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Music from Estonia, Vol. 1
Kaljo RAID (b. 1921)
Symphony No. 1 in C minor (1944): Funebre, energico, [15.38] +Vivace, meno allegretto, [8.31] +Andante, poco maestoso, [13.16] [37.31]
Heino ELLER (1887-1970)
Elegia for Harp and Strings (1931) [12.59]
Five Pieces for String Orchestra (1953): Andante con moto, 5.34 +Allegretto moderato, 1.21 +Vivo, 1.40 +Lento assai poco rubato, 2.13 +Cantando espressivo, 4.20 [15.21]
Tone poem "Dawn" (1918) [8.10]
Scottish National Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Recorded August 1986 at SNO Centre, Glasgow
CHANDOS CHAN 8525 [74.20]

Kaljo RAID (b. 1921)

Stockholm Symphony (Symphony No. 2): Allegretto, [7.22] +Adagio, [8.10] +Allegro giocoso, [5.33] +Larghetto, [5.54] +Allegro moderato e risoluto, [9.30]
Eduard TUBIN (1905-1982)

Elegy for Strings (arr. Kaljo RAID) [2.33]
Unfinished Symphony (Symphony No. 11) (orchestration completed by Kaljo RAID)
Allegro vivace, con spirito [8.51]
Estonian State Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer
Recorded April 1990-January 1992, Radio House, Tallinn, Estonia

Start delving into the symphonies of the Estonian composer Eduard Tubin and sooner or later you will run across the name of his countryman, Kaljo Raid.

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.

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 resolution.

(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, perhaps?)

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 forward.

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 been like.

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 Raidís words.

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)

"Postmodern is 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 religious crusades."

Lance Nixon

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