WFIU’s contemporary composer for the month of April is Veljo Tormis.
Veljo Tormis is considered one of the most important Estonian composer of the twentieth century. He is mostly known for his choral music, which incorporates folk songs and commemorates important events in Estonia’s history.
He began his education at the Tallinn Music School in 1943 but it was briefly interrupted by World War II. By 1949, he had entered the Tallinn Conservatory where he studied organ and composition. He won his first composition prize in 1950, and the next year he began a program in composition at the Moscow Conservatory where his teachers included Vissarion Shebalin and Yury Fortunatov.
Most of his musical inspiration comes from Estonian legend or folk songs. He drew inspiration from mythological characters such as Kalevipoeg-the equivalent of Paul Bunyan-for his thesis composition, an epic cantata. He has written pieces that draw directly from folk songs, but also some that inspired him.
During the 1970s and 1980s, his music had an anti-Soviet sentiment to it, which caused many musicians to not perform his works. Other than this period of time, the Ministry of Culture in Estonia has purchased many of Tormis’ manuscripts.
In addition to his choral works, Tormis has also composed music for various settings. He has written incidental music for over thirty films, various instrumental works, a ballet/cantata Eesti ballaadid, and an opera, Liugelend.
He has received commissions from the King’s Singers and the Hilliard Ensemble, the University of Toronto, and the combined men’s choruses of the Universities of Uppsala and Helsinki.
WFIU will feature the must of Veljo Tormis throughout the month of April.