Start delving into
the symphonies of the Estonian composer
Eduard Tubin and sooner or later you
will run across the name of his countryman,
No less a champion
of Estonian music than Neeme Järvi
asked Raid to complete the orchestration
of Tubinís unfinished Symphony No. 11.
As if that werenít recommendation enough,
Järvi also recorded Kaljo Raidís
Symphony No. 1 on a Chandos disc some
years ago. It gets a single paragraph
in the latest Penguin guide, while Raidís
Symphony No. 2 (recorded by Arvo Volmer
on a Koch disc that also includes the
unfinished Tubin Symphony No. 11) gets
no mention at all. Yet these are works
well worth hearing, especially for someone
like myself, blundering into Estonian
music via Eduard Tubin and eager to
find out what else is there.
Good luck finding the
No. 2. I bought a used copy online,
the only copy I could find, after being
swept away by Järviís account of
the bracing Symphony No. 1.
In the way of a biography:
Raid left Estonia in 1944 and fled to
Sweden. Unlike Tubin, he didnít stay
there, but moved on to the United States
and Canada. In North America Raid began
to study theology as well as music,
earning a degree in divinity in 1951,
then pursuing musical studies in the
early 1950s with Ibert and Milhaud.
Like another of his
countryman, Arvo Pärt, Raid is
apparently a very earnest Christian
(one of his more recent works is an
opera, Fiery Chariots, based
on the life of the early Christian martyr,
Polycarp). In fact, with the Symphony
No. 2 behind him, Raid apparently put
symphonic writing on the shelf for decades
while he pastored an Estonian Baptist
congregation in Canada. But he has returned
to writing symphonies in recent years.
One note: The Chandos
disc lists 1922 as Raidís birth year,
while the Koch disc also lists 1922.
Raid sent me a short biography in which
he gives the year as 1921.
Symphony No. 1:
This is the latter half of a Chandos
disc, "Music from Estonia, Volume
1," with Neeme Järvi leading
the Scottish National Orchestra. The
first half of the disc is filled up
by three pieces composed by Heino Eller,
the teacher of Tubin, Raid, and Arvo
Pärt. Thereís little to be said
about the Eller pieces except that anyone
who likes Grieg will like them very
much. The Five Pieces for String
Orchestra, in particular, have a
distinct Grieg accent. Järvi gets
nice solo work on the oboe from John
Digney in Ellerís tone poem, Dawn.
The Elegia for Harp and Strings
is fine, but leans far more on strings
than harp Ė youíll have to listen closely
to hear it.
The first movement
of the Kaljo Raid Symphony No. 1 is
one of those that could nearly stand
on its own as a symphony in its own
right Ö nearly 16 minutes of powerful
discourse. In that way its impact is
somewhat like the first movement of
the William Walton No. 1.
There are passages
of wonderfully delicate writing for
strings (listen at about 10.30 into
the movement) immediately followed by
powerful passages for brass (10.45).
I hear the influence of the Tubin Symphony
No. 2, The Legendary, in the
horns at this point Ė those who have
Neeme Järviís account of the Tubin
No. 2 can listen and compare a passage
that starts, on the Tubin disc, at about
4.24 into the third movement. If anything,
Raid shows greater finesse than Tubin
in using the horns to make his statement.
A music director with
a great wind section should consider
programming the Raid No. 1. Other touchstones
are the Sibelius Symphony No. 2 and
Kullervo, and perhaps the Sibelius
Symphony No. 1.
Though thereís nothing
in the way of a program, I wonder if
the powerful yet fragile beauty in the
second movement, where there is a theme
of almost otherworldly longing, does
not owe something to Raidís faith. My
notes from an early hearing record that
it reminded me somewhat of the second
movement of the Tchaikovsky Symphony
No. 4. A part of this movement also
suggested to me a moment late in Samuel
Barberís Second Essay for Orchestra
Ė though that is perhaps simply
the shared influence of Sibelius.
The third movement
has plenty of epic tension. Again, listen
for the influence of Sibelius Symphonies
2 and 1 from about 11.00 to 11.30.
The fine notes to this
disc are by Robert Layton, and up to
his usual standards.
Symphony No. 2,
Stockholm Symphony: This
1995 Koch International Classics release
by Arvo Volmer and the Estonian State
Symphony Orchestra is paired with two
Tubin works that have a Kaljo Raid touch
to them. There is the lone movement
of the unfinished Symphony No. 11, with
the orchestration completed by Raid;
and an Elegy for Strings, arranged by
Raid completed the
Symphony in Stockholm in January 1946.
But donít expect a hymn of praise such
as Vaughan Williamsí London Symphony
or Deliusís Paris. If anything,
Raidís work is not about the city of
Stockholm at all so much as it is about
a troubled era in which a young artist
flees his homeland. In that sense Raidís
Symphony No. 2 can be viewed side by
side with Tubinís better-known Symphony
No. 5, the first symphony Tubin completed
after arriving in Sweden (and incidentally,
the Tubin symphony that was played the
most during his lifetime).
There are some remarkable
similarities for two such different
works: Both use martial-sounding drums
in places (Tubin in the first and last
movements, Raid in his last movement);
both have folklike interludes that grip
the heart like news from another country;
both may evince a trace of sardonic
humor; and both have lofty, spiritual
passages that grasp for something like
(A question here: Laytonís
notes to the No. 1 say that Raid intended
the wind section to play in an adjoining
room in his Symphony No. 2 Ö the unsigned
notes to the Koch disc donít address
that point, and my own ear is not keen
enough to tell whether that was done
on the Volmer recording. I have no idea
whether Raid envisioned that as desirable
purely because of how it would add something
to the sound, or if Raid meant to suggest
something here Ė something about exile,
The introspective pondering
of the first movement of the Raid No.
2 Ė woodwinds and strings saying something,
but not to each other - gives way to
Sibelian brooding in the second movement.
The third movement,
Allegro giocoso, may hold some mournful
jesting. Itís this sort of humor, but
a little more spirited, that we encounter
in the last movement of the Tubin No.
5. It seems to have been something the
times demanded. I hear it also in works
such as the Martinů
Symphony No. 4 and the Shostakovich
Symphony No. 5.
The heart of Raidís
Symphony No. 2 is in the beautiful Larghetto,
the fourth movement. For me, Raid evokes
the homesickness that a new expatriate
must feel with a brief air that has
all the marks of a folk melody that
appears and disappears all too suddenly,
at about 1:15. As with the folk-like
passages in the second movement of Tubinís
No. 5, itís permeated with melancholy.
The same movement,
at about 3:17 in, has a passage that
reminds me of the "Winter"
segment of Deliusís "North Country
Sketches" only here one wonders
if it isnít the icy hand of geopolitics,
not winter, that holds the orchestra
captive. This is the spiritual heart
of the Raid No. 2. (For those who like
Tubin, I think the corresponding passage
in the Tubin No. 5, for me one of the
loveliest passages in the entire Tubin
cycle, starts at about 3:30 into the
second movement Ö Tubinís horns are
like heaven commiserating with those
troubled terrestrial strings and woodwinds.)
The fifth and last
movement uses some of that martial chill
of the Tubin No. 5, wrapping up this
symphony in a perfectly understandable
way for an Estonian composer in 1946.
Itís not exactly optimism, but grim-jawed
resolve that seems to drive the musicians
The two Tubin pieces
on this disc are also worth hearing.
The Elegy for Strings under Raidís
arrangement is a beautiful piece. The
lone movement of the No. 11, marked
"Allegro vivace, con spirito"
is a tantalizing question mark Ė only
enough to whet the appetite and wonder
what the completed No. 11 might have
I wrote to Kaljo Raid,
living now in Canada, some months ago
to tell him I admired his work, and
he put me on to two discs of his chamber
works. He also sent me his own descriptions
of two other symphonies that have not
yet been recorded. I can only hope some
recording label will give them a look.
Raidís description of the Symphony No.
3 suggests to me somewhat the idea behind
Paul Crestonís Symphony No. 3, "Three
Mysteries", about the nativity,
crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ.
Raidís focus is slightly different in
that he looks at Christian holidays,
not the events behind the holidays.
Iíll copy those descriptions below in
Kaljo Raid: Symphony
No. 3 (Traditional)
"After a pause
of nearly 50 years of symphonic writing,
I began working on my Third Symphony
in January 1994. Having made a few sketches
I went to my native country, Estonia,
for a visit. There I discovered in my
childhood home a piano draft dating
back to the year 1941, intended for
a major orchestral composition. Back
in Toronto I discarded my previous notes
and started working with the material
brought from Estonia. The result of
this undertaking was a symphony of four
movements which I concluded in May 1995.
The movements bear the titles of four
important Christian holidays: Christmas,
Good Friday, Easter, and Whitsunday.
I named the symphony ĎTraditionalí.
Formwise, the movements themselves are
divided into two and more themes or
sections. The twos come especially clearly
forth in the second and third movements.
In both the development of the main
theme is reaching a point where a familiar
tune makes its appearance. In the case
of the second Ė O Sacred Head, now
wounded. In the third Ė And when
the saints are marching in. However,
the known melody does not bring the
movement to a conclusion immediately,
rather in its turn goes through a development
of its own. Symphony No. 3 is scored
for full orchestra."
Kaljo Raid: Symphony
No. 4 (Postmodern)
the descriptive title given to my Fourth
Symphony. Furthermore, individual movements
of the symphony are called Fax and vax,
Tax and lax, Max Bruch and Billy Graham.
The reasons for such names are rather
vague, yet they might help the performers
and listeners of the work a little bit
in making his or her comparisons reaching
out to past and present well-known tools,
occurrences and personalities. The third
movement commences with a motif that
I borrowed from some of the birds that
have beautified my garden with their
singing, and closes with a quote from
Bruchís popular Violin Concerto. The
symphonyís opening statement is built
on a twelve-tone row. The fourth movement
makes use of the hymn, Blessed Assurance,
which has been identified with the Graham