Miina Härma

February 9, 1864 Raadi parish, Tartu – November 16, 1941 Tartu

Miina Härma was the first professional female composer, female organist and prominent choir conductor in Estonia. Härma received her basic knowledge in music at home and from Karl August Hermann, whom she met in her teens while listening a rehearsal of mixed choir of theatre Vanemuine. She studied piano with Ernst von Knorre. Härma wrote her first choir piece ''Flourish My Homeland'' in 1880. 1883–1890 she studied organ (under Louis Homilius), harmony (under V. Siecke), counterpoint and fugue (under Julius Ernst Christian Johannsen) at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

In 1890–1894, she worked as a piano teacher and a choir conductor in St. Petersburg, founded an Estonian children's choir in 1892 and conducted the Estonian Educational Society Choir. As an active organist, she performed in Estonia, St. Petersburg, England, Finland and Germany. Härma lived in Tartu 1894–1903. In 1894, she founded a mixed choir (since 1920 the mixed choir of Miina Hermann Choral Society), that formed into one of the best concert choirs in Estonia at that time, they performed outside of Estonia and participated in the Song Festival in 1896. The Miina Hermann Choral Society Concert Pieces (I-II, 1898) were printed, including 15 choir pieces of her own (including "Tuljak"). Since 1895, she collected folk music on the Estonian West Coast, organized singing days and song festivals at local counties. In 1901–1902, she performed in ensembles, often with soprano Aino Tamm. From 1903 to 1915, she lived and worked as a piano teacher and an organist in Kronstadt, Russia. Härma moved back to Tartu in 1915 and worked as a music teacher at the girls' grammar school administrated by the Society of Education of Estonian Youth from 1917 to 1929, the school was named after her in 1964. Härma was an editor-in-chief of the Estonian Music Monthly and a member of the editorial board of the Musical Magazine. She supported the founding of Tartu Composers' Society in 1919, alongside with Juhan Aavik and Harald Laksberg. She has been selected as an honorary member of many choirs, societies and organizations due to her well-known compositions and social activity. In 1938 she received a Red Cross badge of Honour, second class, the year 1939 was named a music-year of Miina Härma.

The major part of Miina Härma's output consists of vocal music, including a song play called The Daughter of the Mother of the Sward (first Estonian musical theatre stage work), a cantata Kalev and Linda, over 200 choral and solo songs. Since 1891, many of her choir pieces have been included in the song festival repertoire, her solo songs performed by several generations of singers. In 1894–1928, 10 Anthologies of Choral Music and Singing Instruction for Schools were published.

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