June 11, 1919, New York City – February 4, 2010, Savannah, USA
Composer and organist Helen Tobias-Duesberg was born June 11, 1919 in New York. At seven, she went to live in Estonia with her mother, where she finished elementary school at Narva-Jõesuu and later on Tartu Girls High School. From 1937 to 1943, she studied composition at the Tallinn Conservatory under Artur Kapp and Heino Eller and graduated from the conservatory majoring in organ in 1943 and having studied under August Topman.
From 1943 to 1947, she received further training at Berlin Higher School of Music in organ under Fritz Heitmann and composition under Herman Grabner. While living in Germany, Helen Tobias worked as an organist in Berlin and Potsdam. After her husband’s death in 1951, she went to the U.S., New York with her daughter Maaja, where she continued her composition and organ studies. She finished the Guilmant Organ School’s master class and Manhattan School of Music majoring in composition. She stayed in the latter to work as a professor. In New York, she also continued her artistic pursuits and worked as an organist in several churches.
The composer’s ties with the homeland were enlivened again in 1989 when the oratorio Jonah’s Mission by her father Rudolf Tobias were performed in Estonia for the very first time. After that year, on several occasions Helen Tobias-Duesberg visited Estonia, where her own works, too, were performed.
Vocal and choral music plays an important role in the works by Helen Tobias-Duesberg. She has also composed a great deal of instrumental music, chiefly for classical chamber ensembles – piano trios, string quartets, wind quintets, works for organ and piano, and orchestral music. In addition, she has edited and made arrangements of the works of Rudolf Tobias, her father.
Her works have been performed at a range of festivals and in concert halls in the United States, Canada and Europe.
H. Tobias-Duesberg has also written two children’s books: 1938 saw the publication of Mart ja Mari (Mart and Mari) and 1939 that of Vangistatud prints ja teised muinasjutud (The Confined Prince and Other Rairytales), which was reprinted in 2009.
Helen Tobias-Duesberg died February 4, 2010 in the U.S. Savannah. August 15 the same year, her remains were laid to rest in the earth of her homeland, next to her father Rudolf and grandfather Johannes in Kullamaa churchyard.
© EMIC 2011
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