange venues? Why would musicians want to go to such places even without getting paid? Thought about it and I think I know the answer: the unusual context sets different rules compared to the usual concert hall’s rules. It’s where mere showing up with your instrument up can make people happy. Anything a musician does in this situation is percieved positively. And musicians need that feeling – perfect attention, happy faces and the special feeling in the air. That’s why many of us would do it again.

Kristo Käo at Tartu University's Psychiatric Clinic. Photo by: Mihkel Joasoo

Kristo Käo at Tartu University’s Psychiatric Clinic. Photo by: Mihkel Joasoo

A Program of Early Italian Baroque Music

3_MS_20_09_2014_FloridanteOn Sat, 20th of Sep 2014 at 4:00 PM in Pärnu St Elisbeth’s we played a program with the baroque music ensemble Floridante and soprano Kai Kallastu. Members of Floridante that played in that program: Meelis Orgse (baroque violin), Saale Fischer (harpsichord), Tõnu Jõesaar (viola da gamba) and Kristo Käo (theorbo). Meelis has studied the violin at Estonian Acad. of Music (BA), Sibelius Acad. (MA in baroque violin) and is continuing his baroque violin studies at Bremen, Germany. Saale has BA from Est. Acad. of Mus and MA from Trossingen, Germany (historical keyboard instruments), has worked as organist and continuo-player in Germany and Egypt. Tõnu is a reknown Estonian cellist, a member of the National Symphony Orch., and shares his time between the modern instrument and viola da gamba for many years already. As for me – I have just started playing the theorbo and this was my first full program as accompanist.

The program:


The full concert was recorded but I am still waiting for the files. Here we are talking (and playing a bit) at the national classical music radio station (Klassikaraadio): http://heli.er.ee/helid/klassika/1834243.mp3