Artur Lemba

September 24, 1885, Tallinn – November 21, 1963, Tallinn
Member of the Estonian Composers' Union since 1944

Composer Artur Lemba was also active as a pianist and pedagogue. He and his elder brother Theodor Lemba were the first professional pianists in Estonia who gave concerts also abroad (their sister Ludmilla Hellat-Lemba was an outstanding singer and vocal pedagogue). Especially in 1920–1930ies, Artur Lemba was the most popular piano pedagogue, influential and acknowledged pianist in Estonia.

Artur Lemba has composed music in almost every genre, e. g. two symphonies, three overtures, four operas, three cantatas, chamber music for different ensembles and ca 30 choral songs. Being an excellent pianist, the music composed for piano forms the most significant part of his output. Lemba has written five piano concertos, two sonatas, two sonatinas, over 20 etudes, preludes and other miniatures. Lemba’s opera Sabina (1905) and Symphony No. 1 (1908) were the first works in that genre in Estonian music history.

Composer Artur Lemba was rather conservative and didn’t follow the innovations of musical language. Music of the Romantic Era, in particular works by Tchaikovsky and Glazunov, was very close to his heart. Lemba’s oeuvre is based on the classical-romantic style and is characterized by lyrical musical language. Piano Concerto No. 1 in G major (1905/1910) is the best known among his works, it has received wide popularity due to its flowing music and memorable songful themes. Also Poéme d’amour (1916) for violin and piano is a well-known piece in the repertoire of the violinists.

Artur Lemba received his primary musical education from his brother Theodor Lemba. In 1899, following the example of his brother, he entered to the St. Petersburg Conservatory where he studied piano with Carl van Arck, Prof. V. Tolstov and I. Borovka, composition with Nikolai Solovyov and music theory under the guidance of Alexander Lyadov, Alexander Glazunov and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. In 1908, he graduated from the conservatory receiving the little gold medal in piano and the big silver medal in composition. In addition, he was also awarded the Anton Rubinstein prize (piano Scröder). At the graduation ceremony, Lemba performed his Piano Concerto No. 1. In 1910, Artur Lemba participated in Anton Rubinstein Competition for pianists, where he reached among the eight finalists with such pianists like Arthur Rubinstein and Edwin Fischer.

In 1908–1920, Artur Lemba taught piano at the St. Petersburg Conservatory (since 1915 as the professor) and in 1918 he was the leader of the music section of the Education Commissariat in Petrograd. He was also active as the pianist and gained recognition through the concerts in St. Petersburg.

After living 12 years in St. Petersburg, Artur Lemba returned to Estonia. In 1920–1921, he worked as the piano pedagogue in Tallinn Higher Music School, in 1921–1922, in Helsinki Music School and 1922–1963, in Tallinn Conservatory (1934–1935 and 1941–1944 the head of the piano department). Among his students there are Elsa Avesson, Olav Roots, Villem Reimann, Veera Lensin, Kirill Raudsepp and others. In 1937 and 1938, Lemba participated in the work of the jury at the E. Ysaÿe’ Competition in Brussels.

In Estonia, Artur Lemba continued his career as a pianist, especially actively in the 1920ies. In addition to the concerts in Estonia, he also performed in St. Petersburg, Riga, Moscow, Odessa, Budapest, Helsinki and Stockholm. Lemba also played in different ensembles, conducted choirs and orchestras and in 1922–1939, served as the music critic at the newspaper Vaba Maa.

Artur Lemba was given the honorary title of the Estonian SSR Honoured Worker in Arts (1945), the Estonian SSR People’s Artist (1962) and he has been awarded the Orders of Russian Czarist State, the Orders of the Cross of the Eagle of the Republic of Estonia, the Order of Hungary and the Belgium Officer Order. In 1977, a book entitled "Artur Lemba. Pianist and pedagogue" was written by Veera Lensin (published by Eesti Raamat). Lemba’s music has been recorded on several compilation CDs. The publisher of his works is the Estonian Music Information Centre.

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