Peeter Süda

b. January 30, 1883, Lümanda, island of Saaremaa
d. August 3, 1920, Tallinn
Buried at Tallinn Inner City Cemetery

Peeter Süda was a composer who devoted all of his talent and inspiration to one instrument – the organ. Süda’s seven completed organ opuses constitute a much-treasured contribution to the beginnings of Estonian organ music. Composer's only choral work, the "Flax Puller", is the first choral fugue in Estonian music based on folklore. Beside his own compositions, Süda has made organ transcriptions of the works by Liszt, Mozart, Bach, Wagner etc.

Süda's music is mainly polyphonic and elaborated in form. Sometimes Estonian folk music intonations can be heard there.

Peeter Süda was born on January 30, 1883, at Lümanda parish on the West-Estonian island of Saaremaa, then a part of Kihelkonna. He took his first music lessons playing organ with Ado Knaps, clerk of the Kihelkonna Church. In the years 1902–1901 he studied organ with Louis Homilius and Jacques Handschin at the St. Petersburg conservatoire, Russia. Till 1912, he studied there also music theory and composition with Anatoli Lyadov, Alxandre Glazunov, Jazeps Vitols and Nikolai Solovyov. 1905–1911 Süda took part in collecting of Estonian folk songs initiated by the Estonian Students' Society and organized by Dr. Oskar Kallas. Already in student years, he started with concert activities, performing as organ soloist and accompanist. In 1912, Peeter Süda settled in Tallinn where he gave organ concerts and was engaged as theory and piano teacher. Last year of his life Süda was the faculty member of the Tallinn Music Higher School teaching organ and music theory. Peeter Süda died on August 3, 1920, in Tallinn.

In 1924, the Peeter Süda Memorial Foundation, the predecessor of the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum was set up. The collection of Peeter Süda (Estonian word 'süda' means 'heart' in English) is the “heart” of today’s Estonian Theatre and Music Museum.

In 1927, the bronze bust by Ferdi Sannamees, the very first memorial erected to an Estonian composer, was installed at the head of Süda’s grave at the Tallinn Inner City Cemetery. In 1983, on the composer's 100th birthday, Süda's bronze bust by Aime Kuulbusch was unveiled in the yard of the Kuressaare Music School on the island Saaremaa.

Peeter Süda's organ works have been published by Eres and Estonian Organ Society. BIS, Eres and Forte have released CDs with Süda's music.

© EMIC 2006

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