100 Singers Honor 100th Anniversary of Estonian Independence April 1
Presented by the Foundation of Estonian Arts and Letters, Esto-Atlantis Choral Concert will celebrate the Republic of Estonia's centennial. 100+ singers from around the world will gather to perform and honor the rich heritage of Estonian choral music on Lincoln Center's world-renowned stage. The program manifests four generations of one musical Estonian family: Rudolf Tobias (1973-1918), his daughter, Helen Tobias-Duesberg (1919-2010), granddaughter Maaja Duesberg Roos (b.1945), and great-granddaughter Leila Roos (b.1986). The former two will be present in the spirit of their compositions, the latter two conducting their music, with Maaja additionally performing at the piano and Leila singing in the choir. This Easter Sunday performance includes sacred choral selections by Tobias, and the American premiere of Reekviem by Tobias-Duesberg, as well as the ethereal Morning Star by her contemporary Arvo Pärt, who is the most performed living composer in the world.
2018 marks 100 years since Estonia proclaimed itself as an independent, democratic republic. Esto-Atlantis, a choir of 100 Estonian singers from either side of the Atlantic Ocean, will celebrate this centennial through the greatest Estonian tradition of all: choral music. "Song is the spirit of Estonian identity," explains curator and conductor Maaja Duesberg Roos. "Estonia's strong choral tradition sustained this resilient Nordic nation through many hundred years of foreign rule. We are thrilled to provide a platform for one hundred Estonian artists to perform this amazing music together on one stage."
The genesis of the program is "the father of Estonian music," composer Rudolf Tobias. At the turn of the century, Tobias became a pioneering figure in the national awakening, championing Estonian cultural identity over foreign influence. He was a leader in the formation and development of Estonia's national music culture. Tobias inspired generations of musicians to come - Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, and Neeme Järvi, to name just a few. Tobias' most ardent protégé was the daughter he never met: born just months after his death, Helen Tobias-Duesberg would only come to know her father through his music.
Now, Helen's daughter, the acclaimed choral conductor Maaja Duesberg Roos, brings us a concert that will tell this story musically - through a program that concludes with her grandfather's moving choral works Eks Teie Tea (Know Ye Not) and Otsekui Hirv (As the Hart Panteth). Other works on the program include an ensemble performance of Pärt's Morning Star, and an homage to Pärt by Helen, who studied composition under the same teacher at the Estonian Conservatory.
The concert's capstone is Reekviem, a truly original, otherworldly work embodying Neo-Baroque and Neo-Classical elements. Helen's requiem "deserves to have a light shone on it, for it is a little diamond among oratorios," says conductor Peter Shannon (Savannah Philharmonic and the Jackson Symphony Orchestra). As a young woman, Helen moved to Berlin to study music composition. During World War II, she met her future husband, Wilhelm Duesberg, a journalist who was repeatedly imprisoned for writing articles against Adolf Hitler. Shortly after the war, Wilhelm died of a heart attack in a Stuttgart courtroom while preparing to testify against Nazi war criminals. Following Wilhelm's death, Helen endured multiple hardships as she returned to New York with 6-year-old Maaja. However, the pain and passion she endured were instrumental to composing her magnum opus, Reekviem.
This concert unites singers from choirs based in Estonia, Sweden, the United States, and Canada, forming the mass choir Esto-Atlantis for its debut performance. Hailing from the eastern seaboard, the children's choir Laulurõõm opens the concert with a series of Estonian folk songs. Also appearing are four of Estonia's in-demand soloists: Arete Teemets, soprano; Veikko Kiiver, tenor; Alar Pintsaar, bass; and Ines Maidre, organist.