Heino ELLER (1887–1970)
Complete Piano Music - Volume One
Preludes, Book 1 (1914-17) [18:06]
Six Pieces (‘Estonian Suite’) (1946) [12:06]
Toccata in B minor (1921) [3:58]
Dance in B minor (1930s) [2:42]
In the Character of a Dance (1941) [2:23]
Danse-Caprice (1933) [5:46]
The Bells (1929) [5:57]
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1939-40) [16:42]
Sten Lassmann (piano)
rec. Old Granary Studio, 11–12 December 2008
TOCCATA TOCC0119 [67:40]
Estonian Heino Eller – one of Arvo Pärt’s teachers - is not unknown to MusicWeb International. His Violin Concerto and tone poems can be heard on Bella Musica - Antes Edition. The tone poems have also been enchantingly championed by Neeme Järvi on Chandos. We reviewed Vardo Rumessen’s recording of the Preludes ten years ago. Sten Lassmann who presides with such majesty and yield over this disc has also prepared new editions of the music and these are being published by Toccata Press. So far as the CDs are concerned there will be seven before the project comes to full fruition.
The Preludes (Book 1) are Rachmaninovian and smokingly eruptive in the grandest of grand manners. Try the Fifth as an example and listen to how Eller and Lassmann plumb the depths of the concert grand. The pianist here superbly manages the often tricky rhythmic patterning of these pieces especially in the Sonata. On occasion Eller seems to have been listening to Scriabin and at other times there are stylistic parallels with the piano music of Cyril Scott. Prokofiev’s gawky grotesquerie also casts its spell. The Estonian Suite and Dance in B minor radiate folksy and unassuming charm with gracious dances and much bowing and courtseying. The Toccata in B minor repatriates us to the dark clouds and drama of the Preludes. In the character of a Dance is slow and dignified but with more fantasy and obliqueness than is encountered in the Suite while the Danse-caprice recalls the sanguine Celtic piano works of E J Moeran. The Bells – reportedly Eller’s most popular piano piece - turns out to be not a carillon but as slowly swung and intoned as Moeran’s White Mountain. Add to this an impressionistic overlay. Then compact Sonata No. 2 is from the 1930s. There’s more Prokofiev-like complexity here and this is best exemplified in the second movement with another outwardly Celtic melody.

Rob Barnett
The grand romantic manner side by side with folksy innocence.

Complete Track-List
1-7 Preludes, Book 1 (1914-17) 18:06
1 No. 1, Moderato 2:05
2 No. 2, Moderato assai 2:43
3 No. 3, Molto adagio, con espressione 1:40
4 No. 4, Andante sostenuto 1:37
5 No. 5, Patetico 3:33
6 No. 6, Sostenuto 2:47
7 No. 7, Con fuoco 3:41
8-13 Six Pieces (‘Estonian Suite’) (1946) 12:06
(first digital recording)
8 No. 1, Dance of the Billy-Goat 1:49
9 No. 2, Round Dance 2:00
10 No. 3, Folk-Tune 2:12
11 No. 4, Horn-Tune 1:17
12 No. 5, In the Folk Tone 2:17
13 No. 6, Dancing Tune 2:31
14 Toccata in B minor (1921) 3:58
(first digital recording)
15 Dance in B minor (1930s) 2:42
(first recording)
16 In the Character of a Dance (1941) 2:23
(first recording)
17 Dance-Caprice (1933) 5:46
(first recording)
18 The Bells (1929) 5:57
19-21 Piano Sonata No. 2 (1939-40) 16:42
19 I. Allegro 5:52
20 II. Andante pensieroso 6:11
21 III. Presto 4:39