Music Days

Eino Tamberg

Estonian composer Eino Tamberg (1930–2010) was a composer with a flair for the theatrical, a romanticist and Estonian music’s bard of love. Music for orchestra and the stage occupy a central position in his work: he is the writer of four symphonies, nine concertos for solo instrument and many works for the stage.

Tamberg’s neoclassical-tinged Concerto Grosso (1956) was one of the seminal works in the “new wave” that marked the return of modernism to post-Stalinist Estonian music, and was also performed at the Prague Spring Festival in 1959. Social reality and current musical trends are not the most important influence on Tamberg’s work, which, even through changing times, resounds with the beauty and pain of being human. Love is the all-pervading theme of Tamberg’s work, and literary and poetic experience is also deeply reflected.

The composer himself has divided his work into five periods. Even in the first period (1955–1965), he showed an interest in symphonic music and stage genres. In the second period (1967–1978), Tamberg experimented with the possibilities of dodecaphonic music (”Toccata” for symphony orchestra, 1967; ballet “Joanna tentata”, 1970), but tonal thinking and a dramaturgical musical concept continued to be defining characteristics. Tamberg’s style became more intimate in the post-hiatal third period (1981–1983), and his soundscapes more finely sculpted. Modal thinking and minimalist influences entered the idiom, giving rise to works that are considered part of the pantheon of Estonian music and were inspired directly or indirectly by the theme of love. The fourth period (1984–1990) was a time of searching. Folk tunes and its developmental devices – variability and heterophony – again came into Tamberg’s music. In the fifth period (1991–1999), Tamberg became free of the formal and tonal canons. The result was a work as a free sequence of aural events, a “journey” whose end terminus could not be predicted. The number of parts became smaller and the texture more detailed. The possibilities of tone colour, rhythm and polyphony rose in predominance.

Since 1968, Eino Tamberg was a composition faculty member at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre; he was head of the composition department 1978–2005 (including a sabbatical), and professor since 1983. Thirty-one Estonian composers have graduated during his tenure.

Record label Antes has produced two CDs (1997, 2000) and BIS one CD (2010) with Eino Tamberg’s works, in 2009, his trumpet concertos were released on CD. Composer’s music has also been featured on Melodiya, Finlandia, BIS, Estonian Radio and other records.