The International Eduard Tubin Society

In 1944 Eduard Tubin fled, like tens of thousands of Estonians, from the approaching Red Army over the sea to Sweden. In the beginning the composer was placed in the Neglinge refugee camp. In 1945 he settled in Stockholm, where he was offered the position of archivist at the Drottningholm Royal Theatre Museum. His main task was to restore scores and piano scores of old operas and ballets. This work gave the composer a permanent income and made it possible for him to continue composing. Tubin’s music was a strong uniting factor for Estonians living in Sweden. As years went by, it became more and more clear that the expected return to their homeland would not happen. The exiles began thinking about how to present the composer’s works to a wider audience. For this purpose, the Tubin Society was founded in Stockholm on May 2, 1949. G. H. Nordström was elected chairman; Heinrich Laretei, Hanno Kompus, August Mälk, Olav Roots and Harri Kiisk were elected to the Board of the society. The society had big plans – to publish and distribute Tubin’s works to libraries, conductors, interpreters and others. “Ballade on a Theme by Mart Saar”, “Four Folksongs from my Native Country” and some other works had been recorded by German radio stations, but lacking money the society couldn’t release anything and eventually had to end its activities.

The necessity of a Tubin Society was discussed again three decades later when Neeme Järvi had left the Soviet Union. He intended to record Tubin’s symphonies and needed financing. In connection with this project, the Tubin Foundation was established in 1982 at the Assistance Committee of the New York Estonian House with Neeme Järvi as chairman and Harry Must and Voldemar Krimm as active leaders. The foundation was later transferred to Lakewood. After Järvi’s written appeal, the necessary funds were collected from Estonians living in the USA, Canada and Sweden and BIS Records could release 5 LP-s and 9 CDs with Tubin’s symphonies, solo concertos and most of his other symphonic works during 1983–1988. Unfortunately, Tubin was not himself destined to see the CDs with his symphonies win the hearts of music friends in the whole world. When the goal was achieved, the organization ended its activities.

In the late 1980s, new winds began to blow in Estonia, and in June 1988 a Tubin Foundation was founded by the Estonian Music Council, with Vardo Rumessen as chairman and Kristel Pappel, Ülle Reimets, Urmas Vulp and Tiina Õun as members. Later, the foundation was transferred to the Estonian Choral Association. The primary purpose of the Tubin Foundation was to present works by Tubin as well as by other Estonian classical composers, and to research Estonian classical music. On the initiative of the foundation, scores were obtained, and concerts organized. In cooperation with Estonian Concert, on 17–29 June 1990 Tubin Music Days were organized, which was the first extensive overview of Tubin’s music in Estonia. The foundation’s activities were supported mainly by donations from organizations, institutions and physical persons; the biggest sponsors were the Estonian National Opera, Neeme Järvi, Taavo Virkhaus, Peeter Lilje, Vardo Rumessen and Eino Tubin. In 1990, a memorial stone was placed at Tubin’s birthplace in Kallaste, and in 1995 a memorial plaque fitted to his house on Hermann Street 6 in Tartu.

In the 1990s, the basic goal was to start publishing Tubin’s “Collected Works” in cooperation with Swedish publishers. Rumessen negotiated with various ministers of culture and submitted an application to Prime minister Mart Siimann in 1997. Discussions were held with the composer’s son Eino Tubin, Neeme Järvi, the former secretaries-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music Hans Åstrand and Gunnar Larsson and the musicologist Harry Olt, living in Stockholm. Since it was the first project of this kind in Estonia, it brought forward a lot of questions and some opposition from music circles. It was thought that too much attention was paid to a single composer and that it was wrong to support Swedish commercial publishing. In 1999, Eino Tubin met with Minister of culture Signe Kivi and explained that Tubin’s copyrights belonged to various Swedish music publishers. They were however not interested in such a publication and were not ready to make the necessary investments. The only way to publish all his works was to do it with the support of the Estonian state. In 2000, Prime minister Mart Laar gave his consent to this big project. It became necessary to create a juridical entity to carry the responsibility for the work.

For this purpose, the International Eduard Tubin Society was established during the music days dedicated to Tubin’s 95th anniversary in Tartu on 21 October 2000. The founding members were Vardo Rumessen, Eino Tubin, Margus Pärtlas, Hans Åstrand, Mart Humal, Andres Pung, Johannes Jürisson, Priit Kuusk, Arvo Volmer, Arvo Leibur, Kadri Leivategija and Avo Sõmer. A Board was elected with Vardo Rumessen (chairman), Margus Pärtlas (vice chairman), Arvo Volmer, Arvo Leibur and Mart Humal. To represent the Tubin Society in international relations, an honorary Presidium was appointed with Neeme Järvi agreeing to lead that activity. The original location of the society was at the Estonian Music Council (Suur-Karja 23), later it was transferred to the National Library of Estonia (Endla 3). Since 2003, the Tubin Society is located at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EMTA).

To start the activities, it was decided to form a basic capital of 100 000 Estonian crowns. The chairman of the Board Vardo Rumessen turned to Prime minister Mart Laar with an application for the necessary amount on 18 December 2000. The activities of the Tubin Society were economically sponsored by the government of the Republic of Estonia, the Cultural Foundation, Cultural Endowment of Estonia, AS Estonia piano factory, Estonian National Opera, Estonian State Symphony Orchestra and AS Koopia 3 (currently Grano Digital); and by physical persons Indrek Laul, Arbo Valdma, Vardo Rumessen, Neeme Järvi, Arvo Volmer et al.

The Swedish government was also approached. On 5 February 2001, Neeme Järvi turned to the Swedish Prime minister Göran Persson, followed by a letter from Hans Åstrand, Gunnar Larsson and Harry Olt, members of the Presidium of the society, to the Swedish Minister of culture Marita Ulvskog on 15 May 2001. Unfortunately, these requests did not yield results.

At the end of 2001, Vardo Rumessen proposed to the government of the Republic of Estonia to include the initial amount necessary to start publication of “Collected Works” in the 2002 state budget. The proposal was adopted and Minister of culture Margus Allikmaa signed an agreement on “Collected Works” on 22 October 2002 with the International Eduard Tubin Society.

Already after the death of Tubin in 1982, Rumessen had began to compile a complete overview of the composer’s works. In 2003, because of that work, “Eduard Tubin: Thematic-Bibliographical Catalogue of Works” (ETW) with texts in English and Estonian was published in cooperation with the Swedish publisher Gehrmans Musikförlag and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. It became the basis for the “Collected works” project.

On 22 April 2004, the editorial board, consisting of Vardo Rumessen (editor-in-chief), Toomas Velmet (executive director), Kerri Kotta, Sigrid Kuulmann, Peep Lassmann, Paul Mägi, Margus Pärtlas and Toomas Trass, was formed for the “Collected works”. The principles of publishing, general structure and classification of works in volumes were agreed upon. On 29 April 2005, after years of negotiations, an agreement to publish Eduard Tubin’s “Collected works” was signed at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, by Vardo Rumessen (International Eduard Tubin Society), Kettil Skarby (Gehrmans Musikförlag), Staffan Ehrling (Ehrlingförlagen AB), Kaj Lunden-Welden (Scandinavian Songs AB), Roland Sandberg (Edition Suecia) and the composer’s inheritor, his son Eino Tubin. On 5 February 2007 an appendix of agreement was signed with publisher Gehrmans Musikförlag to solve practical problems. The first volume (vol XVIII) with piano pieces (edited by V. Rumessen) was published the same year.

Publishing “Collected works” was complicated and caused a lot of debate, especially about the content and size of commentary. In view of practical needs and financial possibilities, it was decided not to print a full academic text-critical version. A complete commentary could instead be made available on the internet. The list of published volumes and the complete commentary are available on the Tubin Society website.

The society was also engaged organizing concerts and releasing CDs and DVDs. In 2001–2005, in cooperation with Estonian Concert and Estonian State Symphony Orchestra, the festival “Eduard Tubin and his time” was organized, with Vardo Rumessen as artistic director. In addition to Tubin’s music, works of many other Estonian classical composers were performed by Estonian and foreign performers and orchestras. In 2002, a musicological conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the composer’s death was held in cooperation with Tubin Society and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. A festival dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Tubin’s birth was held from May 18 to June 19, 2005, with all his 10 symphonies performed by orchestras from Estonia, Russia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Austria. On Tubin’s birthday, June 18, a song day took place at Alatskivi, his home county. A monument to the composer (created by Aili Vahtrapuu and Veronika Valk) was unveiled next day in front of the Vanemuine Theatre in Tartu. An extensive photo album, “Eduard Tubin ja tema aeg [Eduard Tubin and his time]”, compiled by Vardo Rumessen about the life and works of Tubin, was published with texts in Estonian and English. A CD with samples of his music was added to the album. The Tubin Society and Gehrmans Musikförlag published seven scores of Tubin’s piano pieces (compiled by Rumessen). On 16 and 17 June, a jubilee conference was held in cooperation with the Tubin Society and EMTA, with participation of Estonian and foreign musicologists.

In 2006 the Ministry of Culture decided to end the funding of the yearly festival.

In 2001–2005, evenings with Tubin’s works were organized in the winter garden of the Estonian National Opera, where the composer’s music was performed live. Sound recordings and video programs were also presented.

Since 2001, yearbooks of the International Eduard Tubin Society (I–IX, 2001–2009) have been published, with previous and new articles about Tubin, papers from conferences, memoirs, letters, reviews etc. and annual chronicles of events. The books “Eduard Tubin. Kirjad [Letters]” I–II (2006), “Vestlused Eduard Tubinaga [Conversations with Eduard Tubin]” (2015) were published. The CD „Virmaliste sonaat [Northern Lights]” (2007) and the DVD “Second symphony (Legendary) and Fifth symphony” with Estonian State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peeter Lilje (2013), were also released.

In 2015, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Society Vardo Rumessen passed away and Kerri Kotta assumed the commitments of editor-in-chief. On 1 August 2017 a symposium and a concert were organized in the National Library of Estonia in memory of the 75th anniversary of Vardo Rumessen’s birth.

On 5 June 2018 the remains of Eduard Tubin and his wife Erika arrived in Estonia, the composer’s homeland. A commemorative ceremony of reburial was held at Tallinn Metsakalmistu on 18 June. On 19 June a memorial concert took place in the Estonia Concert Hall.



Vardo Rumessen. Eduard Tubina Ühingust. – Vardo Rumessen. Lisandusi eesti muusikaloole. Fakte ja avastusi, meenutusi ja mõtisklusi. Artikleid, ettekandeid ja intervjuusid aastaist 19722009. Estonian Classics ja Olion 2010, pp 320–324.

Vardo Rumessen’s archives (National Library of Estonia).