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
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
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
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
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.