Harry Olt

April 26, 1929 Kadila village, Porkuni parish – July 27, 2016 Stockholm

Harry Olt was a musicologist and composer, a mediator of Estonian and Swedish cultural life, working in Sweden in the press as well as a concert organizer, cultural official and pedagogue.

Harry Olt fled to Sweden in 1944, where he began studying music at Ingesund College of Music. He studied at the Stockholm private conservatory in the piano class of Stina Sundell and in the music theory class of Hans Eppstein (1947–1949). He studied conducting privately with Olav Roots (1949–1952) and composition with Eduard Tubin (1949–1955). Olt continued his studies in musicology at Uppsala University (supervisors Carl-Allan Moberg and Ingmar Bengtsson, 1955–1957 and 1959–1962), and also attended the sociology course with Gunnar Boalt at Stockholm University.

Harry Olt was active on several fronts: he ran a private studio in Stockholm (1953–1957), was head of the Stockholm School of Music (1959–1960), editor of the Swedish Radio's music programs (1960–1964), manager of the Swedish National Concert Bureau (1964–1968), lecturer at Härnosand Lärarhögskol and lecturer in music theory at the Härnosand Higher School of Music (1969–1970), Södertälje City Council's theater and music curator (1970–1994), theater and music adviser at the Stockholm Baltic Institute (1974–1988, secretary since 1987). In addition, he worked in the press as a reviewer and publicist.

Since 1960, Olt has compiled reports on Sweden's national cultural reform, participated as an expert in Gävleborg County cultural studies (1974–1977), compiled the Baltic Scientific Institute's reference phonotheque of Estonian music and the Eduard Tubin manuscript fund at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. Harry Olt was a contributor to Fönstret magazine (1960–1969), published music reviews in the newspapers Stockholms Tidningen and Välis-Eesti, and in the magazine Nutida Musik, as well as contributed to music lexicons (Grove, Sohlmans Musiklexikon). In his writings he dealt with the problems of contemporary music, of course paying special attention to the works of Estonian composers. The first book on this subject, Modern Estonian Composers, was published in English and Swedish in Tallinn in 1972, and the second book, Estonian Music (1980), was in fact the first historical overview of Estonian music in a foreign language.

He has been one of the main mediators of Estonian and Swedish culture since the 1960s: he has organized concert trips, conferences, exhibitions, such as the traveling exhibition Born from Wind and Water (interweaving Kaljo Põllu's graphics, Jaan Kaplinski's texts Eduard Tubin's 2nd Piano Sonata, 1986–2002) and publication, produced Vardo Rumessen’s recording “E. Tubin. Piano Works” (BIS, 1988). He has compiled Estonian music programs and literary programs on Swedish Radio. He was the editor-in-chief and the publisher in charge of the magazine Vaba Eesti (1952–1964).

He has written instrumental and vocal chamber music and choral works. One of his favorite genres was solo song. His portrait concerts in Estonia in the presence of the composer have taken place in 1979 at Kadriorg Palace and in 1989 and 1994 at Tallinn Town Hall. Harry Olt has won the Stockholm City Culture Award (1968) and the ABF Södertälje Culture Scholarship (1989).

Musiklivet i Norden (Stockholm, 1968)
Uppsokande programverksamhet (Stockholm, 1969)
Moderna estniska tonsattare (1972, ka inglise keeles)
Estonian Music (1980)
Estonian music in the reference phonotheque by Baltic Institute (Stockholm, 1980)
Bibliography of Estonian Music Literature and Literature on Estonian Music (Stockholm, 1983)
Eduard Tubin’s Compositions. List of Works. Discography and Bibliography (Stockholm, 1985)
The Emergence of Modernism in Soviet Estonian Music (Stockholm, 1985)

Elektroonilisest muusikast (Vaba Eesti tähistel, 2000)
Zelia Aumere – Tubina helide kandja (Yearbook of the International Eduard Tubin Society II, 2002)