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Veljo Tormis


Veljo Tormis was born August 7, 1930 in Kuusalu, Estonia.

Veljo Tormis regarded to be one of the greatest living choral composers and one of their most important composers of the 20th century in Estonia. Internationally, his fame arises chiefly from his extensive body of choral music, which exceeds 500 individual choral songs, most of it a cappella. The great majority of these pieces are based on traditional ancient Estonian folksongs (regilaulud), either textually, melodically, or merely stylistically.

His composition most often performed outside of Estonia, "Curse Upon Iron" (Raua needmine) (1972), invokes ancient Shamanistic traditions to construct an allegory about the evils of war. This piece was banned by the Soviet government, along with many other controversial works by Tormis.

More recently, Tormis's works have been lionized in world-wide performances and several recordings by Tõnu Kaljuste and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. In the 1990s, Tormis also began to receive commissions from some of the pre-eminent a cappella choruses in the West such as the King's Singers and the Hilliard Ensemble.

Tormis began his formal musical education in 1943 at the Tallinn Music School, but was interrupted by World War II and illness. In 1949, he entered the Tallinn Conservatory and continued his studies at the Moscow Conservatory (1951-1956). He quickly acquired teaching positions at the Tallinn Music School (1955-60) and the Tallinn Music High School (1962-66), but by 1969 was supporting himself exclusively as a freelance composer.

From that time up until his retirement from composition in 2000, Tormis composed over 500 individual choral songs, as well as other vocal and instrumental pieces, film scores, and an opera.
Despite the censorship of several of his more politically provocative works in the late 1970s and the 1980s, he remained an incredibly celebrated composer whose works were performed throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. In Eastern Europe, he is regarded as one of the great contributors to the 20th century repertory of choral music. Currently, his work is beginning to gain wider recognition in the United States as well.

Veljo Tormis died on 21 January 2017

TRO-CD 01432

Veljo Tormis - At the Crossroads (1991) - Tower Bell in my Village (1978)

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Veljo Tormis