Mihkel Lüdig

May 9, 1880, Reiu parish – May 7, 1958, Vändra
Buried at Vändra Cemetary
Member of the Estonian Composers' Union since 1945

Composer, organist and choral conductor Mihkel Lüdig was tireless organiser of Estonian music life in the beginning of the 20th century and concidered composing his side hobby. In his creative heritage one can find works of extremely divers value, but the top of them certainly belong to the repository of Estonian classical music. Lüdig’s Dawn (text by Friedrich Kuhlbars) has been traditional opening song of Estonian song celebrations since 1969.

Specific to Lüdig’s music is simple harmony and melodiousness, also request for ethnic peculiarity – many of his original tunes are close to folk music but there can’t be found much direct usage of it. Lüdig wrote mainly a cappella choral songs that are his most important works. Most of about 60 songs are in lyrical style, on subjects of nature and love, best of them picture the austere beauty of Estonian nature (Heath, Pine). Next to them, composer has expressed the same topic also in more strenghtful manner (The Silent Holy Grove, The Woods, Lake in Virgin Forest). In popular Swing Song and Orphan’s Song he has used intonations and means of development of folksong. Due to the practical work with amateur choirs, his choral songs are feasible for choirs with moderate potential as well. These songs are characterised by homophony, more rarely by appearance of imitational or polyphonic images, simplicity and warmheartedness.

Top of solo songs include emotional songs like My Altar, A Tear Is Rolling, In the Childhood. In about ten symphonic works there isn’t complex harmony as well, extensive thematic development is substituted by constantly appearing new episodes, also Russian music classics is being followed. His most well-known symphonic pieces are Overture-Fantasy No. 1 (1906) and symphonic poem Midsummer Night (1910).

Mihkel Lüdig started organ studies in Pärnu with organist Max Peters. In 1897, he entered the organ class of Ludvigs Bētiņš in Moscow Conservatoire and continued in 1898 in Louis Homilius’s class in St. Petersburg Conservatoire which he graduated in 1904. At the same time he studied theory and composition with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay Solovyov and Aleksandr Glazunov and piano with Franz von Czerny.

After graduating from conservatoire, Lüdig stayed in St. Petersburg to arrange music life of local Estonians: conducted choirs of Estonian societies, entered upon the position of organist of St. John’s church, delivered lectures and published music criticism. He was an initiator of several Estonian musical events, including the first symphonic concert of Estonian music in St. Petersburg in 1908. He worked also as an organist and pianist in Aleksandr Sheremetyev’s symphony orchestra and expert of piano factory Offenbacher.

Meanwhile Lüdig was actively roped in Estonian musical life as well, he was an initiator and director of various musical events: Pärnu II Singing Day (1903), opening the new Vanemuine theatre (1906), Tartu Music Day (1909), opening the new Endla theatre (1911). He was general conductor of mixed and male choirs in VII song celebration (1910).

From 1904, he performed as an accompanist of his wife Mathilde Lüdig-Sinkel (soprano) both in Russia and Estonia, undertaking concert tours also to Germany and France in the 1920ies. During the World War I he was active as a director of military choirs and wind orchestras.

1918–1924 he worked as an organist of St. Charles’s Church in Tallinn, from the same year also a singing teacher in several gymnasiums. Lüdig took part of the foundation of Tallinn Higher Music School in 1919 and was it’s first principal till 1923 and pedagogue of organ class (1920–1922). He participated in establisment of publishing house Esto-Muusika. Parallelly he continued concert activity as an organist and conductor. 1925–1928 he was active as a choral conductor and pianist in Buenos Aires. From 1928, Lüdig worked again in Tallinn as an organist and singing teacher. From 1932, he conducted Endla society choir in Pärnu and from 1934 to the end of his life he lived and worked in Vändra.

Mihkel Lüdig is honorary professor of Tallinn Conservatory (1940), he has been ascribed the 3rd Class Order of the Estonian Red Cross (1939), honorary titles of Estonian SSR Merited Art Worker (1946) and ESSR People’s Artist (1955). Vändra Music School is bearing the name of Mihkel Lüdig since 1980 and male choir in Pärnu since 1961. Lüdig’s monument is situated in composer’s place of birth, Vaskrääma.


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