03.12.1889 Võnnu (Ridala) – 26.03.1962 (Haapsalu)
Member of the Estonian Composer's Union since 1944
Among Estonian composers, next to Rudolf Tobias, Mart Saar, Artur Kapp and Heino Eller, Cyrillus Kreek is one of the greatest influencers of development of national characteristics in Estonian art music, and one of the most important innovators of Estonian choral music.
Kreek’s music consists almost entirely of arrangements of Estonian folk music, the major part of his creation is made up of choir works.
Kreek’s music, in its very unique way, combines the spontaneity of folk music and traditions of academic musical composition, his works are beloved both at home music making as well as on concert stage.
On Estonian music, Kreek’s work has left a significant mark, which today can be clearly perceived in creation of several generations of musicians, including composers Veljo Tormis, Arvo Pärt, Tõnu Kõrvits and others, as well as a number of Estonian jazz musicians.
Kreek's work consists of three inseparable and complementary activities – collecting and research of folk music, teaching and composing. Since 1911, Kreek participated in movement of folklore collecting, organized by the Estonian Students‘ Union and Oskar Kallas, and was one of the most enthusiastic folklore collectors. As the first, Kreek used in this work an help of phonograph, which allowed to record and preserve folk tunes and instrumental pieces on wax rolls. More than 40 years of his lifetime, Kreek worked also as a teacher. His folklore collection includes approximately 1300 songs, written down from his pupils.
Kreek’s compositions are storing nearly a thousand of Estonian folk songs and dance tunes. In addition to his about 20 original works (including Väike lillelaul [Little Flower Song]), Kreek has composed choral arrangements of nearly 700 folk tunes and 500 chorales, a dozen of suites, based on Estonian dance and song tunes for different wind and folk instruments’ ensembles, and settings for symphony orchestra.
A special place in Kreek’s list of work holds in years 1925–1927 completed Requiem for tenor, mixed choir, organ and symphony orchestra. This work, as most of Kreek’s music, has charactreristic elements of Estonian folk tunes, and is the first Estonian work in the genre of Requiem. The text of the work is created by Baltic-German folklorist G. J. Schultz-Bertram (Estonian translation of the text of Mozart's Requiem). The work is also known under the name of Estonian Requiem.
Kreek made use of folk melodies in a humble and conservative fashion. They act almost as cantus firmuses, and are used only in their original form. In all of his musical output one notices that his compositional approach stems from the natural qualities of the human voice. This is true also for his instrumental music. Although Kreek's entire output is firmly rooted in folk music, Neoclassicism can be found in his polyphonic approach to musical development, emotionally reserved temperament and reverence to strict and simple musical forms.
Cyrillus (born Karl Ustav) Kreek was born in 1889 in Läänemaa, Ridala, as the ninth of eleven children of a large and music loving family. The early childhood years he spent on the island of Vormsi, where his father was teacher at the local Orthodox school. During his time on the island of Vormsi, Kreek became fluent in Swedish. The family converted to the Russian Orthodox faith, as was required by the then Tsarist government, and the first names of the family members were russified - hence the name Kirill, which was later changed to Cyrillus.
Kreek obtained primary music education at the Haapsalu St. Nikolaus Church Parish School. Since 1908, he studied trombone (Profs. F. Türner, P. Volkov) at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, later on also composition and theory (Profs. V. Kalafatti, J. Vitol, M. Tchernov, N. Tcherepnin). Due to the outbreak of war, his studies in conservatoire remained unfinished, and back in Estonia, from 1917 until the end of his life, Kreek worked as a teacher in Haapsalu, Rakvere, Tartu and Tallinn. He gave music lessons in general education schools, as well as at the Tartu Higher Music School and Tallinn Conservatoire, where he from 1940–1941 and 1944–1950 was professor of theoretical substances, and from 1947, the head of theory department.
Cyrillus Kreek died on 26th March 1962 and is buried in Haapsalu Old cemetery. In 2001, a memorial museum was opened in Kreek‘s apartment in his home town Haapsalu. Kreek‘s folklore collection is preserved in the Kreek‘s Fund at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum.
From 2007, Cyrillus Kreek Music Days Festival is held every year on leadership of Tõnu Kaljuste and Foundation Lootsi.
© EMIC 2009
The texts on the EMIC's homepage are protected by the copyright law. They can be used for non-commercial purposes referring to the author (when specified) and source (Estonian Music Information Centre).