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Miina Härma

05 haerma

Miina Härma (born Hermann) –born on 9 February 1864 in Kõrvekül; died on 16 November 1941 in Tartu. She was a well known Estonian composer, organ player, conductor (the first professional female musician and second Estonian musician to have higher education).

Miina was born in the family of musically-educated teachers. She started to learn the basics of music as a child by playing small organ bought by her father. At the age of 15, Miina started to learn piano and composition under the guidance of Karl August Hermann. The first choir song (“Isamaa, õitse sa” – Bloom, Fatherland!) was written already in 1880. In 1883 Miina entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatorium as the only student in the organ class that year. Due to the limited employment possibilities in the Baltic governorates, M. Härma stayed in Saint Petersburg also after the graduation from the conservatorium in 1890. She worked as a private tutor and organ player, and established Estonian children’s choir in 1892.

The 5th Estonian Song Festival in 1984 was a strong impulse for the development of M. Härma’s creative work. She returned to Tartu where she established her own choir, actively performed as an organ player (also abroad), introducing the highest calibre music to her compatriots in rural churches in Estonia. M. Härma continued to propagate the educational work as musician’s most important weapon throughout her life.

From 1903 to 1915 M. Härma lived in Kronstadt (Russia) where she worked as a piano teacher and organ player. After moving back to Tartu M. Härma got actively involved in the Estonian music life, initiated the establishment of several music schools, and supported the creation of Tartu Composers’ Union in 1919. A gymnasium in Tartu has been named after her.

Choral and vocal music pieces (over 200 choir and solo songs), organ music, a canto “Kalev and Linda”, and the first Estonian musical piece for stage – musical comedy “Murueide tütar” are the most significant works of M. Härma’s creative work. Musical means of expression in her compositions are characterized by both the influences of Saint Petersburg and Scandinavians, and national romanticism. M. Härma widely used folklore motives and folk song arrangements. Sometimes the simple and northern ascetism (which might seem even a little naïve) was replaced by attempts to grasp bigger forms. The more developed music culture of the kindred Finns had great influence on that.

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