Veljo Tormis' manuscript collection at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum
Veljo Tormis (1930–2017) was one of the most important Estonian composers in the second half of the 20th century. His most active period of creation was during Soviet times. After 1960, the original manuscripts of his works were given to the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum after they were finished and approved. These manuscripts, and others donated after the restoration of independence, today form a large collection of manuscripts of hundreds of different works. They give us an insight into the work and legacy of Tormis, including his struggle with Soviet censorship and the absurd working conditions for creative people.
Tallinn Müürivahe 12, Estonia 10146
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Name of collection
- Veljo Tormis, collection no. 318
Provenance and cultural activities
During Soviet times, Veljo Tormis was one of those composers who were not in sharp conflict with the authorities. His works were widely performed. Nevertheless, his tonality and the motifs of his works were clearly national. Some of his works are based on Finno-Ugric folk songs. He constantly found himself stranded between his own views and the canons of Soviet culture. Many of his works carry hidden critical messages about the Soviet regime and its absurdity, which the authorities were not able to identify, or in some cases they had no clear basis on which to make an accusation. This was the case with the cantata Lenini sõnad (Lenin's Words), with parts of texts from Lenin which did not correspond to the actual policy of the Soviet Union.
The first manuscripts of Tormis' works were given to the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum in 1960, so his manuscript collection was formed in that year. Since then, after a composition was approved by the Ministry of Culture, the manuscript of the composition was transferred to the museum. This way, all the manuscripts by Tormis in this collection were approved and passed the censors. It was common practice to transfer the manuscripts of compositions to the Theatre and Music Museum, which means that an extensive manuscript collection gathered in this museum. The Tormis collection is only part of it.
Manuscripts were given to the museum by the Ministry of Culture during the Soviet period. After the restoration of independence, Tormis continued cooperating with the museum, and presented not only new manuscripts and copies of old ones, but also other documentation and artefacts. These are catalogued in separate directories, and, unlike the manuscript collection, documentation about the life and work of Tormis is not freely accessible. Some donations to the museum were made by the heirs of Tormis after his death at the beginning of 2017. These donations to this particular collection, which may also include additional manuscripts, are not yet catalogued.
The collection is used mainly by music students, but also by other researchers. Interest in the collection grew after Tormis’ death.
Description of content
The collection contains 428 different manuscripts of Veljo Tormis' compositions, donated to the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum over a long period of time. Besides original manuscripts, there are also many copies from later times. When they exist, originals and copies of a manuscript are collected in one file.
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 100-499
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Tammela, Mari-Leen
- Tark, Triin
Kuljus, Ene, interview by Tark, Triin, Tammela, Mari-Leen , September 12, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection