Urmas Sisask (b. 1960)

Benedictio op. 31  (1991)


Urmas Sisask (born 9 September 1960) studied composition under René Eespere at the Tallinn Conservatoire in Estonia and graduated in 1985. He soon absorbed himself in his interest for early music and Gregorian chant as well as pursuing research into the theory of astrologically governed sounds. Sisask worked out theoretical sound values for the rotations of different planets obtaining a five-pitch series of C Sharp-D-F Sharp-G Sharp- A, and was astonished to discover that this succession of notes is an exact counterpart of a Japanese pentatonic scale known as Kumayoshi.

Sisask has gained international recognition primarily as a choral composer although the Starry Sky Cycle for piano was among the first pieces by him to attract attention. In 1988 Sisask finished his Gloria Patri, a work consisting of 24 a cappella hymns on Latin texts for mixed chorus, lasting almost an hour an a half in performance and based on the Kumayoshi mode. The order and overall selection of the hymns can be varied.

Apart from choral works Urmas Sisask has written chamber, instrumental and orchestral music. He has developed his own, expressive language with an idiom closer to the old authentic church modes than to the tensions of the major-minor system. Being also fond of the suggestibility of recurrent phrases he has sometimes been described as a musical shaman.