Liner Notes for the LP "Veljo Tormis - Teoseid meeskoorile" (Melodiya 33CM 03353-4) by Helju Tauk

Veljo Tormis (born in 1930) is an outstanding Soviet Estonian composer who has mainly gained recognition as an author of choral music. After his graduation from the Moscow Conservatoire in 1956, he mostly wrote works for mixed and female choirs. In the 1960s, however, compositions for male choir became his principal pre-occupation. Next to his previous lyrical manner, best revealed in colourful pictures of nature or in his paraphrases of Estonian folk music, he found now forceful contrasts and dramatic gradations, achieving an orchestral sounding and an impressive alternation of timbres and rhythms. The present record is a cross-section of that most valuable part of V. Tormis' production, written in 1963-1969.

Inspiration for V. Tormis' choral compositions was provided by texts that "simply forced me to write music", according to the author's own statement. Here of particular importance was the inspiring role of the profound poetry of Paul-Eerik Rummo and Jaan Kaplinski. The songs for the male choir were written thanks to the collaboration and mutual encouragement of the Estonian State Academic Male Choir.

V. Tormis' first fine achievements in music for the male choir were the songs composed to the texts of the poems "A Day of Peace" and "Once I Had Three Words of Beauty" (both in 1960). In the last-named song, the vocal music was enriched by an introduction of instrumental timbres: a flute part penetrates into the song like a fine ray of light, tracing a delicate ornament into the vocal texture.

Patriotic feelings find an emotional expression in the "A Song of a Flat Land" (1963), in which the grave melody of a sombre colouring swells to a passionate declaration of unity. "A Song about Keeping Together" (1963) conveys the identity of the concepts of "mine" and "ours".

The culmination, so far, of V. Tormis' original creation (i.e. that one which is not based on folk-music) is represented by the choral compositions "Hamlet's Songs", "Our Shadows" and "The Ballad of Mary's Land"*. The "Ballad" is one of the most imposing Estonian choral compositions. It narrates about the defeat of the ancient Estonians by foreign invaders. The last, desperate cry of the people is developed here in a truly symphonic manner.

The two last-mentioned compositions were written for a contest (1969) preceding the 25th anniversary of the Male Choir. The "Ballad" was awarded the first prize.

* Mary’s Land – a poetic synonym of Estonia

Helju Tauk

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