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Composer Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918) is widely considered the founder of the modern Estonian musical movement. He was the first ethnic Estonian to receive higher education in composition, and the first to contribute to numerous genresthe symphonic overture Julius Caesar (1896); a cantata, Johannes Damascenus (1897); a piano concerto and sonata (1897); a string quartet (1899), and an oratorio, Des Jona Sendung (1909). At a time when Estonian composers were largely concerned with creating relatively simplistic choral music for the countrys nascent national song festivals, Tobias’s work spanned both instrumental and choral mediums at an elevated level that spurred the Estonian musical movement into the modern era.
After studying with Louis Homilius and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, Tobias worked in St. Petersburg for six more years, serving as an organist and music director before returning to Estonia in 1904. Back in his native land, he gave lessons and taught at several institutions. He also joined the nationalistic literary group Noor-Eesti (Young Estonia) and regularly penned articles on music for newspapers, becoming one of Estonias earliest music critics. Through his writings, Tobias became an ardent advocate for raising musical standards in his country, undoubtedly influenced by the hurdles he faced in staging his relatively complex compositions in a region that did not yet have the musical resources to perform them convincingly.
Ostermorgen is one in a collection of sacred choral pieces (Vaimulikud laulud) Tobias composed in 1915, during his Berlin period. Its text combines a chorale text by Johann Heermann (1585-1647) and Psalm 118. The editor has sought to preserve Tobias’s original directions wherever possible. The editor has attempted to clarify certain directions in the manuscript or make them consistent between vocal parts. In both the original manuscript and copy, Tobias indicated that measures 1 through the downbeat of 5 be sung by a childrens choir. In order to facilitate performance by a standard mixed ensemble and account for vocal ranges, the editor has elected to split the chorale line between the soprano and alto parts.
In 1908, Tobias moved to Germany in search of more fertile musical ground, working first as a substitute lecturer in music theory at the Royal Academy of Music in Berlin. He eventually was appointed there full-time, and was, at last, in a stable position within a region capable of supporting his musical ambitions. Unfortunately, he was not able to enjoy his newfound security for long. In October 1918, he contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 45. In 1992, following Estonia’s emancipation from Soviet occupation, his remains were moved from Berlin and reinterred in his native land.

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