Music News

Composer Veljo Tormis 85

On August 7, one of the Estonian living masters, composer Veljo Tormis, celebrates his 85th birthday. His contribution to the Estonian choral tradition and world choral music is invaluable, one may say that he has created a choral tradition of his own. Although having started in neoclassicist style – good example is his Overture No. 2 that was the first work of an Estonian composer performed at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1961 – he later took the usage of Estonian folk music to a new level by bringing into play modernist composition techniques. In addition to Estonian folk song, he uses also melodies of our other kindred nations: the Ingrians, Setus, Estonians, Latvians, Livonians, Finns, Russians, Bulgarians and other peoples. His original style derived from Estonian folk song regilaul has gained the worldwide recognition.


  Veljo Tormis
  Photo: Tõnu Tormis
Among his numerous works two extensive cycles come forth:  Estonian Calendar Songs („Eesti kalendrilaulud“, 1967) based on the folk melodies of different Estonian counties and tied to important dates in the folk calendar and Forgotten Peoples („Unustatud rahvad“, 1970–1989) based on the folklore of the endangered Baltic and Finnic peoples.

In August, there are many events dedicated to Veljo Tormis’s jubilee in Estonia:

* Estonian National Male Choir, Chamber Choir Collegium Musicale and Estonian TV Girls’ Choir perform 15 concerts entitled Tormis Over the Land in every county of Estonia. Concerts are organised by State Concert Institute Eesti Kontsert.

* From August 7 to 12, Nargenfestival and Von Krahl Theatre present the musical incantation Nativity Words based on Veljo Tormis’s works. Performers are Estonian National Male Choir, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, percussionist Reigo Ahven with Viljandi Drumlab, rune singer Ilona Korhonen (Finland) ja Von Krahl Theatre actors. Stage director is Peeter Jalakas, musical director Tõnu Kaljuste. Performances take place in the Noblessner foundry in Tallinn.

* From August 7 to 16, musical performance Izhorian Epic will be played for six times in Kodru marsh, Albu parish in Estonia. The performances are based on the traditions and heritage material of the Izhorians, Tormis’s cycle Izhorian Epic, Orthodox liturgy and Mart Saar choral songs on Izhorian melodies. Directors are Anne Türnpu and Eva Klemets, conductor is Janne Fridolin. On the stage there are actors Marika Vaarik, Inga Salurand, Bert Raudsep, Lauri Kaldoja and Jarmo Reha, accordion player Jaak Lutso and Chamber Choir Voces Musicales (dirigent Janne Fridolin).

* On August 9, Estonian Public Broadcast channel ETV2 presents a theme night of Veljo Tormis, showing six different films and broadcasts on Tormis’s life and work (in Estonian language). All of these can be watched online on August 9 and from the archive after that: