Ernesaks, Gustav

Ernesaks, Gustav Gustavovich


Born Dec. 12, 1908, in Perila, near Tallinn. Soviet choral conductor and composer. People’s Artist of the USSR (1956). Hero of Socialist Labor (1974).

Ernesaks received his musical education at the Tallinn Conservatory, where he completed a course of study in music pedagogy in 1931 and a course of study in composition under A. Kapp in 1934. He began teaching at the conservatory in 1937 and became a professor there in 1945. During the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 he took part in the Estonian artists’ ensembles in Yaroslavl. In 1944, Ernesaks founded the State Men’s Chorus of the Estonian SSR; he served as its artistic director and conductor. He became principal conductor of the republic song festivals of the Estonian SSR in 1947.

Ernesaks has written operas, including The Shore of Storms (1949), and choral works, notably the cantata Sing, Free People!, the suite How the Fishermen Live, the “choral poem” The Eternal Lenin, and the song “My Motherland, My Love.” He composed the music for the state anthem of the Estonian SSR (1944).

Ernesaks served as a deputy to the fourth through seventh convocations of the Supreme Soviet of the Estonian SSR. He has received the Lenin Prize (1970), the State Prize of the USSR (1947 and 1951), and the State Prize of the Estonian SSR (1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1959, and 1965). Ernesaks has been awarded three Orders of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.