Heino Eller (b Tartu, 7 March 1887; d Tallinn, 16 Jun 1970).
Composer and professor of composition. He spent his childhood in Tartu where he took private lessons in violin and music theory, played in several ensembles and orchestras, and performed as violin soloist. In 1907 he entered the St Petersburg Conservatory to study violin. From 1908 to 1911 he was a law student. In 1920 he graduated from Petrograd Conservatory where he studied composition with V. Kalafi, M. Steinberg and M. Chernoff.
From 1920 to 1940 Eller was a professor of music theory and composition at the Tartu Higher Music School. He formed so-called Tartu school of composition where such composers as Eduard Tubin, Eduard Oja, Olav Roots, Alfred Karindi, Johannes Bleive as well as a theorist Karl Leichter sprang from. Since 1940 he held a professorial chair in composition at Tallinn Conservatory where his students were Villem Kapp, Kaljo Raid, Boris Kõrver, Anatoli Garshnek, Leo Normet, Valter Ojakäär, Uno Naissoo, Arne Oit, Jaan Rääts, Heino Jürisalu, Arvo Pärt, Alo Põldmäe and Lepo Sumera. He teached there until his death.
Eller was a legendary composition teacher. The school he formed in Tartu counterbalanced to so-called Tallinn school headed by Artur Kapp. Eller’s pedagogical talent is versatile. The list of his pupils offers the best proof of it - each of them have created distinguished original style.
First of all Eller wrote instrumental music. His symphonic works, especially Koit [Dawn] and Videvik [Twilight] break new ground for Estonian symphonic music. His musical language contains a lot of national traits (key words to his music can be ‘northern’ and ‘fresh’), but his mind was opened for influences of impressionism, expressionism and other movements in 20th century European music. All of his works are finely elaborated. He also had acute perception of timbre.
At the end of the 20th century Eller is one of the most frequently played Estonian authors in the world. Especially his Kodumaine viis [Tune Of Homeland] for strings is often performed abroad, lately as a part of the longer cycle Viis pala keelpilliorkestrile [Five Pieces for String Orchestra]. In 1998 the cycle was performed in Japan and Australia. The great propagandist of Eller’s music has been conductor Neeme Järvi.