ELLER: Violin Concerto in B Minor.
Phantoms. In the Shade and in the Sunshine. The Singing Fields.
Heino Eller (1887-1970), the first major Estonian composer, included among his students two major figures, Eduard Tubin (1905-1982) and Arvo P”rt (b. 1935). Eller studied in St. Petersburg, taught composition and music theory for two decades at the Conservatory of Tartu and was then appointed professor at Tallinn Conservatory. His works include three symphonies, five symphonic poems (all included on this CD), a violin concerto (also on this CD), five string quartets and works for smaller instrumental groups and soloists.
Neemi J”rvi included two of Eller's symphonic poems (Dawn and Twilight) on two Chandos CDs of Estonian music (CD 8525 and 8656). Now we have the opportunity to hear all five such works in superb performances, beautifully recorded. All are distinguished by delicate scoring, melodic flights and lack of bombast. Twilight (1917) was Eller's first work to become popular. Scored for small orchestra, it is serenely beautiful, with many opportunities for individual soloists. Dawn (1920) begins with an exquisite episode for solo oboe, an atmosphere of mystic beauty prevailing. After Eller visited the catacombs of Paris in 1924 he composed Phantoms. These "phantoms" are all friendly; there is no sense of menace whatever here -- it's rather like "Hobgoblins" from Chadwick's Symphonic Sketches which predates Phantoms by 18 years. Eller aptly described his In the Shade and In The Sun (1926) as, "the light and shadows of a warm summer day...a herd of sheep with lambs.." In this he uses an Estonian dance melody and, as usual in Eller's symphonic works, there are many solo passages.
An Estonian folk song Ilo mina tilla teopiossi is used in the introduction of Eller's last symphonic poem, The Singing Fields (1951). Although the CD notes refer to the works "singularly epic character" and say there is an unspecified "detailed program revolving around the glorification of creative work," the music itself is not as grandiose as this suggests it should be.
The Violin Concerto in B Minor, the first Estonian work of its type, was written in 1933/34 but revised three decades later. It is an attractive 20-minute work including dance-like episodes, with two rather showy cadenzas for the soloist. It is brilliantly played by Viktor Pikaizen, a name unknown to me - and the CD booklet tells us nothing about him. Although this is a concerto of more historic than musical interest, it has more to say than Shchedrin's recent note-spinning for Vengerov.The Estonian Radio Orchestra is a fine ensemble; one can assume these are authoritative performances. All were digitally recorded from 1984 to 1986. Sound quality throughout is the same -- superb. Highly recommended!