Richard Ritsing

March 25, 1903, Räpina – July 8, Tartu
Member of the Estonian Composers’ Union since 1944

Composer, choral conductor and pedagogue Richard Ritsing has composed a great number of a cappella choral music which forms the main body of his oeuvre. He has written songs mainly for mixed choir, but there are also songs for female, male and children’s choir. The most popular are Dear Mommy, Tender One, Tulease, Emajõe City Tartu, Kõrr-kõrr!, You Are the Summer of My Heart and A Heart Is in the Song. Additionally, solo songs, chamber music, and music for plays can be found among his works. In his vocal music, Ritsing used poetry by Juhan Liiv, Gustav Suits, Karl Eduard Sööt etc, but mostly he composed songs on his own lyrics.

Emotions and lyricism, also light humour are the main characteristics of his musical language. The predominant traits of his choral music are clarity and simplicity of musical meaning.

Besides composing, conducting and being a pedagogue, Ritsing wrote articles and research papers about music, including Handbook for Choral and Orchestral Conductor, Methdology of Choral Practice, History of Estonian Music, Estonian National Epic Kalevipoeg in Music and Review of History of Estonian Older Music.

Richard Ritsing studied at the Tartu Commercial Science School (1919–1920) and the Tartu Science School (1920–1923) and earned himself a philosophy degree from the Tartu University in 1929. In 1919–1924, Ritsing studied music theory and composition (with Mart Saar and Heino Eller), choral and orchestra conducting (with Juhan Aavik), violin (with Stanislav Schapiro and Vladimir Samyko), piano (with Salme Hermann) and singing (with Dmitry Brovkin) at the Tartu Music School. Later he improved mainly his conducting skills in Berlin (under the supervision of Wilhelm Furtwängler and Bruno Kitttel) and Warsaw (under the supervision of Walerian Bierdiajew and Wacław Lachman) and mastered a profession of the music teacher.

Ritsing hold the post as the music director at the Tartu Workers Theatre (1927–1933) and worked as the music teacher at the Tartu University (1934–1958), Vahi Agricultural and Gardening School, Schools of Blind Institute and elsewhere. He was the organiser, headmaster and teacher of the Tartu Music Courses (Evening School of Music) (1947–1957), organised the work of youth section of the Estonian Composers’ Union Tartu Branch and was engaged as its chairman and later became the member of the board (1946–1956). He also taught choral conducting at the Heino Eller Tartu Music School (1945–1980).

Being an active conductor, Richard Ritsing has conducted 33 choirs and 10 orchestras, including Tartu Workers’ Union Choir (1940–1941), Mixed Choir of the Estonian National Youth Union Tartu Branch (1928–1933), Tartu Academic Male Choir (1933–1974), The Academic Women’s Choir of the University of Tartu (1945–1963) and Mixed Choir Vanemuine (1935–1983). Additionally, Ritsing has been appointed Honorary Conductor and Honorary Member of several choirs (e.g. Male Choir Florestalia and Tartu Students’Choir).

In 1950–1980, Ritsing was the artistic leader of the Estonian Song Celebrations and in 1980, 1985 and 1990, Honorary Leader. He is was the initiator of the first student song festival Gaudeamus in 1956 and was its artistic leader in 1956, 1958, 1967, 1968, 1971 and 1974.

Richard Ritsing was given the honorary title of Estonian SSR Honoured Worker in Arts (1956) and Estonian SSR People’s Artist (1984). In 1983, he received the title of Honorary Citizen of Tartu.

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