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Rudolf TOBIAS (1873-1918) Menuett (1895?)
Mart SAAR (1882-1963) Skizze (1910)
Heino ELLER (1887-1970) Glocken (1929)
Edgar ARRO (1911-1978) Simple Variations on the Estonian Theme (1955)
Ester MÄGI (b.1922) Lapland Joiks (1987)
Jaan KOHA (1929-1993) Rondo (1967)
Jaan RÄÄTS (b.1932) Two Estonian Preludes (1989)
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935) Four Dances (1959?)
René EESPERE (b.1953) Four Ostinatos (1977)
Peeter VÄHI (b.1955) Contemplation Symphony (1978)
Urmas SISASK (b.1960) Two pieces from the cycle Starry Sky (1987)
Peep Lassmann (piano)
rec. 20-24 Oct 1994, House of the Blackheads, Tallinn, Estonia. DDD
ERES CD 06 [67.21]



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Peep Lassmann's range must be wide. This disc takes us from the proto-Beethovenian delicacy of Tobias's Menuett to the ultima thule of Koha's aleatoric Rondo which curves from elfin fragility to Leifs-like fury. Tiia Järg's notes tell us of Lassmann’s dedication to Messiaen's Vingt Regards and Catalogue d'Oiseaux so we may think of him as another Sherlaw-Johnson, Peter Hill or Roger Woodward. At the other extreme he is at home in the 'Ravel and bitters' world of Pärt's Four Dances which lead us down fairytale paths and up peaks amid glittering rainbows and into darker realms. This music sounds as if it was written for brave children - an aural equivalent to the illustrations of Dulac and Kay Nielsen; not at all the frenetic or ritualistic Pärt we might expect. Rääts' two preludes are essentially romantic: Bridge or even early Cowell looking out towards Reich.

Mart Saar studied composition with Rimsky and produced some 120 pieces for solo piano. Defying its title, Skizze is an adventurous piece for 1910 carrying portents of disaster - a chilly Winter Waters. Eller's statuesque and gestural The Bells stands in the littoral between Rachmaninov in his grave Etudes-Tableaux manner and Ravel. Arro wrote many songs and organ pieces. His Variations will appeal to those who like their folksong dressed in nobility - Alan Bush and Percy Grainger are parallels. Ester Mägi was a pupil of Shebalin. Usually writing to commission, her music is woven through and through with folk material. Her Lapland Joiks are the Estonian equivalent of Ronald Stevenson's Celtic folk pieces for piano with suggestions of the wilderness Bartókianisms of Erik Chisholm.

Ostinato is a feature of much Nordic music and Eespere's Four Ostinati continue the tradition. This is incantatory music, trance-like, sense-numbing, an intellectually robust echo of Gurdjieff's oriental pieces. Vahi was a Tamberg pupil and his 'symphony' relates to the Eespere work though less ostinato-rooted. It is a grave development of the Godowsky's Borneo Suite.

Urmas Sisask's grand cycle of piano and choral works is founded on the eighty-eight constellations. He started work on this in 1975 and by 1993 had completed works for 29 of the constellations. The Ram is starry-chill in Holstian apparel and gathers momentum from a slow Bachian stroll to a shuddering onslaught. The music lacks the cataclysmic gestures of Tubin's Second Piano Sonata but rises to abrupt and furious defiance in the second piece, Serpentaria.

The notes are helpful and the only mildly serious criticism is that the multi-part pieces such as those by Vahi, Sisask, Pärt, Rääts and possibly the Arro should have had one track per part or movement.

Deeply rewarding listening for the repertoire explorer.

Rob Barnett



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