Tõnu Kaljuste 70

28 Aug 2023


Three men at the choir camp in Otepää (1999). A student and a teacher. Kaljuste is in the middle of the circle. Tormis quietly thinks about hiding the music sheet in the closet, Pärt thinks to himself whether to come back to Estonia for good.

As a young man in the 1950s, Pärt was a student of Tormis for a year. Kaljuste, as an interpreter of music, later learned from both of them, and it is quite obvious that they also learned something important from Kaljuste, although it was hard to admit it.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Kaljuste choir made Tormis's music great and interesting for many, and in the 1990s, Kaljuste took it to the wide world on audio records and concert tours. From the performers' side, this music was filled with joy and passion that inspired everyone. Kaljuste was the one who moved those wings and showed the direction. The composer and the conductor sometimes had heated disagreements about interpretation, but the music always came out as the winner.

Pärt joined Kaljuste and Tormis in the 1990s. Widely noticed records with his music and concerts in many parts of the world raised Kaljuste and his choir to the top of the world. But Tormis' songs were with them all the time, even though it seemed to many that Pärt and Tormis were at different ends of the scale and it was not possible to bring them together.

This seems to be a tricky problem. Tõnu Kaljuste explained the background of the logo with up and down arrows of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, that one direction is towards heavenly ideals (like Pärt) and the other towards the roots (like Tormis). In other words, a chorus between the earth and the sky, Kaljuste in the middle of it like a common part, one ear from one side, the other catching sounds from the other side.

A large part of Kaljuste's musical activity stays away from the Pärt-Torm axis. But maybe it's all one after all? Kaljuste knows. If you ask him, he is likely to smile slyly, pick up the baton, or make a graceful gesture in the air with his hand in the direction of the choir, and leave the answer in the music.

70 is a very beautiful number.

Happy birthday, Tõnu Kaljuste!

Photo © Tõnu Tormis