Veljo Tormis

'It is not I who makes use of folk music, it is folk music that makes use of me.' - Veljo Tormis

Estonian composer Veljo Tormis was born in Kuusalu on 7 August 1930. His father was a choral director, organist and music teacher, so he was exposed to choral music from a very early age. World War II and illness interrupted his studies at the Tallinn Music School, but he later studied at the conservatories in Tallinn and then Moscow.

For about fourteen years he taught in Tallinn, but thereafter (from 1969) made a living as a freelance composer. Initially he wrote in a neoclassical style.

He wrote more than five hundred choral songs, and became one of Estonia's most significant twentieth century composers and one of the most important choral composers of our age. His best known work outside Estonia is Raua needmine ('Curse Upon Iron') from 1972. Some of his works were banned by the Soviet regime but his use of folk music from the ancient Finno-Ugric Regilaul tradition to form his 'magical minimalist' style helped to prevent this and to bring international recognition for his choral and orchestral music.

Tormis died on 21 January 2017, aged eighty-six.

A selection of articles about Veljo Tormis

Ensemble. Boldly Programmed - Music by Antonín Tucapský, Petr Eben and Vaughan Williams, heard by Mike Wheeler

Record Box. Beautifully Performed - Music by Veljo Tormis, recommended by Patric Standford

CD Spotlight. Red ribbon - The Talla Vocal Ensemble, recommended by Patric Standford. '... guaranteed to delight listeners ...'