> Estonian Violin Music [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


ESTONIAN VIOLIN MUSIC
Rudolf TOBIAS (1873-1918) Through the Night (1914)
Artur LEMBA (1885-1963) Poème d'Amour (1916)
Eugen KAPP (1908-1996) Nocturne (1927)
Heino ELLER (1887-1970)

Allegretto (1917)
Im Mondschein (1918)
Abendlied (1921)
Die Kiefern (1929)
Eduard OJA (1905-50) Aelita's Suite (1932)
Eduard TUBIN (1905-1982)

Meditation (1938)
Capriccio No. 1 (1937 rev 1971)
Ester MÄGI (b.1922) Vesper (1990)
Arvo PÄRT (1935-2000) Der Spiegel im Spiegel (1978)
Urmas Vulp (violin)
Vardo Rumessen (piano)
Rec Sept-Oct 1996, House of the Blackheads, Tallinn, Estonia
ERES CD08 [55.30]


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We are in safe but inspired hands in any project associated with the pianist Vardo Rumessen. Rumessen, having already, recorded the complete piano music of Tubin and Tobias now turns to a varied recital of 20th century Estonians. Some of these pieces, as we shall see, are securely and benevolently harnessed to the nineteenth century.

Urmas Vulp is a name less familiar or if you will, even more unfamiliar. He graduated from Tallinn in 1977 and then studied in Moscow. In 1984 he founded the Tallinn String Quartet and is its leader. The 'speaking voice' of his violin has humanity and a quick pulse. Rest assured he avoids the excesses of Sarbu or Belkin though he does not achieve the tonal purity of say Viktoria Mullova or Cho-Liang Lin.

The Tobias is at once elusive, grave and serenading. Lemba's Poème speaks of a grounding in Brahms and Bruch; very much an ardent though enigmatically calming meditation. The Kapp is in a similar mood - very restful. His is a more fluid lyrical talent - almost the Delius of the Violin Concerto. His Nocturne has a quite lengthy lunar fade. The Eller Allegretto approaches Macdowell's miniatures and then suggests Dvorak or Cadman. Im Mondschein steers very close to that Judy Garland special Somewhere over the rainbow but at 4.44 is a mite too long for its material. The interesting Evening Song is rich in double-stopping with suggestions of the elusiveness of Tobias. Out of this stream came Sibelius's The Bard. The Pines would be enjoyed by anyone who loves their John Ireland character pieces but it is richer and sharper and rises to a Howells-like harmony. The violin's song is coloured by Russian oriental character.

Oja's Aelita's Suite is based on the science fiction novel by Alexei Tolstoy. It is in three movements playing for the length of an overture - about ten minutes. The writing overflows with character and witchery. The Ancient Song recalls Szymanowski: with a hieratic self-mesmerised violin role drifting into the slow coruscation of Vaughan Williams' Lark flying through the oriental sway of Eller's pines. A lovely piece. Magri's Tomb is determined and grim; like some of Tubin's piano solos. The Dance of the Magazitls flashes and flickers like a Paganini caprice at one moment then adopts the predatory tone of the Bax Viola Sonata. Did Oja know the Sibelius Humoresques? Certainly the writing here might easily be under the influence of these jewelled and neglected pieces.

This disc was recorded six years after Arvo Leibur and Vardo Rumessen's complete cycle of the Tubin violin and viola music. Urmas Vulp is reedier - perhaps truer to the earth-clinging folk roots of the Estonian homeland though I prefer Leibur's smoother and vibrato-less tone especially in the closing pages of the Meditation. Vulp has the edge but only by a fine shading in the Capriccio No. 1.

Tallinn-born Ester Mägi's 1990 Vesper is as cool as Holst yet as warm as Tubin in his Meditation and Ballade. The modal reverential atmosphere suggests a devotional prayer - indeed there are similarities with the plainchant works of Respighi such as the Concerto Gregoriano and Vetrate di Chiesa. The introspective 'raindrop' character of the piano role (like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata) partners the long thoughtful Bachian lines of the violin in Pärt's The Mirror in the Mirror sharing similar qualities with Imants Kalnins' Fourth Symphony. ERES, Vulp and Rumessen are audacious in ending the disc in such an undramatic way.

This was recorded in Tallinn's Hall of the Blackheads. A more intimate acoustic might have suited the two instruments far better. Certainly Danderyd Grammar School in Sweden sounds superior in the BIS set of the complete Tubin violin and piano music.

The notes are by the pianist and they are extremely helpful, not to say indispensable, in placing the music in context for non-Estonians.

The disc makes ideal late night company. A pity about the shortish playing time. There was space for some more Oja and perhaps some Aavs as well.

Rob Barnett


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