Juhan Aavik

January 29, 1884, Holstre parish, Paistu parish – November 26, 1982, Stockholm
One of the establishers of the Estonian Composers' Union

The varied oeuvre of conductor, composer, pedagogue and versatile cultural figure Juhan Aavik is mainly based on folk material, it includes 175 opuses and ranges from opera and symphonic works to children's songs. However, choral and chamber music prevails. Of particular importance is the mixed-choir song "God Save Estonia" (1933) that was performed at the Estonian song festivals abroad and later, after achieving national independence, in Estonia as well. To the canon of Estonian solo songs belongs also "Longing for Home". Well-known are also many his children and mixed choir songs. The last works by Aavik were written in 1964–1966.

Juhan Aavik graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1907 in trumpet under Vassili Wurm, and in 1911 in music theory and composition under Anatoly Lyadov, Nicolai Soloviev, Jāzeps Vītols and Alexander Glazunov. In 1911–1925 Aavik lived in Tartu, where he acted as music director (1911–1915) and conductor at the Vanemuine theatre, being at the same time one of the founders and director (in 1919–1925) of the Tartu Higher School of Music. In 1925 Aavik went to Tallinn, where he became a leading figure in musical life: until 1933 he worked as a music director and conductor at the Estonia Theatre, being therefore an initiator of almost all the important undertakings of Estonian music. He was chairman, assistent director or board member of several societies and associations: director of the Tallinn Conservatoire (1933–1940 and 1941–1944), chairman of the Estonian Choral Association (with a one year’s respite 1929–1940), one of the founding members of the Estonian Composers’ Union’s predecessor, the Academic Society of Estonian Musicians (1924), chairman of the music area of the Estonian Ministry of Culture (1934–1940), principal conductor at the Estonian IX–XI Song Festivals and numerous provincial song festivals. In 1924–1940 Aavik was an editor and co-author of music magazine Muusikaleht; he wrote about 200 articles, published the memoirs From the Paths of Music I (Toronto,1959) and the four-part History of Estonian Music (I-II, Stockholm, 1965, III-IV, 1969).

Juhan Aavik started his pedagogical career already in 1919 at the Tartu Higher School of Music and went on with it in 1925–1944 at the Tallinn Conservatoire, where he became a professor in 1928. Among his students there were Tuudur Vettik and Gustav Ernesaks. As well as a number of other Estonian cultural professionals, Aavik emigrated to Sweden in 1944, where he continued his extensive creative activity. Taking care of the cultural life of the Estonians in exile he founded the Juhan Aavik Mixed Choir, through which Estonian choral works were promulgated, and conducted Estonian Song Festivals in Sweden, the USA and Canada.

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