Sisask, Urmas


Urmas Sisask (1960-2022) studied composition under René Eespere at the Tallinn Conservatoire in Estonia and graduated in 1985. He  was a versatile composer who 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 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 and a half in performance and based on the Kumayoshi mode. The order and overall selection of the hymns can be varied, and they can also be sung independently. The song cycle was recorded by Finlandia Records, and it has been widely performed around the world. Other popular works for mixed choir include  e.g. Benedictio , a sonorous piece in which the fifths in the bass create a hypnotic, suggestive feel.

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.


Works by Urmas Sisask published by Fennica Gehrman

Mixed choir:


Domine, exaudi orationem meam

Dona nobis pacem

Gloria Patri, 24 hymns for mixed choir
Surrexit Christus – Omnis una – Alleluia – Benedicamus – Laudate Dominum – Kyrie – Deo gratias – Pater noster – Sanctus – Stabat Mater dolorosa – Ave Maria – Credo – O sanctissima – O salutaris Hostia – Ave verum Corpus – Libera me – Dominus vobiscum – Surrexit Dominus – Confitemini Domino – Tempore natalis Domini – Ave Regina caelorum – Gloria tibi, Domine – Oremus – Agnus Dei
(The hymns are also available separately in sets of 1-2 songs)

Kolm laulu segakoorile / Three Songs for Mixed Chorus

Kui armsast jõulupuu nüüd hiilgab – How Sweetly Shines the Christmas Tree

Kümme kildu / Ten Fragments

Male choir:

Miserere mei, Deus

Female choir:

Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro