Gustav Ernesaks

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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.

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Nonetheless, at that celebration, folk and choral songs by Estonian composers were sung as well, including the premiere performance of the patriotic song Mu isamaa on minu arm (My fatherland is my love), composed by Gustav Ernesaks (1908-1993) to the same poem by Lydia Koidula (1843-1886) that was first set to music by Aleksander Kunileid in 1869.
Along with music teachers, professional composers, such as Johannes Kappel (1855-1907), Aleksander Late (1860-1948), Miina Harma (1864-1941), Artur Kapp (1878-1952), and Gustav Ernesaks (1908-1993), created songbooks for schools, enriching the school singing repertoire with new songs.
Urve Lippus writes that the Estonian choir movement was indeed reborn at the 12th All-Estonian Song Celebration in 1947, under the leadership of the old leaders of the choir movement Tuudur Vettik (incontestably the most important authority in the choir movement at the time), Alfred Karindi, Riho Pats, and Gustav Ernesaks.
Gustav Ernesaks wrote in his memoirs: "Vettik's conducting style was energetic, even aggressive, he worked at a formidable pace which inevitably swept you up.
The book makes no mention of the work of Tuudur Vettik as a professor, head of chair, and founder of a choir conducting school--the book only talks about the students of Gustav Ernesaks and Juri Variste.
I donot wish to belittle any of the well-earned respect for Gustav Ernesaks because he undoubtedly had an important positive role in the story of the new stage.
In the description of the 1938 Song Celebration, Gustav Ernesaks is imported as its Head Conductor instead of Tuudur Vettik, although Ernesaks took over from Vettik much later, and in completely different circumstances.
The three opening songs of the Celebration were Kantaat Stalinist (Cantata on Stalin) by Alexandr Alexandrov, Laul Stalinile (Song to Stalin) by Gustav Ernesaks and cantata Rahva voim (People's Power) by Eugen Kapp.
Gustav Ernesaks, on the other hand, had been active in the Soviet rear--whether voluntarily or by force, was of no importance.
We cannot find direct facts describing the stark opposition between the two important figures, the former leader of the Song Celebration Movement Tuudur Vettik, and Gustav Ernesaks.
Other participants in the ENCEs included Gustav Ernesaks, Jiiri Variste, Harri Korvits, Edgar Arro, etc.
15) Kaama kraavihallide meeskoor (Male choir of the Kama ditch-diggers) founded at the initiative of Gustav Ernesaks and Juri Variste in Kambarka, Udmurt ASSR, at the river Kama, which held its first rehearsal on 28 September 1941 in a earth cabin.