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Sumera was regarded among the top innovative and forward-looking characters in modern Estonian composition; and its foremost symphonist. He paved the way in electro-acoustic music and became a pivotal figure in his country's cultural life. As the country emerged from the shadow of Soviet domination in the late 1980s he stood tall within the active group of Estonian intellectuals spearheading strategies for social and political change. Unlikely though it seemed to many, Sumera served as Estonia's Minister of Culture from 1989-1992.

He studied at the Estonian Academy of Music [1973] and completed post-graduate studies at Moscow Conservatory [1979-1982]. In 1978 he began to teach composition at the Estonian Academy where he was later appointed a professor [1993]. He helped found its Studio of Electronic Music and worked as its first director [1995-1999]. Sumera lectured at Summer Courses of New Music, Darmstadt [1988, 1989] and in Musikhochschule in Karlsruhe [1992].

Sumera's works includes two ballets -- Anselm's Story [libretto by Mai Murdmaa after E T A Hoffmann's The Golden Pot] and The Lizard [Andrei Petrov after Alexander Volodin, 1987/93] -- plus six symphonies [1981-2000], a Piano Concerto [1989/93], Cello Concerto [1998/1999], and Concerto Grosso [2000] with three soloists (soprano saxophone, percussion, and piano), oratorial works, chamber music, and approximately seventy film scores.

The multimedia works include two based on pioneering ideas: the chamber opera Olivia's Master Class [libretto by Peeter Jalakas from the novel of Ervin Õunapuu; 1997], paintings by Caspar David Friedrich [one of the main characters] were used for video; the entire material for Heart Affairs (1999) was built out of sounds and rhythms of a human heart; and from its 'portrait' produced by echocardiography.

His works have been performed throughout Europe, in the USA, Canada, Australia, and Cuba. He featured at the Festival 'Composer-to-Composer' in Telluride, Colorado (1988). A year later he was composer-in-residence at the Festival New Beginnings in Glasgow and, in 1993, special guest at the Sydney Spring Festival of New Music and Norrtälje (Sweden) Chamber Music Festival. He won numerous international awards, prizes and four state prizes in Estonia.

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Copyright © 13 September 2006 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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