Ukuaru valss (Ukuaru Waltz) is undoubtedly one of the most well-known and beloved piece by Estonian listeners among Arvo Pärt’s works. The waltz found its first use in Leida Laius’ feature film Ukuaru, which has become an important part of Estonian film history and for which Arvo Pärt wrote the score in 1973.
The film featured several legendary Estonian actors, with Elle Kull (Minna) and Lembit Ulfsak (Aksel) in the leading roles. Whilst the plot revolves around the love story between Minna and Aksel, it is overshadowed by everyday drudgery and human weaknesses, as well as the outbreak of World War II. Played on diatonic accordion by Aksel during key scenes in the film, the waltz develops to reflect the emotional state of the main characters and their relationship to their surroundings. Over the course of the film, the seemingly simple folksy tune grows into a musical symbol of major significance, embodying the most important themes of the film: love, hope, a sense of home and the will to live.
The memorable accordion piece soon became widely known and was passed on by oral tradition. It started to appear in the repertoire of many Estonian folk musicians. Arvo Pärt listed Ukuaru Waltz in his official list of works only in 2010, having arranged it for piano a year earlier. The version for accordion dates from 2016 (arranged by Tauno Aints).
Juhan Uppin (1984) is one of Estonia’s best-known and most beloved diatonic accordion and kannel (Estonian zither) players. Based on tradition, his music is both traditional and contemporary while being stylistically open and diverse. Uppin has released five albums as a solo artist and is also as a member of the bands Rüüt and Tuulelõõtsutajad. From 2018, Uppin has held the title of Traditional Musician of the Republic.
Juhan Uppin is playing Ukuaru waltz on a melodeon made by August Teppo (1875–1959) in 1920.
Arvo Pärt, piano
Juhan Uppin, melodeon
Label: Arvo Pärt Centre
Format: 7“ vinyl
Booklet: 1-page insert
A side Ukuaru waltz 02:08
Arvo Pärt (piano)
B side Ukuaru waltz 04:00
Juhan Uppin (diatonic accordion)
The vinyl is available from the Arvo Pärt Centre webshop.