Helena Tulve

b. April 28, 1972, Tartu
Member of the Estonian Composers’ Union since 2002

At the core of Helena Tulve’s music is unceasing change and the associated processes in time and space, energy transformation. Her music is rooted in simple elementary impulses, being affected by natural patterns, organicity and universal life energy, which embraces complexity and contradictions, different conditions, forms and movements. No sound is excluded from Tulve’s music, and each may find its own time and place therein. Sound centrality in Tulve’s music does not mean only the timbre; it simultaneously includes melody, intonation tension, harmony and micro-intervals, energetic transformations – creating a sound space where dynamic processes take place on a temporal axis. She is interested in the perception and apprehension of depth in space-time. Helena Tulve: "Music composition is, for me, always a meeting with the unknown. For me, creation is not an activity I already know, but a voyage of discovery into the unknown. (…) I try to move in a direction where music is more and more linked with the whole world, all life and thought. Music has its own rules, but behind the rules hide universal ideas." Tulve’s music moves towards the deepest intrinsic rules of our existence, reflecting currents, flows, and eddies, and unites the audible world with the inaudible. The energy dynamics of her music melt the fragile and delicate with an unbreakable primal intensity, looking for a way back to original integrity.

Helena Tulve studied composition with Alo Põldmäe at Tallinn Music High School and at the Estonian Music Academy from 1989 to 1992; at that time she was Erkki-Sven Tüür’s only student. Thereafter she continued with her compositional studies at the Conservatoire de Paris under Jacques Charpentier, graduating in 1994 with the Premier Prix. From 1993 to 1996, she continued at the same institution in the area of Gregorian chant and traditional music. Various oral musical traditions remain in her field of interests. She has taken part in György Ligeti and Marco Stroppa’s summer courses (1990) and IRCAM electronic music courses in Paris (2001).

Since 2000, Helena Tulve has been on the faculty of composition at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (professor since 2011, vice rector from 2012 to 2016), and since 2015 she has been the artistic director of the Estonian Music Days.

In 1998, Helena Tulve’s piece "à travers" was selected as one of two suggested works in the young composers’ category of the International Rostrum of Composers for Large Ensembles, and in 2004, her orchestral work "Sula" (Thawing) was awarded the first prize in the rostrum’s main category. In 2000, Helena Tulve received the "Ela ja sära" (Live and Shine) scholarship and was awarded the Heino Eller prize. In the 2001/2002 season, Tulve was the resident composer for the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, whose commissioned chamber opera "It Is Getting So Dark" premiered in 2004 at Tallinn City Theatre. For her creative achievements in 2004, she was awarded the Estonian Music Council’s music prize and the Cultural Prize of the Republic of Estonia. In 2005, she was declared Musician of the Year by Estonian Radio, and in the same year she received the Order of the White Star of the Republic of Estonia. Tulve’s chamber work "In a nakht fun yeridah" received the composer’s prize at the 2005 Estonian Music Days, and "Südamaa" (Heartland) for piano and symphony orchestra received the EMP 2014 composition prize. Tulve was the featured composer at the 2006 EMP festival and gave international master classes. In 2006, Tulve received the Young Artist’s Award by the President’s Cultural Fund. In the same year, Tulve’s piece "Reyah hadas ’ala" was recognised with the Prince Pierre of Monaco Musical Composition Prize, and the orchestral work "Sula" received the ISCM-CASH Young Composers Award. Helena Tulve has also held master classes at the Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam, 2010) and the Young Composers Meeting (Apeldoorn, 2010). At the Pärnu Järvi International Summer Festival in 2012, Tulve was composer in residence and gave master classes. During the 2012/2013 season, Tulve was the composer in residence of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ERSO), 2017 at Båstad Chamber Music Festival and 2018 at Rencontres Utopik in Nantes, France. In 2012, she was presented with l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres in France and in 2015, she was awarded the Order of Cultural Merit of Monaco. In 2016, she received the Estonian Theatre award for original music and musical design for the Theatrum performance of ""Delhi" tants" (Delhi Dance). In 2017, Tulve was awarded Lepo Sumera Award for Composition and the fellowship at Civitella Ranieri in Umbria, Italy, and in 2018, the Annual Prize of the Endowment for Music of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia. In 2019, Helena Tulve with her work "In Uncharted Waters" was given the LHV new music award Au-tasu. In 2022, he received the Annual Prize of the Endowment for Music of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia dor the opera "Wölfe". In the same year, Helena Tulve’s mystery "Visiones" commissioned by the Venice Biennale was performed in St Mark's Basilica, Venice.

Tulve has been commissioned to write music by the NYYD Ensemble, Eesti Kontsert, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Vox Clamantis, Hortus Musicus, the U: Ensemble, the Resonabilis Ensemble, the New Tallinn Trio, Una Corda, Theatrum, ensemble diferencias, the Netherlands Chamber Choir, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Uppsala Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Courage,  Ensemble Aleph, Deutschlandradio, Schumannfest Düsseldorf, Fondation Prince Pierre, Seattle Chamber Players, Stockholm Saxophone Quartet, Nieuw Ensemble, Ensemble Insomnio, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Afekt Festival, Ensemble Adapter, Theatre of Voices, Bang on a Can, Ensemble TM+, Jean Pascal Ollivry, Catherine Boppe, et al.

In addition to the previously mentioned performers, major interpreters of Tulve’s music include Arianna Savall, Taniel Kirikal, Charles Barbier, Anu Komsi, Eve Kopli, Kadri Hunt, Iris Oja, Tui Hirv, Kadri Tegelmann, Marrit Gerretz-Traksmann, Taavi Kerikmäe, Mihkel Poll, Thomas Larcher, Kalle Randalu, Peep Lassmann, Camilla Hoitenga, Carin Levine, Monika Mattiesen, Alban Gerhardt, Silver Ainomäe, Paul Meyer, Pekka Kuusisto, Mari Poll, Triin Ruubel, Juta Õunapuu-Mocanita, Daniel Meller, Marco Ambrosini, Kristi Mühling, Martin Kuuskmann, Ene Nael, Jukka Tiensuu, Riivo Kallasmaa, Virgo Veldi, Reinbert Evers and others; in addition to the above-mentioned musical collectives, PaukenfEst, Voces Musicales, Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Silesian String Quartet, Ensemble Phoenix, Xasax, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Uusinta, Ensemble Courage, Yxus Ensemble, et al.; conductors Olari Elts, Paul Hillier, Juha Kangas, Paavo Järvi, Andrei Boreiko, Alexander Liebreich, Jean Deroyer, Grete Pedersen, Ed Spanjaard, Artyom Kim, Jaan-Eik Tulve, Risto Joost, Kaspars Putniņš, Paul Mägi, Eri Klas, Andres Mustonen, Toomas Vavilov, Ulrich Pöhl and others.

Helena Tulve’s compositions have been performed in Europe, the USA, Canada, Asia and Australia, and at many festivals such as the NYYD festival, BIG Torino (2000), Warsaw in the Spring (2001, 2005), Gaida (Vilnius, 2001, 2010), Les Boréales (Caen, 2002), MaerzMusik (Berlin, 2003), Matrix Herbstfestival (Leipzig, 2003), Klangspuren (Schwaz, 2003), Forum neuer Musik Köln (2003, 2010), Icebreaker (Seattle, 2004), Europamusicale (Germany, 2004), INMF Darmstadt (2004), Culturescapes (Basel, 2006), ISCM World Music Days (Stuttgart, 2006; Hong Kong, 2007; Mons, 2012), Davos Festival (2008), Vale of Glamorgan festival in Wales (2008, 2010, 2013, 2015), Vancouver New Music (2009), Ojai Festival (2009), Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam, 2010), Music in the Giant (Austria, 2012), Glasgow West End Festival (2013), Usedom (Germany, 2013), Zilele Muzicii Noi (Moldova, 2014), Metropolis New Music Festival (Australia, 2015), Spoleto Festival (US, 2017) and others.

The composer has also worked together with video artists and has written film music and music for theatre performances. Her works have been published by Edition Peters and the Estonian Musical Fund. Helena Tulve’s music has been recorded for a number of collections, amongst them the composer’s own three albums, "Sula" (Eesti Raadio, 2005), "Lijnen" (ECM, 2008) and "Arboles lloran por lluvia" (ECM, 2014).

Helena Tulve's homepage: www.helenatulve.net
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Updated in 2023

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