"There are a few countries", Martin Anderson observed in International Record Review recently, "which seem to produce composers in disproportion to their populations: the Low Countries in the fifteenth century, for example, or the Czech lands in the second half of the eighteenth. Estonia can be counted among this select band, too, the more surprisingly when one thinks that music there has developed from a standing start: a little over a century ago, there simply was no Estonian concert music. And the musical culture which arose before and during the first half of the twentieth century proved strong enough to resist 50 further years of suppression of the national identity - keeping some outstanding composers out of the world's eye. We are only now beginning to realise how much there is to discover."
ECM has contributed to this growing awareness of Estonian music, by introducing Arvo Pärt to the world-at-large, by championing the music of Veljo Tormis and Erkki-Sven Tüür, and by presenting some of the most important Estonian interpreters, including conductor Tõnu Kaljuste.
Kaljuste now returns to conduct the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra in performances of the music of Heino Eller. Eller (1887-1970), is the grey eminence of music in Estonia. Of crucial importance both as a composer and teacher, the history of modern Estonian composition begins with him.
Heino Eller took private lessons in violin, music theory, participated in several ensembles and orchestras and also performed as a solo violinist. In 1907 he began his violin studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and from 1908-1911 studied law at the St. Petersburg University. He graduated from Petrograd Conservatory as a composer in 1920 and for the next 20 years taught music theory and composition at Tartu Higher Music School, and also founded the so-called 'Tartu School' of Estonian composition. Other members of the school include Eduard Tubin, Eduard Oja, Olav Roots, Alfred Karindi, Johannes Bleive and theorist Karl Leichter. In 1940 Eller moved to Tallinn and became a Professor of Composition in Tallinn, where his students were Villem Kapp, Kaljo Raid, Boris Kõrver, Anatoli Garshnek, Leo Normet, Valter Ojakäär, Uno Naissoo, Arne Oit, Jaan Rääts, Heino Jürisalu, Alo Põldmäe, Lepo Sumera and Arvo Pärt. Eller continued to work as a teacher right up until his death in 1970.
Eller's teaching excellence has been valued in many ways, but the ultimate proof lies in the list of his students, who have led highly productive and creative careers. Arvo Pärt, the most famous of those students offers a personal introduction to Eller in the liner notes to the present CD."It is with profound gratitude (writes Pärt) that I think of my composition teacher Heino Eller and of the time I spent studying with him. It is difficult to say just what impressed me more, his way of teaching or his charismatic personality. Over the decades, Heino Eller's generosity, nobility of spirit and work have merged in my mind to create an overall picture that has continued to influence me up to the present day.
As a pedagogue he was always open to modern movements in art, allowing his students to go their own ways and respecting their personal decisions, even where they diverged substantially from his own ideals ... Soviet ideology was incapable of dimming his insight into human and cultural values. Thanks to his training in St. Petersburg, with its centuries-old musical tradition, he was able to establish totally new standards in small Estonia, thereby laying the cornerstone for professionalism in music. Heino Eller's oeuvre is typified by strict logic, a cultivated sense of style, subtle and masterly orchestration, and a markedly personal style of composition. These qualities position him firmly alongside the great Nordic composers. ... Now that I am approximately the age my teacher was at the time, I have discovered a pronouncement I never heard from Eller in his lessons: 'Finding a single suitable note is far more difficult than bringing a mass of notes to paper.' Although he never conveyed this message to me in so many words, he appears nonetheless to have succeeded in rooting a similarly tormenting search for the 'single suitable note in my soul."
Notes on the compositions:
Lüüriline süit (Lyric suite, 1945) is based on six pieces from a piano cycle written in 1942-43, an agonised time in the composer's life. It was during this period that his wife Anna met a violent death at the hands of the occupying Nazis.
Neenia (1928) was written in memory of Johannes Arro (1865-1928), the father of musicologist Elmar Arro, and a close friend. As CD booklet essayist Herbert Glossner writes, "In this composition, too, Eller - and Tõnu Kaljuste and his chamber orchestra, following Eller's lead - savours fully the saturated volumes of the strings, dissonant sharps, a powerfully supporting bass fundament, the insistent lament, and the soft ebbing of the sound. Melodic invention and instrumental delicacy - in the solo violin's intermezzo, for example - make Neenia both an intense orchestral work and a worthy memorial to a contemporary whom Eller obviously greatly admired".
All the movements of the Five Pieces for String Orchestra (1953) were originally composed for piano and, with the exception of the fourth movement, belong to the composer's early St. Petersburg period. First performance of the string orchestra version took place on September 21, 1956, conducted by Sergei Prokhorov. Romance (initially untitled) originates from 1919; the first of the two dances (1916) is one of the first compositions in 'folk tune' style (a second undated dance was also written before the 1940s). "Lullaby" (1953) is the most recent work in the cycle. Of the "Homeland Song" Arvo Pärt says, "One could say it has over the years achieved the same kind of symbolic significance for Estonia that Sibelius's famous work Finlandia has for Finland."Sümfoniett (Sinfonietta) for string orchestra in G Minor (1965-1967), Eller's last major composition, was first performed during the concert celebrating the composer's 80th birthday on March 7, 1967, conducted by Neeme Järvi. All three movements of the piece are written in sonata form.
Elegie, for string orchestra and harp (1931) is dedicated to the memory of pianist and musicologist Prof. Peeter Ramul (1881-1931), a close associate of Eller's.
Tõnu Kaljuste was artistic director and chief conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir from 1981-2000, and continues to collaborate on special projects with the EPCC and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. He has been principal conductor of the Swedish Radio Choir since 1994, and since 1998 holds the same position with the Netherlands Chamber Choir. He was previously conductor of the Estonian National Opera. Kaljuste's many awards and prizes include the Cannes Classical Award, the Edison Prize, the Japan Award of the ABC Foundation, and the Robert Edler Prize.
The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1993 by Tõnu Kaljuste who had already collaborated successfully with the most of the players. The TCO has performed programmes of instrumental music with such guest conductors as Richard Tognetti, Terje Tonnesen, Paul Mägi and Juha Kangas. The latter was the principal conductor of the orchestra in 1995/96. For the next several seasons that post was held by Tõnu Kaljuste.
The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir have worked together with remarkable results, performing works by J. S. Bach and A. Pärt. In 1992 they gave the premiere performance of Te Deum by Arvo Pärt. In 1993, they recorded the Te Deum and Tüür's Crystallisatio, and in 1996 Pärt's Litany, all for ECM.
The orchestra's tours have taken them to Finland, Germany, France, Italy, U.S.A., Russia, England and Japan.
CD package contains 32 page three-language booklet with an introduction to the music of Heino Eller by Arvo Pärt, and liner notes by Herbert Glossner