b. July 9, 1947, Tallinn
d. June 14, 2001, Tallinn
Member of Estonian Composers' Union from 1969
Buried at Tallinn Forest Cemetery
In music of Mati Kuulberg, traditional forms are enlivened by the mood of expression that is dense and rich in contrasts. In his works, linear melody lines, free treatment of tonality and capricious rhythms constitute complex polyphonic textures. Contrasts in dynamics, register and timbre are characteristic to his idiom. Variational treatment of musical material is enriched by aleatoric, sonoristic and dodecaphonic techniques. In most cases, contrasting material is connected through core intervals or motifs. In Kuulberg's work, Estonian, Setu and Lappish folk music has been used.
Kuulberg's oeuvre takes in almost all of the primary genres of music, but instrumental chamber music is in the foreground. He has written two string quartets, string quintet, two piano trios, wind quintet, saxophone quartet, sextet for piano and winds and many shorter ensemble works and pieces for solo instruments. Sonata form holds an important place in his oeuvre: he is the author of two sonatas for two pianos, piano sonata for four hands, trombone sonata, sonata for flute and harp, four sonatas for solo violin and a sonata for solo clarinet, concerto-sonata for cello etc. Kuulberg's body of the work also includes five symphonies (1971, 1977, 1978, 1983, 1986), small scale orchestral works, instrumental concertos for violin, double bass and flute, three ballets and large scale choral works.
Mati Kuulberg graduated from the Tallinn Music High School as a violinist in 1966 and Tallinn Conservatoire's composition department with Anatoli Garshnek in 1971. From 1966 to 1974, he worked as a violinist in the Estonian TV and Radio Symphony Orchestra, and from 1970–1998 as music theory and composition teacher at the Georg Ots Tallinn Music School as well as the Tallinn Music High School. From 1986 to 1991, Kuulberg worked also as an adviser of Estonian Composers' Union. Today's composers Mirjam Tally, Timo Steiner and Mihkel Kerem were students of Kuulberg.
Kuulberg's work has been published by Eres Edition, Antes Edition, Edition 49 and SP Muusikaprojekt. He has the author's CD (Antes Edition, 1997). Kuulberg has received the Literature and Art Award of the Estonian Leninist Communist Youth League (1972) and Annual Music Award of the ESSR (1977, 1986).
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