> Vallo JÄRVI conducts Estonian Orchestral Music [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Vallo JÄRVI conducts Estonian Orchestral Music
Heino ELLER (1887-1970)

Five Pieces for Strings [Romance; Dance; Homeland Tune] (1953) [11.59]
Eugen KAPP (1908-1996)

Dances from Ballet - Kalevipoeg (1948) [15.05]
Artur KAPP (1878-1952)

Symphonic Prelude - Graves (1917) [10.18]
Evald AAV (1900-1939)

Tone Poem - Life (1935) [34.56]
Estonian Radio SO/Vallo Järvi
AAD recordings from the archives of Finnish Radio - rec 1970, 1962, 1967, 1960 respectively


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Let us first of all extend all possible credit to Estonian Radio for not taking the easy but oh so dull route of giving us Vallo Järvi conducting Beethoven, or Tchaikovsky or Brahms. It took some mettle to bring out a disc of completely unheard of Estonian music and in sound that, while overwhelmingly secure, is not in the first flush of youth.

The conductor Vallo Järvi (1923-1994) was the elder brother of Nëeme Järvi. He never attained the international reputation of Nëeme instead working with industry and insight within Estonia. The Järvi parents were highly musical and positively encouraged the two sons. Both Vallo and Nëeme played percussion at first. From 1942 to 1949 Vallo played in the Estonian Radio SO conducted by Olav Roots and Priit Nigula. After the war he studied conducting at the Tallinn Conservatory and made his baton début in 1949 with Milyutin's operetta Inconstant Happiness. Graduating to conducting at the Estonia Theatre he directed 28 operas, 49 ballets and 19 operettas. These included Glazunov's Raymonda, Stravinsky's Firebird, Tamberg's Ballet-Symphony, Kalman's Countess Maritza, Verdi's Trovatore and Aida, Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Tchaikovsky's Onegin and Mazeppa.

In this recording Eller's Five Pieces for Strings evince a stridently raw tone. There is a little tape flutter at the start but essentially the sound is very clear and brilliant. The music and the playing is muscular, elegantly and lightly dancing and nostalgic. This communicates far more strongly than the blanched out tone of Sibelius's Rakastava. This is Baltic string music at its early twentieth century zenith. In English music we might well compare these pieces with Holst's Brook Green. These are arrangements of pieces written by the composer between 1916-19. They were made in 1953.

Eugen Kapp's most famous works are reputed to be his opera The Flames of Vengeance and the ballet Kalevipoeg. Järvi is here caught in 1962 conducting dances from the ballet - not the complete work. The first movement is cheeky and forward-striding - rather romantic like Richard Rodney Bennett in his accessible film music (Lady Caroline Lamb and Far From the Madding Crowd). The Intermezzo is a most un-intermezzo-like Intermezzo with black-hearted brass imprecations - melodramatic and minatory rather like the Calif's brass motto in Sheherazade. The final set of glittering variations - flighty and flouncy.

Eugen Kapp is the son of Artur Kapp, the composer of Kalevipoeg. The Prelude Graves is a lower key piece with Tchaikovskian harp work and many intriguing details in the woodwind. The scorching protest of the drums and rasping brass at 5.01 are memorable as is the steady pace and slightly melancholy theme. Graves was written in Astrakhan in a depressive state brought on by the terror and pogroms of the Communist uprising. Vallo Järvi also conducted Artur Kapp's First Symphony. Is it possible that Estonian Radio will issue his recording of that work.

Evald Aav died at the age of 39 three years after he had completed Life. His works included an opera, Vikings premiered in Tallin in 1928. He was a pupil of Arthur Kapp. Evald Aav's diptych tone poem is of symphonic proportions lasting well over half an hour. Hustling energy is contrasted with musing interludes tying in with the declared 'plot'. Aav speaks of life and its onward rush (echoes of Nielsen's Fourth here?), the tendency to stand aside from the stream and being drawn back into its pell-mell rush. The composer is saying we are the victims as well as the celebrants of life. The style is more modern but the psychology and topography is that of Tchaikovsky's Manfred and Francesca. I also thought of the turbulence of the Karlowicz tone poems (see my review of the Salwarowski set elsewhere on this site). It is a rather rambling piece and can be compared with a sort of Baltic Elgar's Froissart or Glazunov's Oriental Rhapsody but at greater length. It has some noble moments as at 16.48 in the first movement. Aav finds much greater subtlety in the second part. The idyllic Bax or the mystical Charles Martin Loeffler come to mind. The pebbly sound (remember this is the oldest recording of the four) of a solo piano seems to emphasise the mood of pagan retreat and sad cypresses. There are some startlingly impressionistic touches like the fruity squeals of flute from 5.45 onwards in track 10. This is rather like Lemminkainen's Return with some rapturously swirling music for the strings. The harp swirls at 10,30 are lovely and recall Rimsky's Sadko sea picture. At the end the nobly protesting brass from the first part. It is a little repetitive yet it has a freshness that more organised composers and performers aspire to yet never capture.

Vardo Rumessen is the moving force behind this project and we should be enduringly grateful to him for his industry and perception. Now where are volumes 2 and 3, please?

Rob Barnett

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