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Veljo Tormis, Estonia's most influental choral composer died on 21 January at the age of 86. Tormis' music is often connected with ancient folk songs...

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 The Curse upon Iron (Raua needmine)
Dominante, cond. Seppo Murto
(PKKCD-0496)

 Vision of Estonia (Nägemus Eestist)
Estonian National Male Choir, cond. Ants Soots
(Alba NCD 17)

 Overture No. 2
The Scottish National Orchestra, cond. Neeme Järvi
(Chandos Records CD 8656)

 Singing Aboard Ship
Estonian Radio Choir, cond. Toomas Kapten
(Finlandia Records CD-4509-96937)

 An Aboriginal Song (Pärismaalase lauluke)
Estonian National Male Choir, cond. Ants Soots
(Alba Records NCD 23)

Veljo Tormis


Veljo Tormis (7. August 1930 - 21. January 2017) was Estonia's most influental choral composer. He is recognized especially for his vocal and choral works. For him, music began with words; he did not have "purely musical" ideas. Tormis was a real master of large-scale choral composition. His music is often connected with ancient folk songs of Estonian and other Balto-Finnic peoples. The best known works in this genre are the Curse upon Iron (Raua needmine) and the song cycle Forgotten Peoples (Unustatud rahvad) - an extensive work which the composer worked on for nearly twenty years consisting of six cycles, each including a number of songs.

His acquaintance with the music of Bartók and Kodály during a visit to Hungary in 1962 was to have a great influence. Tormis has confessed that the choral compositions of Kodály were particularly close to him, and that one of his most popular cycles, Autumn Landscapes (1964), was written under their influence. Veljo Tormis finished his first great cycle, Estonian Calendar Songs in 1967, which was the starting point for "the Tormis' style", as we now know it, and several choral suites based on ancient folk songs of different peoples followed. No longer did Tormis use a folk tune as a melodic idea for further motivic development; instead, the old rustic songs sounded in his compositions in their original manner. Around them Tormis has built truly symphonic choral textures and dramatic musical structures. Other works include The Bishop and the Pagan from 1992, commissioned for the King's Singers and Kullervo's Message (1994), commissioned for the Hilliard Ensemble. Tormis has composed several works using the English and Latin translations of the Finnish epic the Kalevala.

Tormis studied composition at the Moscow Conservatory with Professor Vissarion Shebalin, graduating in 1956. He has taught at the Tallinn Music School and worked at the Estonian Composers' Union. Apart from choral works Tormis has composed stage works (e.g. the opera Swan Flight / Luigelend), solo songs, and few instrumental and orchestral pieces, among them the popular Overture No. 2 for symphony orchestra.

 

 

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