Heino Eller was born in 1887 into a music-loving family in Tartu, Estonia. His mother liked to sing and his father played the violin, which he also taught his son to do. In the age of twelve Heino Eller started taking violin lessons with Samuel Lindpere and music theory lessons with Rudolf Tobias. He played the violin in the school orchestra and in several chamber groups. In 1907 Eller went to study violin at the St. Petersburg Conservatory but had to interrupt the studies because of over-playing his hand and of having started his early violin studies too late.
But, already in 1913 we find Heino Eller among the composition students of Vassily Kalafati, Maximilian Steinberg and Mikhail Chernov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. During his study years in St. Petersburg Eller played in cinema and theatre orchestras and also in summer orchestras. He graduated successfully from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1920 and returned to Tartu where he began his pedagogical career. In 1920-1940 Eller taught theory and composition at the Tartu Higher School for Music. In 1940 he moved to Tallinn where he became a professor at the Tallinn State Conservatory and worked until his death in 1970. For decades he taught many Estonian composers, including Eduard Tubin, Jaan Rääts, Arvo Pärt, Alfred Karindi, and also Uno Naissoo, Aarne Oit ja Valter Ojakäär.
Heino Eller is one of Estonia’s most important instrumental music composers – he holds almost 300 works to his credit: 3 symphonies, about 40 smaller works for orchestra, a violin concerto, 5 string quartets, 4 piano and 2 violin sonatas, chamber ensembles for different instruments, about 200 pieces for the piano, and a few choral and solo songs. Eller’s best-known symphonic works are tone poems "Dawn" and “Twilight.” During his years of development as a composer Eller was influenced most by the music of Grieg, Scriabin, Sibelius and Chopin. Heino Eller’s compositional style is a mixture of principals of classical form, national intonations and expressions of 20th century music. “Thirteen piano pieces on Estonian motifs” from 1941 is one of the most masterly folk song transcriptions in the Estonian instrumental miniature form genre.