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ESTONIAN SYMPHONIC MUSIC. THE FIRST CENTURY 1896-1996. (0)

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UNO SOOMERE
ESTONIAN SYMPHONIC MUSIC.
THE FIRST CENTURY 1896-1996.
AN OVERVIEW
With a Historical and Cultural Summary
IN MEMORY OF THE GREAT ESTONIAN COMPOSERS
CONTENTS
ESTONIA AND THE ESTONIANS
FOREWORD

IN THE FOLD OF TSARIST RUSSIA . EMERGENCE AND FIRST STEPS ON THE CLASSICAL - ROMANTIC PATH .


HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION

I. MUSICAL LIFE IN TARTU AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY. TRAILBLAZERS: ALEKSANDER LÄTE, RUDOLF TOBIAS, ARTUR KAPP.


II. THE FIRST DECADE OF THE 20TH CENTURY. ARTUR LEMBA: THE BEGINNING OF ESTONIAN SYMPHONY AND OPERA.


III. NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN CULTURAL AND MUSICAL LIFE:


THE END OF THE TSARIST PERIOD .

THE INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA: THE INTRODUCTION OF INNOVATIONS FROM WESTERN ART AND THE EVOLUTION OF NATIONALLY ORIENTED MUSICAL TRENDS .


IV. THE TWENTIES. ARTUR KAPP: ROMANTICIST AND DRAMATIST.


V. THE INFLUENCE OF NEW WESTERN MUSICAL TRENDS. HEINO ELLER: A PROGRAMME PAINTER.


VI. THE THIRTIES. THE WIDENING OF NATIONAL SYMPHONISM. THE RISE OF ATTENTION TO HISTORY AND FOLKLORE: JUHAN AAVIK, EDUARD TUBIN, EUGEN KAPP.


VII. FURTHER MATURING OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC: HEINO ELLER, EVALD AAV, EDUARD TUBIN. THE FIRST ESTONIAN BALLET. SUMMARY OF THE REPUBLICAN PERIOD.


HALF A CENTURY UNDER SOVIET OCCUPATION . IDEOLOGY OVER MUSIC. EXTENSIVE INFLUX OF CONTEMPORARY TRENDS.


VIII. THE FORTIES. TRANSFORMATION OF ESTONIAN LIFE. THE WAR-TIME SYMPHONIC OUTPUT.


IX. THE PLANTING OF NEW CREATIVE PRINCIPLES DURING THE POST-WAR YEARS.


X. THE SECOND HALF OF THE FIFTIES. TOWARDS A MODERN IDIOM: EINO TAMBERG AND VELJO TORMIS.


XI. THE NEOCLASSICISM AND CONSTRUCTIVE THINKING OF JAAN RÄÄTS.


XII. THE FIRST HALF OF THE SIXTIES. DODECAPHONY OF ARVO PÄRT.


XIII. THE DRAMATIC PHILOSOPHICAL OUTPUT OF HELMUT ROSENVALD.


XIV. THE ELEMENTS OF JAZZ, FOLK MUSIC AND DODECAPHONY IN THE SYMPHONISM OF ANTI MARGUSTE.


XV. HEIMAR ILVES AND HIS MUSIC – DEEP IN THOUGHT AND FEELING .

XVI. THE POST-WAR SYMPHONIES OF EDUARD TUBIN. DEEPENING ACCENT ON PSYCHOLOGIC-DRAMATIC EXPRESSION.


XVII. THE SECOND HALF OF THE SIXTIES. THE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL IN THE ESTONIAN SYMPHONIC MUSIC. JAAN KOHA. ESTER MÄGI. KULDAR SINK.


XVIII. THE SEVENTIES. THE NINTH SYMPHONY OF EDUARD TUBIN. THE CREATIVE EVOLUTION OF ARVO PÄRT.


XIX. THE SEVENTIES. STYLISTIC DIVERSIFICATION. THE MATURE STYLES OF HEINO JÜRISALU, ANTI MARGUSTE AND EINO TAMBERG.


XX. ALO PÕLDMÄE: FULLNESS OF COLOURS AND MULTITUDE OF DETAILS.


XXI. MATI KUULBERG: SPECTACLE, BRILLIANCE, LIGHTNESS.


XXII. RAIMO KANGRO: ROCK, POP AND NEO-CLASSICISM.


XXIII. LEPO SUMERA: DEEP NATIONAL SPIRIT, EVOCATIVE AND PHILOSOPHICAL THINKING.


XXIV. ERKKI-SVEN TÜÜR: LYRICIST SEARCHING FOR HIS PATH THROUGH SYNTHESIS.


XXV. THE EIGHTIES. SUMMARY OF THE OUTPUT OF THE SOVIET PERIOD. RIPENING OF THE PRESUMPTIONS FOR A NEW HISTORICAL TURN.


THE RE-ESTABLISHED REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA.


XXVI. THE NINETIES AND THE FIFTH GENERATION OF COMPOSERS.


XXVII. THE SPECIFIC FEATURES AND TRENDS OF ESTONIAN NATIONAL SYMPHONISM.


XXVIII. THE PERFORMANCES OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC: THE ORCHESTRAS OF TARTU AND TALLINN.


XXIX. ESTONIAN SYMPHONISTS ABOUT CREATIVITY.


CONCLUSION


APPENDIXES
APPENDIX A. SELECTED PUBLICATIONS ON ESTONIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE IN GENERAL.
APPENDIX B. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF ESTONIAN SYMPHONIC MUSIC
APPENDIX C. RECORDINGS OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC.
APPENDIX D. SCORES OF SYMPHONIC MUSIC PUBLISHED.
APPENDIX E. CHRONOLOGY OF ESTONIAN SYMPHONIES.
APPENDIX F. SOUND TAPES OF ESTONIAN SYMPHONIES IN THE ESTONIAN MUSIC INFORMATION CENTRE AT THE COMPOSERS UNION.
APPENDIX G. SOME PROGRAMMES WITH ESTONIAN MUSIC AND CONDUCTORS.
APPENDIX H. INDEX OF PERSONAL NAMES .
APPENDIX I. SELECTION OF PHOTOGRAPHS.
APPENDIX J. MUSICAL EXAMPLES . PIANO ARRANGEMENTS AND SCORE SAMPLES.

APPENDIX K. USEFUL ADDRESSES.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ESTONIA AND THE ESTONIANS


Estonia is situated on the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland , between the Baltic Sea and Lake Peipsi . The country is populated by Estonians who belong to the Western Finnish group of nations, a branch of the Finno-Ugric stem, and speak the Estonian language . Estonia is the northernmost of the Baltic States . From west to east the length of the country is 360 kilometres and the width, from north to south , is 255 kilometres.
The area is 45,227 square kilometres of which more than 4,000 square kilometres are made up by islands and islets (over 1,000); there are more than 1,400 lakes that form nearly 5% of the total area. More than 40% of the entire area is woodland. The country is flat ; the average elevation is 50 metres above sea level. The highest peak , Suur Munamägi rises to only 317 metres. High limestone features characterise the north of the country, while the south has a drumlin terrain. The maritime climate is temperate, summers are warm and winters mildly cold , the average annual temperature is 5 degrees Celsius and the average annual precipitation is 550 millimetres. The most important assets of the soil are oil shale, phosphorite and peat.
The designation “Aestii” was first mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus in “Germania” (98 AD). By the end of the first millennium the people of Western Europe referred to the land of our ancestors with the name Estonia (derived from Germanic languages and means East). The Estonians, our Finno-Ugric forefathers settled here in approximately 5,000 BC from northern Russia and the Urals, as fishermen and hunters. They called themselves “ rural people”, the term “Estonians” started to spread three centuries ago, taking firm root in the middle of the 19th century.
From the 13th century onwards the ancient Estonians had to continually fight for their freedom , against the Danes, Germans, Swedes, Poles and Russians. The Russians annexed the Estonian territory from Sweden after the Great Northern War in 1721 by the Treaty of Nystad. After the fall of Tsarist Russia in 1917, Estonians fought for their independence, and in 1918 the Republic of Estonia was established and endured until 1940. In the summer of that year the Soviet Union occupied all three Baltic states.
As a result of the deep inner crisis within the Soviet Empire it became possible to re-establish the Estonian Republic in August 1991. A month later Estonia joined the United Nations. In 1997 the population reached 1.462 million; from this Estonians total 65% (950,124) and other nationalities 35%. The capital Tallinn, mentioned for the first time in 1154, has a population of 434,800 (1995). Other important towns are Tartu, Kohtla-Järve, Narva and Pärnu.
Estonia is a developed industrial and agricultural country. In industrial output: oil shale, electrical energy, mineral fertilisers, paper , chemicals, building material , and textile production are prominent . In agriculture: milk, milk products , meat, grain, potatoes, fruits and vegetables.
Estonian cultural life is manifold and intense , initiated by the National Awakening movement during the second half of the 19th century. Estonian folk arts date back to the remote past. In Estonia there are 27 higher educational establishments, among them seven universities with more than 25,000 students and post-graduates (1996); the oldest is Tartu University ( founded in 1632), which enjoys a high international reputation. In Estonia there are unions of writers , artists , composers, actors , cinematographers etc; ten professional theatres, two film studios, and the state institution Estonian Concert Agency .
The first Estonian book was published in 1525; in 1996 2,234 books and booklets were published in Estonian. The first film company began in 1920. A National Broadcasting Company was established in 1924, and Estonian Television in 1955.
Unique in their dimensions and popularity , with up to 30,000 singers and audiences over 200,000, are the traditional Song Festivals , which began in Tartu in 1869: they vividly express the feeling of oneness within the nation .
For further detailed information, please consult:
Statistical Yearbook of Estonia 1997.
Statistical Yearbook of Estonia 2000.
Life in Estonia. Handbook 2005. Ambassador Collection .
Statistical Yearbook of Estonia 2006.

FOREWORD


This book is first and foremost written by a composer. I am of the opinion that it is a creative individual that must take on this hard task : realising it, presumably, more profoundly as he stands nearer to the Source of all sources from which all the innermost sublime and substantial ideas stream .
In this book Estonian symphonic music is discussed from its starting point, the pathetic overture Julius Caesar (1896) by Rudolf Tobias , up to the works of the young composers of the 1990s. This is the first book that presents a general treatment of the Estonian symphonic music. Other Estonian literature on this subject has offered a broader background. This book should appeal to composers, musicologists, conductors, educationalists, instrumentalists, music students, as well as everybody interested in Estonian symphonic music.
The book is divided into 29 chapters where more than 70 orchestral compositions of 32 composers are examined. The background on the developments in music is illustrated through historical data and cultural achievements in literature, art, theatre and film in all their complexity . For making the music accessible 238 score examples (piano arrangements and some score originals) have been added. There is a Bibliography and list of useful addresses.
I have worked on this text for twenty- five years , with some intervals, paying a lot of attention to the phenomena of cultural life in general. Without this background and the changes in it there would be no new and novel happenings in the Arts. For evaluating the past and present we need a perspective. This perspective cannot be confined to that which is at hand at the present moment: it loses its sense . While examining our present achievements we must not praise them excessively: this may lead to the abasement of the ideal .
The essential development of Estonian music has taken place within the past one hundred years. The creation of national symphonic works indicated that a remarkable cultural level had been attained. A need for such music had arisen and there were composers able to fulfil that need. Further development has brought forth pregnant, succinct individual works based on both nationally inspired and international means of expression. Juxtaposing the beginnings and the present moment we may observe the continual increase of manifold aesthetic values , being merged into the cultural life of the epoch, mirroring the eternal demands of Man’s spiritual existence.
I am aware of the complexity and difficulty of the task I have undertaken. Estonian symphonic music: this is a wide world of sound, full of contradictory artistic ideas, strivings, explorations, discoveries, success and failure . This is the musical chronicle of an epoch already lived. Naturally, one person cannot grasp it totally with all its multiple manifestations: it seems impossible. Therefore we have to have certain reservations when evaluating the works of composers who are still writing. There is no temporal distance between music and the listener. The spirituality and pithiness of music opening up in the course of time pronounce the last word on either the value or worthlessness of any musical composition .
I am writing about Estonian symphonists and symphonism. What do I mean by this term? For example, one can speak of the symphonism of Eduard Tubin , Artur Kapp and Arvo Pärt . In its best and exact sense symphonism means the creation of a sublime philosophical idea in music in an intense extensive and developing form. Symphonism is a way of thinking through the medium of music and therefore perhaps the most prefect way in its singularity. Only an artist whose inner world is rich in thought and perception and who is endowed with a strong faculty of logical thinking and powerful fantasy , can develop into a symphonist. In symphonism both the dynamics of inner and outer world conflicts, collisions and dialectics springing from the synthesis of opposing forces are revealed. Due to these qualities symphonism becomes apparent in opera , oratorio, concerto and chamber music. However , the broadest opportunities for the method are pronounced in orchestral music.
From a historical standpoint we can divide the evolution of Estonian symphonic music into four periods: Russian Empire 1896-1918; Republic of Estonia 1918-1940; Soviet occupation 1940-1991; and the re-established independent Republic of Estonia since 1991. The latter period, however, began with some difficulties and serious problems.
It is important to note that during the period 1908-2000 Estonian composers wrote 144 symphonies. This great number serves as motivation to confine myself to orchestral works. Moreover , this number may be somewhat larger if we take into account that I have no exact information about the activities of all Estonian composers living outside Estonia. From this uneven and variegated whole I had to choose works worthy of attention. Thus I have had to treat the symphonists in the same manner . I apologise if a colleague does not find his name mentioned. The volume for this extensive work is limited. As the manifold activity of several elder composers still has deep significance today , I have, for the sake of completeness, discussed their other spheres of operation .
Symphonic music is divided into two large subsections: instrumental and choral (oratorio and cantata) works. The latter has been severely cut from this work; some examples from momentous stage and oratorical works constitute an exception. The orchestral music will be discussed in some detail, bringing forth the human being and their eternal problems in the widest and deepest sense. The need to be concise and comprehensive has directed the choice of music. I have attempted to elicit the most essential without analysing all of the details . However, the reverse may happen and some of the essential may get lost .
Nevertheless, it is impossible to handle all the challenges of one specific musical field in a single book. Several questions connected with creativity, both of the musician (inducements, scope of ideas, intentions) and the listener-auditor (traditionalism, novelty, subjective wishes), can be answered most effectively by the music itself. Thus many unanswered questions remain . Therefore, this book should be considered as an attempt to convey a general picture . Moreover, I had to set limits in the treatment of the historical-cultural status forming an integral part of the whole.
A book on this subject may be conceived in two different ways :
1) Laying the main emphasis on symphonism as the creative method and demonstrating how different composers in different periods have applied it individually.
In this case the creative method would be the “ axis ” with the composer “spinning” around it. This is a deductive form of research.
2) Observing Estonian symphonic output both in an exact and broad sense and connecting these aspects. Both the individuality of the creative method with the concomitant typical features are taken into account, thus the orchestral music would illustrate, to advantage , the “axis”. This is the inductive form of research. The latter approach seems more expedient to the author.
To get a deeper understanding of every single work I try to establish the idea concerning musical thought and feeling, through this concept the philosophical aspect of creation will make itself manifest. From this we can attain a deeper understanding of the composer’s thought processes . In evaluation I begin with ethical aspects and the cultural-historical background.
The aim has been to attain maximal objectivity by not only relying on my spiritual criteria and personal opinion but also offering the viewpoint of others – composers and scholars – in order to create a wider base for evaluation. Simultaneously I am not obliged to follow any intricate theories whoever the theorist may be. The only real source for all is the live animated performance of music.
Speaking about the intrinsic value of music composition, the great erudite Estonian composer, Maestro Heimar Ilves, noted that approximately 80 to 90% is hidden in the creative ideas within the thematic material.1 The great, decisive role of thematics, core ideas, is emphasised by the outstanding symphonist Eduard Tubin and by Artur Kapp, both meritorious Estonian composers.
When we want to consider a musical work seriously there must be a considerable core idea: vivid, momentous, profound and absorbing. It may be expressed through different means and not only through a completed conception. We can recognise this when it is evident that there is no equivalent possible in words . Music and speech are two different forms of language: often flowing in parallel , but never coinciding.
Creation is simply unexplainable and those who are of the opinion that by analysing music its value can be analysed, have taken a wrong path. Value remains beyond analytical means.2
The first Estonian symphonists (Tobias, Kapp, Lemba) began with a classical-romantic background applying historically defined subdivisions: action , mediation, playfulness, and closure. With all this complexity there must be for the listener a recognisable value-judgement core: it may be comprehensible either semantically or absolutely.
We must not forget that all change and transition in Estonian symphonism, in whatever period, never dominated all the composers. Perseverance, poise and conservatism1 have shown, usually later than sooner, that all is not gold that glitters from afar, and chasing “ fresh -isms” may prove to be a naïve and infantile stimulation.
“Concrete” music, instrumental (absurdist) theatre, “happenings” – such affairs do not, in my opinion, illustrate an exceptional talent , but rather feebleness. One of the great absurdities seems to be the fusion of many antagonistic styles, methodologies and languages in one composition: all becomes equally hazy and flat. Remembering the beginning of the 1960s , when the “new wave” of Modernism had arrived on my doorstep, I have to note some points that are still relevant today.
Firstly, the symphonist as a creative entity: their spiritual existence is the key to the value of their music. During the Soviet occupation a popular bon mot was: “Artists are engineers of the human soul .” It has certain credibility even today. A genuine talent will exert a profound influence on their audience : acknowledged internationally, they have taken tremendous responsibility on themselves, leading , possibly, masses either towards illumination or spiritual repression.
Secondly, the concept of symphony has diffused; maybe other designations would be more fitting: musical pictures, sound poems , scenes, moments, etc. In connection with this a question of relative and absolute aesthetic values arises. How far can an author go that his compositions can still be considered music?
Music must be renewed every day. (Karlheinz Stockhausen)
All is music. (John Cage)
At least for a certain time consonance must be eliminated from music. ( Arnold Schönberg)
All are architects . (Joseph Beuys)
Structure – this is one of the keywords of modern music. (Pierre Boulez)
We should in the first place draw a flexible borderline between art music and background music (usually performed to accompany visual arts). It is common to connect contemporaneity with technical forms. I cannot consider the aspect of analysis in detailed, all-dissecting, formal treatment either as conclusive or resolute. This is just a reverse process to creation. I agree with Arnold Schönberg who said: “… look at my works what they are and not how they have done .”1
In my understanding the terms contemporary, modern, up-to-date, new, novel, old- fashioned and so on, have become unclear and even lost their synonymous content. Everything seems relative. However, on an absolute spiritual level, which we have yet to reach , all contradictions will, in the end, find their solution . This is the true path and there stand the genuine answers. In other words, when trying to evaluate music you have to shift attention from your Head to your spiritual Heart .
Genuine art production must be the source for spiritual nourishment. Real advancement as I comprehend it stands in mounting higher, nearer to divinity, not vice versa. The orchestral creation may be considered a powerful means for spiritual growth .
Modern Estonian symphonism exhibits diverse , uneven, splintered tendencies. Several young composers have shifted their attention to timbres and “ pure ” sound. The major , painful problem is the shortage of vigorous, impressive and profound core ideas.
Considering that Estonian symphonism as a profession is just a century old we can hardly regard ourselves as highly developed. The opinions and evaluations from a modern perspective may seem an exaggeration, as Rudolf Tobias prophetically stated in 1913.2
Commentary and evaluation is a complicated challenge since no human language is able to adequately express everything that has been expressed in music. The essential thing for the qualified reader is undoubtedly listening to Estonian music: experiencing its emotions and discovering its ideas and values.
It appears that the contemporary is not “contemporary” at all. In its deepest layers it maintains inseparable connections with the past and makes its way into the future. The requirement for the novel appears as an assertion towards the external search, but is it not evident that the start of the search should be internal , towards the Primary Source. What I mean here is not so much a certain style but the essence of the music we would like to adopt. This is neither old nor new, because it is born from the Absolute. This cannot be put into words but recognised only. We hear and sense it in the Indian raga, the Gregorian chant , the mass of Palestrina, the passion of Bach and the symphony of Beethoven . At the side of such music modern poly -stylistics may be just a desperate quest.
The values in Estonian music and their reception in the world indicate that first of all the works of Rudolf Tobias, Eduard Tubin and Arvo Pärt are recognised and appreciated. The reasons for this simply flow from their music.
Some of my colleagues may find one or another aspect of Estonian symphonism lacking in my survey . This is unavoidable. I opine that what may seem very important “inside” here, may seem quite unimportant to observers “outside”. If there is anything exemplary in my investigation, it is undoubtedly Estonian symphonic music at its highest and most sublime. It is natural that high value in music, its sublime and profound impact, on the base of a grand spiritual idea, can be expressed completely only by pure and clear means. Our analyses and evaluations, be they either positive or negative , do not change the value of a single composition in an absolute sense.
As Buddha put it:
It was so of old, Atula. It is not just so today. They criticise him who sits in silence, they criticise him who talks a lot. They even criticise him who speaks in moderation. There is not a man in the world who is not criticised.
(Dhammapada, Adage 227).
A spiritual level and erudition in the arts, the ability to recognise and evaluate existing high artistic qualities is essential. The more the listener searches for the sublime spiritual germ in music and is able discover and evaluate it all, the more competent and objective they will become.
I must thank the late Professor Leo Normet, PhD, of the Estonian Academy of Music for his advice and assistance in my use of English musicological expressions . Professor Roman Toi, PhD, of the Royal Conservatory of Toronto; Doctor Ea Jansen of The Institute of History at Tallinn University for their valuable opinions; Professors Margus Pärtlas and Eino Tamberg of the Estonian Academy of Music and Maris Männik-Kirme of Tallinn University for their useful remarks.
I deliver my sincere gratitude to the musicologist Priit Kuusk for his thorough and erudite help with annotations. My thanks also to the English editor Janusz Peters and his research team Maria Ehrenberg and Karola Tönov for their kind assistance in the preparation of the manuscript for publication.
And last but not least I owe many thanks to our prominent and meritorious conductor Maestro Neeme Järvi for his essential assistance in setting the manuscript in motion .
This book is indebted to Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba, the God Incarnate in Prasanthi Nilayam, the Southern Indian State Andhra Pradesh. For the fundamental conceptions in the arts and life I rely on His guidance, especially on the brief presentation of ageless Truths in the subchapter About Spirituality in Music.
Uno Soomere
Tallinn, January 2008.

IN THE FOLD OF TSARIST RUSSIA. EMERGENCE AND FIRST STEPS ON THE CLASSICAL-ROMANTIC PATH.


HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION


Listening to poetry and singing the finest vital functions awaken.
You feel being appeased by it. You will improve and progress.
Kristjan Raud, 1911.
Estonian culture did not possess the same opportunities for development as the great nations of the West: from the middle of the thirteenth century Estonia, in essence, had the status of a colonial territory and Estonians had to live under the oppression of several foreign powers: Germany , Russia, Denmark , Poland and Sweden.
Throughout this period the main channel of expression, national spirit , and the guardian of national identity was the indigenous Estonian folk art: runic poetry, songs , tales, tunes , dances, richly decorated handicraft, and folk customs. The ancient Estonian runic song stood quite apart from the European tradition : the core consisting of one-two phrases in small diapason (up to 5-6 tones), recitative performance, slow movements, a governing epic -lyrical mood with mostly stable rhythmic patterns , as a rule usually sung by women in one voice . In the second half of the 19th century Estonian folk song and folk poetry were displaying novel features. The end rhyme became dominant and previous archaic melodies were substituted by more lively tunes sometimes reproducing features from German and Swedish music.
After the Great Northern War in 1721 Estonia became part of the Russian Empire; though Estonians had lived as the serfs of the Baltic-German nobility since the 16th century, they would remain serfs until 1816 when serfdom in Estonia was abolished by the Russian tsarist government . The Baltic Germans retained their upper class position , both spiritual and economic , until the end of the 19th century. The abolition of serfdom and the reforms that followed stimulated the economic development and the rise of an Estonian class of small landowners, peasants with some civil rights .
At the same time the rise of national self- consciousness encouraged Estonians into purposeful efforts to acquire education. Some important preconditions for this had been obtained. Teachers received their education mostly from the pedagogical seminaries in the towns of Tartu and Valga. Village teachers and parish clerks were called “the salt of the earth” and their manifold educational and cultural activities inspired the people.
The first choirs and later brass bands were organised in rural areas during the 1820s and 30s. Singing and instrumental playing were included in the curriculum of parish schools by the second quarter of the century. By the end of the century, due to these schools teaching in the mother tongue, the majority of Estonians had attained full literacy. This education programme would become the foundation for the progress of a nascent national culture and the development of a young Estonian intelligentsia.
Improvements in the economic capacity of the peasantry on the one hand and the continuation of the education programme on the other soon bore the first fruit. The period between 1860 and 1885 is generally known in Estonian history as the Era of National Awakening: the emergence of national self-consciousness without political independence. The elevation of educational and cultural life, the organisation of communal and political activity became the main national aims. Estonians recognised they were bound by their country, their language, spirit and common goals in their struggle against foreign domination. The Estonian intelligentsia, growing and developing, became the spiritual and ideological backbone of the nation.
During the period of National Awakening the first cultural institutions were founded and the first prominent Estonians in the cultural field, whose activities would have a deep and lasting influence, came to the forefront of Estonian society. Johann Voldemar Jannsen (1819-1890) was the first editor of the first permanent Estonian newspaper , Pärnu Postimees (Pärnu Postman), established in 1857; he was also the founder of the first influential cultural society Vanemuine in 1865. In 1869 the Vanemuine Society organised the first national song festival , all choirs and brass bands gathered together in Tartu. Though following German patterns, this all-Estonian enterprise became a national tradition and, coloured by the Estonian spirit, expressed the unity of the Estonian people. In its essence this became a spiritual manifestation of national potential. The success of the festival led to more choirs and bands being organised in Estonia. The following year the society would found the first amateur theatre. Dr. Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald (1803-1882) was the compiler of the national epic poem , Kalevipoeg, the first Estonian literary work to achieve international recognition, published in sequels between 1857 and 1861; he was a strong influence on the young Estonian intellectuals, a writer , a practising physician, and a member of foreign societies (the Finnish Literary Society and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences ). Dr. Karl August Hermann (1851-1909) was a philologist, the most prominent figure in the music life during the National Awakening, and the publisher of the first Estonian music journal Laulu ja Mängu Leht (Newspaper of Song and Play).1
The early Estonian nationalists fought for civil rights, the democratisation of society, raising the educational and cultural level, and against privileges and rank . Dr. Jakob Hurt (1839-1907), pastor, theologian, folklorist and philologist, became the ideological leader of the nation and was the first president of Eesti Kirjameeste Selts (Society of Estonian Men of Letters ). He outlined a wide national cultural programme to deal with the substantial cultural and educational challenges that deeply engrossed him; he was the initiator and organiser of a great collection of folklore and folk songs, and scholarly research. Jakob Hurt advocated the rights of the Estonian language in schools and official management , emphasised the importance of folklore, equal rights of all nations to existence, and the advancement of the church in the spiritual life of the nation. Carl Robert Jakobson (1841-1882), as well as being a journalist, writer and educationalist, was an active politician and ideologist; his ideal was to have a free Estonian farmer, independent of the German landlord, achieving this status through the redemption of his land.
The original literature of the period well represented the time; nationalist ideas together with protests against the privileges of the Baltic-German nobility stood in the forefront. Historical topics were often written in prose , for example, stories by Eduard Bornhöhe (1862-1923), Tasuja (Avenger), novels by Andres Saal (1861- 1931 ), such as Vambola. These were romantically inspired scenes from the heroic and desperate struggle against the German knightly orders in the 13th and 14th centuries. Under the harsh conditions of the Russification programme initiated in the 1880s such books stimulated the national spirit and willpower to resist all alien oppression.
The poetess and playwright Lydia Koidula (1843-1886, daughter of Johann Voldemar Jannsen) played an exceptionally important role in the two decades before her death ; her poetic talent emotionally and inspirationally expressed the national spirit, glorifying her homeland and its people. Koidula’s song, Mu Isamaa on Minu Arm (My Country is My Love) with the music written by Gustav Ernesaks (1908-1993) finished every song festival since 1947 (a tradition still very much alive ), and became the unofficial anthem during the Soviet occupation when her father ’s Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm (My Country is My Pride and Joy), the anthem of the first independent Estonian Republic (music by Friedrich Pacius, 1809-1891) was banned. For the Vanemuine Society, as a founder member of the national amateur theatre, her first play, Saaremaa Onupoeg (The Cousin from Saaremaa) was the inaugural performance of the theatre in 1870.
The completion of Johann Köler’s (1826-1899) studies at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1855 may be given as the birth date of Estonian national art. Though he travelled extensively in Europe, with a long sojourn in Italy, and became a professor and member of the Russian Academy of Arts (he was also the private teacher to Maria, the daughter of Tsar Alexander II), he became one of the prominent and influential leaders of the Estonian democratic movement. Other figures of note are the sculptors August Weizenberg (1837-1921) and Amandus Adamson (1855-1929); both studied in St. Petersburg and in Europe, gaining European recognition.
The first notable Estonian composers, the brothers Aleksander Saebelmann-Kunileid (1849-1875) and Friedrich August Saebelmann (1851-1911), were amateurs. However, their songs and arrangements of folk tunes have preserved their intrinsic value.
Several composers were inevitably influenced , and therefore limited, in their development by the spirit of German music (a singing style often referred to as Liedertafel). Yet we have to appreciate the long historical connections with German culture; whether in music of different genre or in other fields. In the 19th century German cultural influences were the attainable means to gain an insight into advanced Western culture, as well as other world cultures . We may argue that the process of “national awakening” had a connection with the resurgence of the Baltic-German culture.
The ideas of the German Enlightenment philosopher and critic Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803), the theorist of Sturm und Drang, had exerted an influence on the emerging Estonian intelligentsia. In this respect , Tartu University, having international connections and developing an international reputation, had a remarkable effect on the cultural thought of the whole nation.
The Russification policies of the late 19th century restrained the development of national cultural life. It was a specific counter -attack on the influence of German culture by the tsarist government. The Russian language was established as the official language in all schools and government institutions. In spite of this Estonian social and cultural life continued to develop, the song festivals retained their nationalist spirit, choral singing remained popular and the number of brass bands grew. David Otto Wirkhaus (1837-1912) was the first organiser and conductor at the all-Estonian song festivals.
The non-existence of national independence, the limitations to civil liberties and political activity, the shortage of funds and capable intellectuals all provided obstacles for a general cultural evolution as well as the development in music. This was the era that witnessed the blossoming of an amateur in music.
Johannes Kappel (1855- 1902 ), composer and organist, graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire with honours in 1881; he would become the first professional musician of Estonia. Miina Härma (1864-1941), the first female Estonian composer, and Konstantin Türnpu (1865-1927)1 also graduated from the Conservatoire; they graduated as organists having studied composition as a subsidiary subject. However, they would not become symphonists.
Symphonic music was still waiting for its time.

I. MUSICAL LIFE IN TARTU AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY.

TRAILBLAZERS: ALEKSANDER LÄTE, RUDOLF TOBIAS, ARTUR KAPP.


The tsarist Russification policy failed to halt the consolidation of the Estonian social and cultural consciousness to pursue their aims and aspirations. By the turn of the century the university town of Tartu retained its leading role as the cultural centre of Estonia. The general level of cultural life was rising and the body of Estonian intelligentsia was growing rapidly. Two distinct groups of the Estonian intelligentsia can be identified. The faction in Tartu, gathered round the newspaper Postimees, was led by Jaan Tõnisson (1868-1941?), a lawyer and politician, one of the founders of the first Estonian bank in 1902 and establisher of the first Estonian political party Rahvameelne Eduerakond (National Progressive Party) in 1905.1 The group in Tallinn centred round the newspaper Teataja (The Announcer), and was headed by the lawyer and politician Konstantin Päts (1874-1957). Among the members were the writers Eduard Vilde (1865-1933), Anton Hansen Tammsaare (1878-1940), and the philologist Johann Voldemar Veski (1873-1968). The newspaper concentrated on economic development, social problems and democratic reform, availability of primary and secondary education in the native language of Estonians.
In Estonian literature critical realism came to the fore , exemplified in the works of Eduard Vilde, many of which have a strong social background; Külmale maale (To the Frozen North, 1896), for example, depicted the poverty and decline in village life. At the same time the mature works of the poet Juhan Liiv (1864-1912) had a great impact reflecting both the sorrow he felt about the problems of Estonian society and the adoration he had for his country.
In the visual arts realism was adopting modern trends. Many artists took their subject matter from rural life. Kristjan Raud (1865-1943) became the first whose charcoal drawings and paintings reflected national symbolic backgrounds. As the opportunities for artists to work in Estonia improved, Kristjan Raud and Ants Laikmaa (1866-1942), opened their studios in Tallinn and Tartu. Both are regarded as the founders of national art life. Impressionism had exerted an influence on the works of Konrad Mägi (1878-1925) and Paul Burman (1888-1934), their works express the richness of colour in nature . Exhibitions were organised, Estonian folk art was cherished and collected into the archive of Eesti Rahva Muuseum (Estonian National Museum ) founded in 1909 for research and popularisation of Estonian history and culture. In spite of the lack of badly needed funds, Estonian society demonstrated its selflessness by supporting the establishment of schools, cultural societies and theatre buildings.
In drama at the turn of the century several permanent amateur theatre companies were established. According to the press of the time there were over a hundred amateur groups and 84 music societies in Estonia. Contemporary foreign plays were performed for the first time (for example, Ibsen and Shaw).
The music life in Tartu was evolving both in width and depth and Estonian music achieved a higher level as the first professional orchestral works were written by Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918), Aleksander Läte (1860-1948) and Artur Kapp (1878-1952).
Aleksander Läte, after graduating from the Dresden Conservatoire where he studied choral composition between 1895 and 1897, settled in Tartu in 1900. There he founded the first Estonian symphony orchestra composed of students, school teachers and pupils from the secondary school. The first performance of the orchestra took place in November 1900, compositions by Haydn , Schubert and Cherubini were performed and the audience’s reception was extremely warm. Inspired by this success Läte organised two choirs to perform cantatas and oratorios. At the same time he was active as a music critic and one of the pioneers of Estonian chamber music. His most fruitful years were between 1900 and 1907. The output of the composer indicates a transition, after a long formative process, from following German patterns to a more crisp expression.
His first attempt in symphonic music was the overture Kalevala (1897, completed in 1900), the term-work at the Dresden Conservatoire, depicting the Finnish national epic in sound. The hero of this programmatic work is Väinämöinen, coming from the ocean and ordained to work and fight on Earth. Kalevala was composed for twofold instrumental scoring, also used by Tobias, Kapp and other contemporaries. The form was conventional: an introduction, sonata- allegro form, and coda . The main theme (Väinämöinen) is not especially vigorous, it is somewhat mild and static. There is a soft and lyrical subsidiary theme expressing the hero’s love for the Northern Maiden ; though there is little contrast between the themes .

Example 1.

Example 2.


The development could have been more purposeful. Preference has been given to repetitions, with some alterations, of the main theme. Qualitatively novel sequences are few. Both the classical harmony and the scanty imitational polyphony are simple . The final section (Presto) proceeds in gushing swing .
The German critic Carl Hunnius wrote:
Praising the Overture we can say that it reveals a vivid character , contains deep thoughts and is composed boldly with firm features. But its drawback stands in the not great impression at the end. We consider the short and unexpected final Presto guilty in this, booming and banging… threatening to demolish the stately edifice.1
The overture was warmly received, as with every new symphonic composition at the time, but it did not have any permanent influence on Estonian symphonic music. Obviously such themes demanded quite a different creative hand, one that could express “thunder and lightning ”. Some later works by Läte do not excel the overture in their quality . No doubt , for the composer the overture was a weighty achievement .
From 1904 onwards the activities of the composer Rudolf Tobias played an important role in Tartu. He returned from St. Petersburg, where he had graduated from the Conservatoire as a composer and organist in 1897. He was active as a music teacher, conductor, organist, pianist , critic, and together with Läte arranged performances of classical music. Tobias formed the first Estonian string quartet and Heino Eller (1887-1970) was its first violinist. In 1906 the Vanemuine Theatre orchestra became professional. This all helped bring about a qualitative change in the musical life of the town.
By 1908 both Läte and Tobias had ceased their activities in Tartu but the foundations for performing Estonian symphonic music had been laid . From the summer of 1908 symphonic concerts continued under the baton of Samuel Lindpere (1872-1928).
Tobias was one of the first Estonian music journalists and critics . In his writings he expressed his faith in the future of Estonian music, however, he realised that there were no favourable opportunities for the performance of large works under the restricting circumstances. He hoped to find suitable opportunities in Western Europe and left for Europe in January 1908. Before departure, he gave a concert of his works, a second concert took place later in Tallinn.1 The programme included his pathetic overture Julius Caesar. This work stands out as the first Estonian symphonic composition, written in 1896, during his student years in St. Petersburg, one year earlier than Kalevala by Aleksander Läte. The music was inspired by the Shakespearian tragedy of the same title.
The overture begins with a bright introductory theme on brass instruments : let us call it the theme of Caesar:

Example 3.


The next subsidiary theme is mournful and restless. As a formal novelty the subsidiary theme is presented in a D major tonality (the main tonality being C minor ), characterised by the effect of a brightening colourful harmony and non-quadratic structure:

Example 4.


The main theme (Allegro) is full of energy, like a challenge:

Example 5.


The thematics of the overture is concentrated; the development section is based on recurrences of themes and their modifications. The mutability of timbres, both the openness of harmonic “direction” and the non-quadratic form are remarkable features.
Tobias is applying the principle of motivic development, yet all the themes maintain their basic character evenly in the process. In harmony the classical homophonic foundation is obvious. The leading role belongs to the strings , while the solos of the brass are unpretentious, giving the whole texture an airiness of sound. The inflexionally intensified repetitions build the tension in the whole.
In his work Tobias appears as a pathetic rather than a psychologically dramatic composer. The inner world of his hero Caesar has been explored convincingly and with vigour, especially if we take into account that Tobias was only 23 and the overture was his term work. We can detect neither a pronounced individuality nor direct influence, apart from some stylistic patterns of Beethoven. Yet the features of individuality are in sight : especially in harmony and the shaping of form. We consider the overture a valuable cornerstone of Estonian symphonic music, though here and in the following symphonic works of the period, the pursuit of national musical expression had yet to start.
Included in the concert programme of 1907 was Tobias’s Konzertstück, the first piano concerto with orchestra in Estonian music, probably completed in 1898 . The composer played the solo . We can observe the influence of Schumann, Liszt and Grieg. The romantic-lyrical spirit is dominant, dramatic elements seem to vanish into the multicoloured stream of beautiful thoughts. In spite of the classical rondo -sonata form of the Finale improvisational freedom is prevalent: poetic reverie alternates with vigorous outbursts, being somewhat decorative and spectacular.
Tobias developed into a grand master in his last period in Germany, his music abounding with ideas and vitality. Already during his Tartu years he had an intention to write an opera on the national epic Kalevipoeg. In Germany, the search for national expression became manifest in Capriccio (1909) based on the Estonian folk tune Varese sõjasõnumida (The Crow’s War Message ), the ballad Sest Ilmaneitsist ilusast (The Beautiful Heavenly Maiden, 1911) and Kalevipoja epiloog (Kalevipoeg’s Epilogue, 1912) for reciter and orchestra.
In Berlin he became acquainted with some prominent musicians, Ferruccio Busoni among them, who held in high esteem his piano playing, erudition in music and openness. During the last six years of his life (1912-1918), apart from a two year hiatus in the German army, he taught music theory at Königliche Hochschule für Musik (Berlin Royal College of Music). The years in Germany, especially the war years, brought much hardship, and an overstrained life struggle led to his death from pneumonia in October 1918.
Tobias as a creator with a dramatic nature concentrated his energies on oratorio and cantata, being a pioneer in many respects. His oratorio Des Jona Sendung (The Mission of Jonah, 1909) for five soloists, three choirs, organ and symphony orchestra, is one of the most profound and forceful works in Estonian music. Its first performance was in Leipzig in the same year,1 finding approval in the German press, an acknowledgement in spite of certain failure in rendition. A partial performance took place in Tallinn, August 25th, 1913 to mark the opening of the new Estonia Theatre and Concert Hall buildings.
I hope that my work will not be lost for the Estonians, from the deepest roots of my heart I have raised it as I experienced everything I wanted to tell about my hero.2
The oratorio consists of 38 sections arranged into 5 scenes. The dramatic tension of the work is shown through the contrasting heavenly and mundane forces. The essential message of Jonah to the people is to lead a pious, pure life and to surrender oneself to God’s will. The composer was seized by the character of Jonah and saw him as a symbol of moral resistance of a minority to the rulers of Nineveh. And the prophet fulfils his mission.
Example 6. Leitmotif of God.
Example 7. Leitmotif of Jonah.
In 1910 Tobias wrote:
Ecclesiastical music exists and is a powerful agent that every serious musician must take into consideration, whether he wishes it or not. Mystical threads are invisibly connecting musical art and the religious world proceeding between superhuman and mysticism. The composers of today are lacking the organ of interest in transcendental matters, but in most cases they have not found timely contents for traditional forms of sacred music.3
Dr. Hermann Kretzschmar, the Rector of Königliche Hochschule für Musik, after becoming acquainted with the oratorio said that from the time of J.S. Bach to the present (1912) there was no other powerful composition in the given genre. Thanks to his oratorio Tobias was accepted as a temporary lecturer on music theory at the Hochschule in 1912.
For decades this great and large, deeply individual and dynamic work, full of creative imagination (not limited by the short Book of Jonah in its essence) remained unknown. The first full performance of the oratorio took place in Tallinn on May 25th, 1989, the soloists, choirs and orchestra conducted by Peeter Lilje (1950-1993). A restored oratorio, by Vardo Rumessen, was performed on June 23rd, 1994, conducted by Neeme Järvi (b. 1937). A successful tour of Northern Europe followed. Leo Krämer, the principal conductor of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, 1991-1993, stated:
I delight in the synthesis that can be found in the Oratorio. This is Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, St. Petersburg included. The composer has interwoven all the threads in a genial manner, so the full accordance is recognisable. This is marvellous.1
In 1928 Mart Saar (1882-1963) wrote:
Tobias is a strong talent with a tendency towards Neo- classicism . He impresses us more with the strength of his talent and character than with originality. What we can recognise in his works is alert , courageous, vivid and optimistic moods with an aspiration for powerful, mighty, potent and grand conceptions. His melody is precious, even sublime and abstract . His polyphony differs from that of Wagner and Richard Strauss as more limited and dependent on harmonic bases… With all his mastery of composition he has not set any element of music, let it be harmony, counterpoint or form-polishing as a special purpose for himself .’2
The second orchestral work in Estonian music – we must keep in mind the chronological order of their completion – was the dramatic overture Don Carlos 1, composed as a term work by Artur Kapp in 1899.
Artur Kapp graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in composition in 1900. He continued working in St. Petersburg as a teacher and organist, having given concerts in Moscow , Estonia and Finland since 1898. In 1904 he accepted the post of director at the Astrakhan2 Music School, where his activities were numerous: teaching, composing prolifically, and performing as an organist and conductor. In 1920 he returned home to Estonia.
Don Carlos was first performed in Pavlovsk3, later in Moscow, in Astrakhan and in Tartu4. In the work the main feature of Kapp’s individual style for powerful dramatic tension associated with passionate lyricism was already developing. The score has an abundance of thematic material. The introductory theme begins with the doleful sounds of a French horn :

Example 8.


The strenuous singing main theme (Violins) is activated by chromatics and syncopation:

Example 9.


The subsidiary theme is also in a minor key and played as if in one exhalation of breath, this is a wide “vocalisation” (Flute, Clarinet and Violins): like the plaintive song of a lost soul:

Example 10.


In the slightly extended development section all the thematic material has been remarkably transformed. The music of Kapp, in accordance with his nature, is intrinsically dynamic. The introductory theme is remodelled at the end, in a powerful imperative movement. The influences of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky may be detected. The score is compact though not overloaded. Quick changes dart throughout the piece , the composer illustrates the inner contradictions, pain, hopes and poetry of the hero, Prince Carlos, son of Philip II. This may sound operatic without the staging, but Kapp had a remarkable penchant for psychological characterisation. In comparison with Julius Caesar we hear more thematic material and as a result the form is more extensive.
Generally in the first orchestral compositions by Rudolf Tobias, Aleksander Läte and Artur Kapp we can discern notable national-romantic tendencies. To be precise it was the classical-romantic background that gave impetus to their development. This was nothing extraordinary because influences from German and Russian music were still perceptible. In subject matter and creative approach we can draw parallels with painting and sculpture where the precepts of academic art prevailed before the turn of the century: the artists had a similar educational background and many had studied in St. Petersburg.

II. THE FIRST DECADE OF THE 20TH CENTURY.

ARTUR LEMBA: THE BEGINNING OF ESTONIAN SYMPHONY AND OPERA.


The Russian revolution of 1905 gave a strong incentive for further developments both in the social and spiritual spheres in Estonia. This was the time for the extensive formation of a middle class in Estonia and the deepening of social contradictions within the nation. Political parties were formed. The revolution was an important event in liberating the thought and active energy of the Estonians: the ideas of territorial autonomy and self-determination were spreading.
The Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia) developed as an important cultural and literary movement. In their first almanac, issued in 1905, the ideological leader and poet Gustav Suits declared:
Unanimity, common perceptions are the things we need in Estonia. The lack of these is the damnation of our people; it is one the main reasons for our powerlessness, our appalling incapability. I cannot say that such qualities as courage, self- confidence , spirit of initiative, good faith and hope for the future can be found to any remarkable extent in Estonia. We say: Youth is obliging! And we shout: More culture! More European culture! Let us be Estonians but let us also become Europeans.
The Young Estonia movement emerged thanks to the heightening of the general cultural level. In the vanguard of the movement were the writers and literary critics: Gustav Suits (1883-1956); Friedebert Tuglas (1886- 1971 ); Villem Ridala (1885-1973); Bernhard Linde (1886-1954); and Johannes Aavik (1880-1973). Submerging into the depths of life, bringing forth its nature and offering it to the intelligent reader were the stated aims. Emphasis was laid on artistic-aesthetic expression while the social function of art was considered as secondary. Several other writers had contact with the movement: August Kitzberg (1855-1927), Aino Kallas (1878-1956) and Anton Hansen Tammsaare. Several painters belonged to the movement: Kristjan Raud, Nikolai Triik (1884-1940), Konrad Mägi (1878-1925) and Aleksander Tassa (1882-1955). The Young Estonians shared broad cultural interests; they studied and translated literary and artistic works from Scandinavia and Europe, and an influential role was played by the journals Noor-Eesti (1910-1911) and Vaba Sõna (Free Word, 1914-1916).
This important development was due to a change in the general world-view, and the widening and deepening national consciousness. At its height (the years before the First World War) the Young Estonians immersed themselves in the ideas of Western philosophy and art (Impressionism, Symbolism etc), obviating Russian and German influences, initially Scandinavian ones were emphasised, followed by other European ideas. The needs of an evolving cultural society directed the attention of the literary intelligentsia and artists towards the great Western cultural centres, many went to study in Helsinki , Berlin, Paris , and so on.
However, Estonian composers were not very eager to study in the West (exceptions being: Adalbert Wirkhaus in Leipzig with Max Reger, and Juhan Simm in Berlin, improving his conducting skills later at the Paris Grand Opera). The academic St. Petersburg Conservatoire with its international teaching staff was more to their taste .
On the initiative of the circle that had gathered round Postimees, Eesti Kirjanduse Selts (Estonian Literary Society) was established in 1907, considering the promotion of literature, arts and sciences, and the study of homeland and nation as its main tasks. Estonian art was influenced by the growing interest in folk art that emphasised folklore and the ancient past. There were remarkable achievements in poetry and fiction as well as in historical and landscape painting and book illustration. Mention should be made of poet and linguist Gustav Suits, poetess Marie Under (1883-1980), writer Eduard Vilde (1865-1933), artists and book illustrators Konrad Mägi and Nikolai Triik.
The first decades of the new century saw the reformation of the literary language. Johannes Aavik enriched the vocabulary and modernised its structure. Johannes Voldemar Veski and Villem Ridala should also be mentioned as meritorious linguistic innovators.
In Tartu the new building of the Vanemuine Theatre was inaugurated in 19061– an event that turned into an international affair. The prominent stage producer and theatre educator Karl Menning (1874-1941) became head of the company in Tartu and continued with his principles of ensemble theatre. His method based on psychological realism would influence the Estonian theatre for decades. In his opinion the main function of theatre had to be educational. A position similar to Menning was held by Karl Jungholz (1878-1925) in Tallinn. Both had studied under Max Reinhardt in Berlin. At the same time the actors in the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn displayed a certain romantic-theatrical tendency, preferring a more international repertoire (Shakespeare and Schiller among others) and musical production.
1906 turned out to be a remarkable year. Both Tartu’s Vanemuine and the Estonia Theatre in Tallinn became professional. For the celebration concert of this event in Tartu, two new works were written: The First Estonian Suite by Artur Kapp and Overture-Fantasy No. 12 by Mihkel Lüdig (1880-1958). Kapp’s Suite is important because for the first time an Estonian composer used Estonian folk music. Lüdig also touched upon a folk tune. Kapp used quotations from the tunes as themes for variation . In spite of his professionalism the work lacks originality: the national spirit reveals itself “academically”.
The Overture-Fantasy of Lüdig is based on two themes. The first theme is wistful though bright in character, expressing yearning and deep sincerity:
Example 11.
The second theme: the Estonian folk tune Get up, Sweet Brothers is brisk and joyous:
Example 12.
Repetitions of modifications are intrinsic elements in the shaping of form. The general harmonic scheme is not complicated: sophisticated polyphonic thinking is not in the composer’s nature. The instrumentation appears economical, mutable and lively, the abundance of details seems to be a deviation of the sonata-allegro form. We may say that the developmental process is limited: but this is not Lüdig’s way of thinking. There is neither a wide sweep nor a synthesis of materials. The overture is almost reminiscent of Tchaikovsky though without resemblance in either style or idiom. Lüdig is a lyricist and romantic; his musical spirit presents sublime pathos and brilliance, with candid sincerity. This work easily stands out among his few short orchestral compositions.
The first operas were staged in 1908-1909: Conradin Kreutzer’s Das Nachtlager in Granada (A Short Stay in Granada) and Friedrich von Flotow’s Alessandro Stradella1, directed by Paul Pinna (1884-1949) under the baton of Adalbert Wirkhaus (1880-1961). The first Estonian operetta, Jaaniöö (Midsummer Night ), was composed by the latter and staged in 1911.
The honour of writing the first opera and the first symphony must be given to Artur Lemba (1885-1963). Artur Lemba graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire in 1908 in piano and composition with admirable success (Gold and Silver medals respectively).
Lemba was only 20 when he composed Sabina (1905), a story derived from ancient Roman history. The first version of the libretto was also written by Lemba. The first performance of this romantic drama took place in the Pavlovo Hall, organised and staged on the initiative of the Estonian Women’s Society, in 1906.2 The plot and libretto was not to the liking of the Estonian audience. The Estonian poetess Anna Haava (1864-1957) reshaped it into poetic form under the title The Daughter of Lembitu (Lembitu was a 13th-century Estonian leader and freedom fighter against the Livonian Brothers of the Sword).
The two-act opera begins with a spring morning scene , maidens are singing, and Aino the daughter of Lembitu appears. A young Estonian Meelis expresses his love for Aino but she declines him, in her aria she appeals to the spirit of her ancestors for strength.
In the second act the historical Battle of St. Matthew's Day (September 21st, 1217) has just taken place and Lembitu is dead. Aino, the people, and the knights arrive; the knights demand surrender. Aino is disdainful of both the knights and Meelis, who appeared with them. Grasping a sword she kills herself.
Obviously the main weakness of The Daughter of Lembitu is rooted in the libretto, it seems lacking in both depth and width, and is too short, without genuine inner development of the characters . Certain superficiality is noticeable. Fully charged national literary content and thoroughly restrained romantic music did not find an accord. The German critic Carl Hunnius wrote:
The influences of Niels Gade, Anton Rubinstein and Richard Wagner may be felt. The final chorus sounds like something ancient and is very pleasing… we might hope that in the sense of national expression Lemba will develop fruitfully. Of this… there may be seen yet but very little. 1
In his recitals, on April 26th and 27th 1908 in the Vanemuine Theatre, Lemba demonstrated his abilities both as a conductor and pianist. Lemba remained a piano teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, he was awarded professorship at the age of 30. His wide range of activities as a teacher, composer and concert pianist continued there until 1920, when he returned to Estonia. He was one of Estonia’s first professional pianists together with his elder brother Theodor Lemba (1876-1962). In the Twenties and Thirties he gave recitals in several European cities: Helsinki, Stockholm , Budapest, and Paris. In his First Piano Concerto (1905, composed in his student years), which is one of his best achievements, the salient features of his style may be recognised: the breadth of melody, romantic spirit and form winning plaudits for its grace and serenity, refined orchestration. This music may seem too “smooth”; we do not encounter severe challenges. Nevertheless, it is very poetic and popular.
The first Estonian symphony was composed in 1908 as his diploma work in composition.1 The symphony marks the peak of his symphonic output, complete both in orchestration (triple scoring) and in form (four movements). Some instruments not regularly used were added (Piccolo, Cor anglais, Tuba and Harp ). The work begins with a serious and noble introduction expressing tranquillity and vitality:
Example 13.
The main theme is wistfully narrated yet becoming excitable:
Example 14.
The subsidiary theme is lucid and warm, the emotion rising to passionate at times :
Example 15.
The concluding theme is jubilant.
In the developmental process the main theme is always recognisable, the composer producing an extensive melodious breath. The vigorous culmination is put forward in the Coda; the introductory theme appears in the major key, having forged its way through the developmental process. Here are hope and power . Though some stylistic resemblance with Glazunov and Tchaikovsky may be perceived , Lemba uttered emphatically his own word.
The second movement introduces two themes; the first almost vocal and contemplative, the second passionate. The music seems to tell the story of the young Lemba: it is full of feeling and a search for happiness . Meditation and grief are juxtaposed, yet depression is not expressed.
The third movement is a Scherzo , joyous, even mischievous, like a stylisation from a Viennese ‘ classic ’: the individuality of Lemba is less perceivable here. The music proceeds in pleasurable mood and cheerful play:
Example 16.
The fourth movement: Finale in sonata form. The sad and restless themes are almost similar. The process is quite short without enriching features in the recapitulation.
The texture of the symphony is mostly homophonic. Vocal in character, memorable themes are without any folksong inflections, yet all music written by a national composer cannot be anything but national. Lemba’s thoughts are far from tragedy and deep meditation. The beauty of his thoughts as a whole and their plasticity reveals the classicalism of Lemba’s conception, hence the leading idea is transformed from gloom to brightness and power.
In all Estonian music of those years some influences of the classical heritage were obvious. This was the historical inheritance as the place from which every artist was at least starting.
Lemba’s style had sprung out of his early ideals and was not subject to any particular change during the next decade. Yet in the Twenties and Thirties some features from Estonian folk music are used intentionally as in his opera Kalmuneid (The Maiden from the Grave ), Sophia Vardi’s libretto, based on folk tales, and in his Second Symphony and chamber music. However, these quotation -like elements did not become organic , essential ingredients of his idiom. Without these elements Lemba expressed himself with greater authenticity.
Looking back at the whole field of his activities it seems the most significant was his role as the prominent Estonian concert pianist during the first half of the 20th century. Lemba’s best symphonic works, especially his five piano concertos, have deserved critical acclaim . By his character Lemba was lyrical, without extremes and sentimentality, his pianism was a crisp, deep and perfect , delightful interpretation .
It may seem incomprehensible that several prominent musicians like Tobias, Kapp, Lemba, Lüdig and others did not live in their homeland where their energy and knowledge were sorely needed. When considering the social situation, the lack of material preconditions for suitable employment was quite obvious. The tsarist regime was not interested in supporting Estonian cultural life, in fact the regime attempted to suppress the national initiative. There were no state music schools. No one was publishing and therefore purchasing larger Estonian compositions. Keeping in mind the spiritual atmosphere of the period, one can assert that Estonian artists contributed greatly to the development of Estonian culture. There was general progress in musical life, the number of singers and instrumentalists increased. Thus the way was paved for a further qualitative leap.

III. NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN CULTURAL AND MUSICAL LIFE:

THE END OF THE TSARIST PERIOD.


The First World War deepened the political nonconformity of Estonians. This was for Estonians the time for the rise of the middle class and consolidation of national forces. The Baltic-Germans suffered a defeat as their privileged position dwindled in society.
The Young Estonia movement’s interest in social affairs continued to grow , they protested against the First World War; however, the movement broke up in 1916. This was due to the harsh conditions created by the war, limited publishing opportunities, and internal differences of opinion. Their activity had widened the horizon of Estonian intellectuals, extended literary links with Europe and heightened aesthetic awareness.
Eduard Vilde continued as Estonia’s prominent novelist, even in the midst of a new generation of writers that included Anton Hansen Tammsaare and Mait Metsanurk (1879-1957). In poetry, Tuulemaa (Land of the Winds, 1913) by Gustav Suits was innovative both in thematics and form: reflections on Man, homeland, world and universe in their connections and antagonisms, scepticism and disillusionment are illustrated in a mature and individual formulation. Drama was rising to a new level tackling complicated social problems: August Kitzberg’s tragedy Libahunt (The Werewolf, 1912). Before the historic watershed of 1917, the main genres of Estonian literature had attained a notable artist level.
At the same time Estonian cinematography took its first steps. Cinematographic achievements had been first demonstrated in Tartu and Tallinn in 1896. The first stationary cinema was built in Tallinn in 1907. The first Estonian filmmaker was Johannes Pääsuke (1892-1919) from Tartu. He is the author of the first Estonian feature film: Karujaht Pärnumaal ( Bear Hunt in Pärnu county , 1914), a political satire involving the Mayor of Pärnu.
The main centre for national romantic art ideology and practice was the atelier and art of Ants Laikmaa. Like his Finnish colleagues he aspired to create a unitary national style in art, applied art, furniture design and architecture .
The opening of the new opera and concert house Estonia on August 24th, 1913 was a major event in Estonian cultural history. The accomplishment of this significant enterprise was a result of nation-wide cooperation in the face of incessant opposition from the tsarist regime and the weakening Baltic-German factions. The new representative buildings1 gave actors, artists and composers better facilities for creative work.
During the First World War Estonian musical life was at a standstill except in Tallinn and Tartu. The performances of the Estonia Theatre orchestra were popular, most of them conducted by Raimund Kull (1882-1942). The Vanemuine Theatre orchestra was similarly quite actively engaged under the baton of Juhan Aavik (1884-1982) and Juhan Simm (1885- 1959 )
In literature and art we can observe numerous individual innovations, in symphonic music such qualities were still rare . The beginnings of using new ideas can be noticed in the smaller symphonic works of Artur Kapp and Heino Eller. Kapp, in response to the communist terror he witnessed in Astrakhan, composed the symphonic prelude Hauad (Tombs, 1917). The tone poems Videvik (Twilight, 1917) and Koit ( Dawn , 1920) by Eller are gripping, expressive pictures inspired by Nature.
In 1913 Rudolf Tobias wrote strikingly and prophetically:
Still we cannot speak of a wholly developed typical Estonian image . This is hindered by a number of factors… our own national psyche expresses itself from a leaden grey stormy sky to clear blue, slowly but intensely… Our phlegm is more philosophical apathy than lack of temperament ; maybe as a healthy reaction against the pressure and drudgery that has lasted for centuries. This is connected with bitter humour and self-mockery… due to our constitution we are inclined less towards outer colourful effects than ideological depths and this feature will always be recognised in our arts as the guiding principle.2
The Russian February Revolution of 1917 overthrew the tsarist regime, and the Russian Provisional Government granted Estonia autonomy. For the first time an all-Estonian governing body, Maanõukogu (Estonian Land Council ), was elected.
The February Revolution brought spiritual liberation to Estonia and encouraged popular initiative, including the establishment of various organisations. In spring 1917 a literary group called Siuru (the name of a mythical bird in the national epic Kalevipoeg) was formed. Its members included Friedebert Tuglas, Marie Under, Artur Adson (1889-1977), Hendrik Visnapuu (1890-1951), August Gailit (1891-1960), Johannes Semper (1892-1970). They represented the neo-Romantic spirit, Symbolism and Impressionism; avoiding acute social problems they preferred to glorify sensory enjoyment and physical beauty. In these early years Marie Under had already shown her extraordinary talent, offering in her poetry an exalted and luxuriant feeling for nature and Mankind. The others in the group published their articles , essays, short stories, poetry and, following the traditions of Young Estonia, promoted foreign art and literature. Yet the group broke up, due to the difficult socio-political climate and internal dissension on creative principles, in 1919.
In 1918 a new artistic and literary group Pallas (founded by Konrad Mägi, Aleksander Tassa and Friedebert Tuglas) was launched in Tartu; some members had studied in the West and they introduced innovatory trends. Friedebert Tuglas became one of Estonia’s most authoritative leading cultural figures in several fields of endeavour. A year later an art school also called Pallas was founded, it became Estonia’s key centre of artistic education, liberal in spirit, training new generations of artist until 1944.
In the Russian October Revolution of 1917 the Russian Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and seized power in Estonia. In spite of severe obstacles the Estonian Land Council assembled and declared itself the highest authority in the country until new legal state institutions could be elected. Estonian political leaders, working “ underground ”, proclaimed independence on February 24th, 1918 and formed the Estonian Provisional Government. Nevertheless, as a result of the First World War Estonia fell victim to first the Bolshevik and in the spring of 1918, German occupation. As soon as the Germans left, due to the end of the war and because of the internal crisis at home, the Russian Red Army invaded.
The Estonian War of Independence had begun. Though with severely limited resources, the active measures taken by the commander-in chief Johan Laidoner (1884-1953) improved the situation. The most effective help was given by Finland by sending 3,500 volunteers. The Estonian soldiers fought against their historical enemies: the Russian Red Army and the Baltic-German Landeswehr. Against all odds, all three Baltic states received peace proposals from Soviet Russia in September 1919. The peace treaty with Estonia was signed in Tartu in February 1920, the Soviets acknowledged the Republic of Estonia and all territorial claims. International recognition of the state followed rapidly.
Many Estonian musicians and artists were scattered all over Russia. During 1917-1920 they returned to their homeland.
At the beginning of the republican period Heino Eller, having graduated from the Conservatoire in St. Petersburg in 1920, rose to the fore among other composers. His first outstanding composition, still well known, is the tone poem Koit (Dawn, 1920). With this work Eller introduced several novel features into Estonian symphonism. The influences of Romanticism are felt (Grieg) and the epic tone reveals Nordic crispness.1
The main theme sounds fresh in its pastoral-elegiac mood:
Example 17.
In harmonisation the composer makes use of crisp diatonics in unison with seventh chords. The secondary theme exists only conventionally, being a phrase long image; a link in the transition process shaping no independent section:
Example 18.
The character of this Fl-Cl motion in thirds on a mild background of figurative strings is reminiscent of the middle section of Grieg’s Nocturne.2
There are several other images represented but as different aspects of the main theme. The second phrase of the main theme remains the basis for the process of development where its variants and sequential reflections dominate. The whole monothematic work seems to be written in one breath. The richness in harmony also results from an abundance of seventh chords. They are mostly secondary dominants, fewer subdominants. Eller has not strictly followed any harmonic style: colours are enriched by chromatics and instrumentation. From the colourful percussion instruments only Glockenspiel has been added. The music is homophonic in essence and the purity of timbres is not accentuated. This tone poem is almost a symbolic appearing on the threshold of the birth of free Estonia.
The foundations for Estonian symphonic music were laid by strong creative personalities. The development was shepherded towards an individualised national expression. Prominent professionals were engaged in many activities: being conductors, educationalists, publicists and organisers, thus contributing to the general rise of a national musical culture. Taking into account the harsh conditions under the Russian regime, their energy and activity deserve the highest praise.
From the very beginning a strong tendency toward a programmatic approach in Estonian symphonism may be observed : it is obvious in the stout dramatics (Tobias, Kapp), as well as in colourful landscape depictions (Lüdig, Eller). In retrospect, the music generally appears to be substantial; the composers cultivated mostly shorter forms. In several works a bias towards new horizons was obvious. Considering the style, most of the musical output was strongly influenced by a classical-romantic trend. The tsarist period had been the infancy of Estonian music: there were very few profound, philosophical reflections on the hard times and the destiny of Estonians.

THE INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC OF ESTONIA: THE INTRODUCTION OF INNOVATIONS FROM WESTERN ART AND THE EVOLUTION OF NATIONALLY ORIENTED MUSICAL TRENDS.


IV. THE TWENTIES. ARTUR KAPP: ROMANTICIST AND DRAMATIST.


The foundation of an independent state was the greatest turning point in Estonian history. Normal avenues for advancement in the European cultural arena opened with a greater range of opportunities available . The period of development brought about socio-economic hardships caused by specific local conditions, material circumstances were severe. Parliamentary democracy brought with it a multiparty system, though the fledging political culture would become unstable.
In December 1919, Tartu University became a national institution. The Estonian language became the language of instruction. During the following years it cooperated with foreign scientists and scholars, mostly from Finland and Sweden.
The year 1922 witnessed the foundation of both Eesti Kirjanike Liit (Estonian Writers’ Association ), its board of directors including Friedebert Tuglas, Mait Metsanurk and Jaan Lintrop (1885-1962), and Eesti Kujutavate Kunstnike Keskühing (Central Union of Estonian Artists), the chairman August Jansen (1881-1957). The monthly journal for writers Looming (Creation) was issued for the first time in 1923, becoming a prominent and well-appreciated forum. The poet Henrik Visnapuu outlined the mission of both intellectuals and the whole nation:
We can build and grow only in height and depth, not in width. Our measure has to be in quality, not quantity. Therefore our cultural policy, properly speaking the whole national policy must be aimed at precision and intensity; in such an atmosphere the artistic and scientific creation of all-human value can proven to be possible.1
In 1925 Eesti Kultuurkapital (Estonian Cultural Endowment) was established by governmental decree for the general advancement of all Estonian cultural life, distributing grants to six foundations that subsidised literature, journalism, music, fine arts, theatre, and sports. It helped them to share subsidies and prizes, to buy works of art, and arrange exhibitions (both home and abroad ). Several writers and artists used the state subsidies to study abroad. There was also a special fund for publishing Estonian music, but the subsidy was small and the publishers had to confine themselves to chamber music.
The Estonian novel strode along the path of progress. Anton Hansen Tammsaare would become a celebrated author with his pentalogy Tõde ja õigus ( Truth and Justice1) published between 1926-1933. The main characters, belonging to several generations of Estonians, would diversely reflect on the meaning of life. The opus is a cross -section of the evolution of Estonian society: the story of the struggle to develop an understanding of the land, community, themselves, God, and death.
International literary connections were mainly promoted by the Estonian branch of International PEN (founded in1928)2. Western innovations in literature, for example Expressionism , had limited influence, apart from some of the literary works of August Gailit and Friedebert Tuglas. In poetry it became evident in the works of Marie Under and Johannes Semper. However, certain trends lost their topicality and were replaced by numerous individual approaches synthesising the classical with the modern.
Graphic art was developing rapidly, thanks initially to the works of Eduard Wiiralt (1898-1954) whose mature, fantastic and sensual style developed during his Paris years, 1925-1939. His style would gain international reputation and a number of imitators. The stressed angular black -and-white contrast became obvious in drawings and even aquarelle of Ado Vabbe.
The Estonian Drama Theatre was renovated. In 1920 the temperamental, active and demanding Paul Sepp (1885-1943), actor , stage producer and educator ( trained in St. Petersburg), established an acting studio to cater for the demands of young and qualified actors. In search for contemporaneity of ideas and their artistic realisation influences came from the West. Most recognisable of these was German Expressionism (Hugo von Hofmannstahl, Georg Kaiser and others). The repertoire became more diverse comprising both classics (often getting expressionistic and impressionistic staging), and more realistic popular plays and representations of Estonian rural and urban life. The social-critical trend was stressed by the Töölisteater (Tallinn Workers ’ Theatre) led by Priit Põldroos (1902-1968). Among the local playwrights the humorist and satirist Hugo Raudsepp (1883-1952) stands out with his comedies. Among the serious plays Anton Hansen Tammsaare’s drama Judith (1921; based on the Old Testament), a profound psychological reflection about Man, humanity, ideal and real, passion and guilt, stands among the most important. It is a drama of ideas, full of strain and contradictions, depicting the main heroine as a woman with strong desires and feelings .
The formative period of the musical stage progressed smoothly. Singers perfected their skills at the Tallinn Conservatoire, at private studios and abroad, mainly in Italy. From 1918 onwards, opera would be a firm staple in the Estonia Theatre repertoire. Among the leading lights were the singers: Helmi Einer (1888-1968); Olga Mikk -Krull (1887-1980); Aleksander Arder (1894-1966); Benno Hansen (1891-1952); Karl Ots (1882-1961); and among the conductors, Raimund Kull and Juhan Aavik. The stage director Hanno Kompus (1890-1974) placed emphasis on a wide and varied classical repertoire: Bizet, Borodin, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Wagner.
Ringhääling (Estonian Broadcasting) was established in 1926 as a regular joint - stock company. Radio plays and public radio events were quickly introduced. Felix Moor (1904-1958) became a very popular radio actor.
Estonian cinema was very active in the years 1920-1932, producing newsreels, educational films and commercials and experimenting with feature films. The first full-length feature film Mineviku varjud (Shadows of the Past, 1924), directed by Konstanin Märska (1896-1951), is a historical melodrama about the ancient Estonians’ fight against invasion. The best theatre actors were engaged: Paul Pinna, Ants Lauter, Benno Hansen, among others. The first full-length documentary Filmikaameraga läbi Eesti (With Film Camera through Estonia, 1924) gained international recognition. Märska is considered one of the founders of the Estonian film industry, most of the production in the Twenties was due to his creative energy. Theodor Luts (1896-1980) was another pioneer of Estonian cinema, a versatile cinematographer, active as producer and director, his outstanding achievement is Noored kotkad 1 (Young Eagles, 1927).
On the initiative of August Topman (1882-1968) and Mihkel Lüdig, Kõrgem Muusikakool (Higher School of Music) was established in Tallinn in 1919 (in 1923 renamed Conservatoire). Lüdig became the first director of the institution. At the same time a similar school was opened in Tartu. In 1921 Lauljate Liit (The Singers’ League ) was organised, its first chairman was the choral composer and conductor Konstantin Türnpu (1865-1927). The activities of the League were wide-ranging: organisation of national and regional song festivals, choir and brass band concerts, competitions for developing new repertoire, and music publishing. The League issued Muusikaleht (Music Magazine ), reflecting musical life in Estonia and offering reviews of music events in the world. Eesti Akadeemiline Helikunstnike Selts (The Academic Society of Estonian Musicians) was established in 1924 as a central organisation to promote national music, to publish works of different genres of music, to commission musical competitions, and to award scholarships. Several smaller music societies were also founded.
Looking back at the creative output at the beginning of the new era, Lüdig states:
At present it is difficult to characterise in detail the work of our younger composers because many of them are still developing. Generally speaking, our music, in spite of several remarkable works, is still in its childhood and waiting for talents and doers, though it has greatly advanced during a relatively short time. We can state with satisfaction that the foundation for our music has been laid, a foundation that is original and popular.1
In symphonic music there was a growing interest in folk music by the end of the decade (works by Juhan Aavik and Eduard Tubin). However, at the beginning of the Twenties the influence of classical-romantic expression was still remarkable, as the composers of the older generation stood in the forefront. The mature First Symphony2 (1924) by Artur Kapp is one of the best examples of this trend.
The first movement is titled Quasi una fantasia and is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The short main theme, appearing at the beginning, suggests (like that of Beethoven) hidden strength, its potential quickly becomes manifest in the exposition:
Example 19.
The subsidiary theme is characterised by a plaintive tone (Flute). Kapp likes to explore themes expansively; their variants may deviate from the original:
Example 20.
The closing theme (Corno solo) is consoling, drawing a deep breath, a mild and somewhat melancholic companion to its forerunners. In the developmental process the subsidiary theme has been fully transformed into a grave, massive and forceful brass sound. The main theme appears tumultuously.
The second monothematic movement is a quiet , wistful unison-monologue for bassoon and violoncellos. The composer’s free meditation, sounds like a compound of different interwoven, increasingly strenuous, motifs. The former loneliness and sadness has been replaced by inner tranquillity:
Example 21.
The Finale is based on a theme, an ancient melancholic Estonian tune, with variations:
Example 22.
The composer is attempting to rid himself of bleak thoughts. The sixth variation (the last) is transferred into the major key; so the joyous folk tune Once when I was still young entry is sustained in a dance -like form. A brilliant final chord has been reached.
The theme of the whole work is not homogeneous in style but rich in thought and feeling. The classical harmony applied draws in sequential repetitions, long organ points, pedals, and diminished seventh chords to emphasise the dramatic moment. Kapp is extraordinarily skilled in the use of counterpoint: it is difficult to recognise anyone to duplicate his achievements in the respective area in the whole of Estonian music.
The score is compact. His rhythms are very elastic, being an essential component of his free fantasy. Generally, Kapp prefers dark colours, it is determined by his way of thinking. The form schemes are followed freely, depending on the composers’ need for incessant changes. According to its concept the work exhibits the struggle with challenges in order to attain happiness. Obviously the intricate inner world of the composer is reflected in the music of the symphony. The First Symphony was Kapp’s first great work, and at the same time, the first genuine dramatic work in Estonian symphonic music. In the opinion of Eduard Tubin:
In his grandiose symphony in F minor Kapp reveals a true and deep master of counterpoint and form… with his symphony Kapp has added a great, valuable supplement to Estonian symphonic music; on account of the Finale, this work has a special value in its treatment of folk tunes in orchestral music.1
To the pen of Artur Kapp also belongs the oratorio Hiiob (Job), composed between 1926 and 1928, the score completed in 1929. This oratorio is not only the central work in the whole output of Kapp, but the most weighty in the choral-symphonic production during the pre-war Republic of Estonia. The text has been taken from the Old Testament Book of Job. The oratorio consists of 32 sections, with a two-part introductory section. The work was composed for four soloists, male and female choir, organ and symphony orchestra. Kapp relies on classical examples, firstly on Bach, (Fugue theme in E minor, later used in the cantata: Aus tiefer Not schrei’ ich auf Dir. BWV 38.) stems the leitmotif of the oratorio:
Example 23.
The work can be considered first as a masterfully written choral oratorio, but the orchestra is given a dominant role. The oratorio can be described as massive, with great inner dynamics, vigour, dramatics joined with lyricism and animation. Kapp reveals himself as a rebel, albeit a tender one at the same time. The music is like an improvisational stream. It could be said that the work is about the Creator and humanity, sacred and secular at the same time. As the fundamental axis of the work, the struggle between good and evil is recognisable, personified in the images of God and Satan: “Do not follow the wicked but the eternal godly laws .” The oratorio is filled with absorbing polyphony: all is connected through the leitmotif of Job reflecting his mental anguish. With this the idea is accentuated: only through suffering is the human being able to rise to the cognition of real happiness. With his oratorio Kapp followed the grand line of Tobias. The chosen theme expressed, to a certain extent, Kapp’s own suffering in Astrakhan, where he witnessed the communist deprecations. Having lost all he owned he was lucky to return to Estonia in 1920. His own hardships are reflected in the final chorus, based on the leitmotif, (a triple fugue): “Blessed is the man who is afraid of God.
The first performance took place in Tallinn, on March 1st, 1931, in the Estonia Concert Hall. Besides the best Estonian soloists, the mixed choir of the Estonia Music Department , the Male Song Society Choir, and an enlarged Estonia Theatre orchestra conducted by Juhan Aavik took part. The very successful first performance was followed by a performance in Helsinki on June 17th, 1931. A performance on August 10th, 1997, in Tallinn conducted by Neeme Järvi, was extremely well received.
Apart from being a composer Artur Kapp acted for some years as the opera conductor of the Estonia Theatre, also conducting some symphony concerts. From 1920 onwards Kapp worked at the Tallinn Higher School of Music, in 1925 he became a professor taking the chair of composition. Both with his creative output and teaching he implanted the artistic principles of classical music in his students. He advised:
Do not seek, do not combine, do without twists and turns. Do not mechanise your music. Put down what you feel in yourself naturally, but only then when your heart needs it. First work it out in your fantasy.1
The main demands of the Maestro on his students were precision, clarity of form, and logic of ideas. Before the Second World War more than thirty future composers and musicologists studied under his guidance, notable among them were: Evald Aav, Gustav Ernesaks, Eugen Kapp (his son), Hugo Lepnurm, Riho Päts, Villem Reimann, Heimar Ilves, Edgar Arro and Evald Brauer. Artur Kapp and his school had a predilection towards academia. The classical forms were treated in a post-Romantic and monumental manner. The composition of cantatas and oratorios on biblical themes was seen as vitally important. On his sixtieth birthday, the music organisations and institutions designated the concert season 1937/1938 as the Artur Kapp Year.
The composer and musicologist Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962) rose to prominence in the Twenties, and with Mart Saar is one of the founders of Estonian national vocal music. He can be regarded as the pioneer in Estonian spiritual folk song cultivation. His many achievements include a cappella song production, symphonic suites on folk tunes, a great number of folk song arrangements, and of course his Requiem (1927) that may be regarded as his crowning achievement. Kreek studied composition in 1912-16, under Professor Vasily Kalafati and others at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, where he developed his own sturdy and intimate expression. He became acquainted with all kinds of folk music during his collecting of folk tunes that began in 1911. Starting his activities in the small town of Haapsalu, he was later (1944-1950) engaged at the Tallinn Conservatoire as Professor of Music Theory.
The Requiem in C minor is composed for tenor, mixed choir, organ and symphony orchestra. The text is taken from Mozart ’s Requiem translated into Estonian by Dr. Georg Julius Schultz-Bertram. In the Kreek redaction a Latin text was also used. There are 8 traditional movements beginning with Introitus and ending with Agnus Dei. This is a choral composition where balance , crispness, seriousness together with great warmth (especially in the Domine Jesu), simplicity, folk song inflections and polyphonic mastery are combined into a sterling whole. The Requiem differs greatly from Des Jona Sendung by Tobias and Job by Kapp. Kreek is neither a type of rebel nor fighter. The contrasts do not reach tragic proportions, no grave thoughts suppressing the spirit, no melancholy. This is in the first place lyrical, epic and meditative music open to everyone:1
Example 24.
Mart Saar reflecting on the whole output of the composer wrote:
A precious and abstract rational mood is characteristic of him, joined with national colouring. Together with this goes great aptitude in thematic development and skill to amalgamate different components subordinating them to the artistic whole. His virtues are individually exposed in a serious mood that may be followed by raptures of humour, colourful joy, parody and joke.1
The Requiem may be regarded as the third among the essential ecclesiastic choral-symphonic works, written in Estonia up to the Eighties, when Arvo Pärt rose to prominence as a follower of this trend, his expression being quite different both in means and style (relying first on Gregorian chant).

V. THE INFLUENCE OF NEW WESTERN MUSICAL TRENDS.

HEINO ELLER: A PROGRAMME PAINTER.


Estonian music was influenced by new trends from the West like Impressionism and new systems of tonality like atonality. Scores became more refined, displaying effects and contrasts in colour, the leading melody line was split into motifs, it even disappeared. Such features can be found in the works of Heino Eller (1887-1970), in the Twenties he was considered a Modernist.
Alongside the music of Kapp, the symphonism of Eller, his creative creed constitutes the second basic column of Estonian national symphonic music. In the Twenties and for the first half of the Thirties he was quite productive. Being a graduate from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire (1920) he was especially impressed by the music of Alexander Scriabin: later when visiting Paris, he took a serious interest in the modern currents of European music. The tone poem Viirastused (Ghosts) was an artistic reflection of his visit to the famous Paris underground cemetery. His period of renewal was introduced by the tone poem Öö hüüded (Night Calls, 1920), inspired by the impressions of a stormy night he spent in an empty seaside summer cottage.2
The restlessness of the main theme becomes menacing:
Example 25.
The contrasting second image exerts an almost epic influence:
Example 26.
Eller’s creative thinking is not confined within certain forms; there are no strict classical principles in the developmental process. With the nightly sensations like fear and the “complaining of phantoms”, epic and lyric moods are expressed. In the recapitulation section the dramatic centre of gravity has been reached before the achievement of the major key solution. The importance of themes has been diminished, thematic transformations lead neither to development nor a harmonic scheme. The novelty of Eller in this work can be seen in his individual point of view on content and form, the latter being very detailed, elastic and capricious, creating a wholly novel phenomenon in Estonian music. All is connected with the important colour aspect: adding characteristic features to all that is in progress. The thought may soar in free fanciful visions while tied to the firmly anchored theme. The work is, strictly speaking, multi -imaged, the scanty thematic material being in no sense decisive. Eller is striving for figurativeness and sensitivity . Not one of the musical lines in his score has a finished, completed shape : the yarn, once interrupted in one line, will proceed in another. The critics did not find the work satisfactory in all respects, reproaching it being over burdened details.
The next tone poem Viirastused (Ghosts, 1924), follows this fantastic line in a more refined manner. The work was the most novel in the whole symphonic output of the Twenties, including an expressionistic feeling not typical of Eller. It may be called “symphonic visions” since a vision has no clear-cut phenomenon. Thus the main attention has been devoted to joining improvisational images to the principle of contrast. Such an approach adds a variety of colours, slackened formal connections, and thematic material (though it exists) of no exact determination.
The introductory image with its muted trumpet and celesta expresses something mildly mysterious:
Example 27.
The image is not a monody but a complex of several bright colours like botanical variegation. Trumpets step through like an axis, drawing attention.
A harmonic mildness characterises the main theme:
Example 28.
The epic subsidiary theme creates no special contrast with the main theme:
Example 29.
In addition several other images fleetingly appear in the development, though, strictly speaking, they cannot be qualified as themes. Such development illustrates the individuality of Eller: all images are utilised, although reshaped to the point of being unrecognisable. The principle of variation is used in the widest sense of the term. Eller’s thought is displayed in refined details. Tonality is interwoven with atonality: such musical language was extremely bold at that time. Fourth is made the essential interval in the chord structure. At the same time the use of the mild harmonies of seventh chords is present.
Ghosts is a freely constructed chain -form with a miniature recapitulation. A purposeful advancing line does not connect contrasting sections: the novelty of the work becomes obvious in its structure, timbres and harmony. Impressionist and Expressionist influences can be perceived. The stylistic innovation that started with Dawn reaches its peak and at the same time Ghosts is the final destination. We may add that deeper philosophical issues , the place of Man in the world, quite characteristic of the works of Kapp, are only superficially touched here. The professional Estonian audience was at first critical of the work, however, opinion has changed with time.
Apart from being a prolific composer and successful conductor, in Tartu, he became an authoritative and appreciated teacher at the Higher School of Music. As a teacher he may be characterised as dutiful, demanding the highest standards from himself and his students. During the Tartu period (1920-1940), Eduard Tubin, Eduard Oja, Olav Roots and Karl Leichter among others studied under him. His successful teaching career continued in Tallinn from 1940 until his death in 1970.
Eller promoted the individuality of his students. Eduard Oja (1905-1950), though influenced by Eller, followed his own path. Oja’s best works may be characterised as poetic, vigorous, abundant in fancy and imagery. He was devoted to folk art, having taken part in folk music gathering expeditions. Oja was deeply interested in the philosophical aspects of art and life; his thoughts being expressed later in Ajatriloogia (Time Trilogy, 1936), consisting of three miniatures (Life, Eternity and Today) for orchestra. The most extensive and suggestive work from the early Thirties is Ilupoeem (Beauty Poem, 1930), his first composition for orchestra that stands out with its lushness of colours and forcibility.1 Oja explained his idea succinctly: “This is Beauty’s complaint to the world conquered by Satan.” The work consists of three sections, reminiscent of sonata-allegro form (two subjects , their development followed by recapitulation).
The beginning is pensive, the first theme presented by the flute:
Example 30.
The image is not dolorous. In the first section a mild and spiritual tone is prevalent: Beauty is dreaming, invoking and displaying itself. The musical metre is unusual : it enables a phrase to be housed in a bar. No strict tonality is fixed ; augmented fourths in harmony render effable desires.
The second section begins with a dancing and mischievous theme, conveying the image of Satan and his rough and obtrusive world:
Example 31.
An active pulsating movement begins: the world and its Master become all the more seductive. The theme is extended in the following developmental section and its transformation at the end of the recapitulation is barely recognisable due to its almost ascetic minor air. The transformations have been masterfully worked out, illustrating Oja’s refined and subtle way of thinking. Elements of the music are integrated into a whole by forcible will. The harmonic scheme is impulsive, the transitions variegated, changeful and incessant. The form takes shape as if being improvised. The atonal beginning of the poem proceeds to thoroughgoing chains of seventh chords being tonal only indirectly. It becomes obvious that nearly all the harmony has a colour function.
After graduating from the Higher School of Music, Oja taught theory there, being at the same time active as a choir conductor and music critic. His articles on musical life and the creative process are penetrating. His later large scale works are the opera Lunastatud vanne (Redeemed Oath, 1939/40) and his last, Symphony (1947), being an outstanding composition.
With his opera (libretto by Eino Uuli) the composer entered the competition arranged by Estonia Theatre in 1939 for generating new national repertoire. The work was awarded first prize in 1940. It was the first to depict the heroic and dramatic days of the War of Independence and an episode of the 1905 Revolution in Estonia. The main hero is involved with difficult psychological and ethical issues. It is a great misfortune that the intruding war years prevented its staging and the score was destroyed. The meteoric flight of Eduard Oja was short but his best works will live long.

VI. THE THIRTIES. THE WIDENING OF NATIONAL SYMPHONISM. THE RISE OF ATTENTION TO HISTORY AND FOLKLORE: JUHAN AAVIK, EDUARD TUBIN, EUGEN KAPP.



Economy and cultural life were paralysed by the global economic crisis of 1929-1933. In Estonia it was paralleled by a political crisis. The struggle between several political parties for power led to frequent changes in government, and to instability.
To avoid the possibility of Vabadussõjalaste Liit (Estonian Independence War Veterans’ League) seizing power, the Head of State Konstantin Päts enacted a state of national emergency in March 1934. The parliament was dissolved, all political parties disbanded, and to replace them Isamaaliit (Fatherland League) was founded. It was a relatively mild authoritarian regime, yet it cannot be considered a total dictatorship.1 The “official nationalism” with its corporative nature was criticised by intellectuals. The Estonian Writers’ Association, however, supported the steps taken by the government. Social life stabilized and the economic situation improved.
Eesti Raamatu Aasta (Year of the Estonian Book) in 1935 was a great national cultural event, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first book in Estonian ( Simon Wanradt and Johann Koell: The Lutheran Catechism, printed in Wittenberg). Prizes were awarded to writers, scientists and book illustrators.
Since the beginning of the Thirties writers and artists concentrated on national themes, including history. This cannot just be explained by the new official cultural-political demands but surely the main reasons were the urge to solidify national consciousness and the complicated historical situation. Several outstanding novels and plays were written, among them Ümera jõel (At the River Ümera) by Mait Metsanurk, Karl August Hindrey’s Urmas ja Merike (Urmas and Merike; both concerning the wars waged in the Thirteenth century), and Artur Adson’s Neli kuningat (The Four Kings), about the St. George’s Night Uprising in 1343. Kristjan Raud used archaic rural charcoal drawing techniques for scenes of philosophical dimensions. His illustrations for the jubilee edition of Kalevipoeg are stark, to the point and stylish. The awakened consciousness in the past of the nation supports Juhan Liiv’s axiom: “One who does not know the past will live without the present.” The substance of psychological nationalism aroused concern about what features create a nation. The attention of creative artists was fixed on the character, attitude , views and desires of the Estonian people. Eduard Vilde wrote:
Being deeply disappointed with the development of our whole spiritual life in independent Estonia, I consider it an urgent need to start a fixed cultural political foreign orientation to get rid of German and Russian sterility… I hope that in the future there will be fruitful stimulation to our spiritual life (and that includes naturally political thinking), especially to our literature, from the rich and healthy spiritual world of England and France. 1
The theatre also attempted to widen national identity. Mare ja ta poeg (Mare and Her Son, 1935) by Aino Kallas, referring to events of the St. George’s Night Uprising; Lipud tormis (Flags in the Storm , 1937) by Hugo Raudsepp, Nimed marmortahvlil (Names in Marble, 1939) by Albert Kivikas2, both based on the War of Independence and its consequences . In a lighter vein, the witty allegorical play Kuningal on külm (The King Feels a Chill, 1936) by Anton Hansen Tammsaare satirised many ideas from the past and present and their contradictions, the King representing the decline of the Old World.
The film industry was centred in Tallinn around the studio Eesti Kultuurfilm (Estonian Cultural Film, 1931-1940, and sponsored by the Cultural Endowment). Theodor Luts’s Vahva sõdur Joosep Toots (The Brave Soldier Joosep Toots, 1930), the hero was a very popular figure from a series of juvenile books.
Estonia’s first internationally known film star coloratura soprano Miliza Korjus (1909-1980) achieved fame. Thanks to her extraordinary voice and talent she was selected for the role of Johann Strauss’s love interest in the US film The Great Waltz , directed by Julien Duvivier.
The government’s cultural policy was to emphasise the need for all layers of society to work together and thereby centralising the nation as a whole. Individual artists had to reflect the national spirit through the means of their respective discipline.1 The prominent folklorist and Academician Dr. Oskar Loorits wrote:
…not an individual is dominating, but the mass of people, bound together by a strong feeling of kinship and solidarity. Their powerful inner strength emerged in the silent but unshakeable love towards nature, their equal kinsmen and, above all, towards their own home. 2
Among the first composers to derive inspiration from native folk sources was Juhan Aavik. His Estonian Rhapsody (1930) is an orchestral fantasy, developed from three folk tunes. There are shortcomings lessening the favourable general impression: scant contrast between themes, use of variations rather than symphonic development, rather simple harmonic devices and loose form. Nevertheless, the Rhapsody is melodious, colourful and easily acceptable to a musically undemanding audience.
Aavik made use of folk tunes in all his symphonic works. He did not strive towards originality or invoking deep emotion. The composer is a born lyricist. His outstanding works, two symphonies and concertos for violin, cello , and double bass , belong to the post-war period and are considerably different. In pre-war Estonia Juhan Aavik was one of the most active musical personalities to whom the musical life of the Thirties owes very much. His activities as
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Eesti symfonismi ajalugu inglise keeles. Muusikaõpetuse ylemastme lisamaterjal.
eesti sümfonism , muusikaajalugu , THE FIRST CENTURY

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