Friday 24 January 2014

Estonian Classical Music Networking event

In between Wednesday's (22 January 2014) CD launch for Roxanna Panufnik's Dance of Life: Tallinn Mass (see my article) and the evening's concert by the Estonia Philharmonic Chamber Choir (see my review) there was a networking event at St Giles Cripplegate designed to showcase Estonian music making and bring Estonian classical music professionals together with counterparts from the UK. We were treated to a series of performances by Estonian artists including the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir under conductor Daniel Reuss, Sten Lassmann, Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta under conductor Andres Mustonen, Riivo Kallasmaa, Monika-Evelin Liiv, Anna-Liisa Bezrodny and Ulla Krigul, performing music by Estonian composers including Arvo Part, Heino Eller, Erkki-Sven Tuur, Peeter Vahi, Tonu Korvits and Rein Rannap.

Estonia has a population of 1.3 million people, which is about the same number as in metropolitan Birmingham. As such it punches far above its weight when it comes to classical music. Perhaps the long tradition of singing, including the way singing was central to the independence movement, has something to do with it. Though the music of Arvo Part is familiar to many, there are a remarkable number of other fine composers.

The event opened with a performance by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conductor Daniel Reuss, in Arvo Part's Two slavonic Psalms. The choir made a nice focussed up front sound, giving a vivid performance of the music making some moments almost seem catchy.

Pianist Sten Lassmann studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music and he is recording the complete piano works of Heino Eller (1887 - 1970) on Toccata Classics. He played Eller's Toccata in B minor from 1921. The work started out quite formal, and went on to develop a more romantic feel but still with a feeling of structure. Lassmann, playing from memory, gave a fine performance indeed.

The first half finished with a pair of works played by the Glasperlenspiel Sinfonietta directed by Andres Mustonen. First In Memorian Helle Mustonen, a work written in memory of Andres Mustonen's wife in 2005 by Peeter Vahi (born 1955). Scored for strings, percussion and timpani with solo oboe (Riivo Kallasmaa) and solo violin (Andres Mustonen), the work started with dark dramatic repeated chords in the strings over which we had evocative solos for violin and oboe. There was something a bit oriental about the scale used in the work, and Vahi made dramatic use of unisons for strings and soloists. The result made a short but powerful work.

The orchestra finished with Illusion written in 1993 by Erkki-Sven Tuur (born 1959). A scurrying toccata-esque piece which dies away before a brilliant ending. It was rather neo-classical in flavour and the orchestra gave it a very vibrantly brilliant performance.

The second half started with an aria from the opera Liblikas (Butterfly) by Tonu Korvits (born 1969), sung by the mezzo-soprano Monika-Evelin Liiv accompanied by Sten Lassmann. Though tonal, the piano accompanied made heavy use of note clusters. Liiv sang with a lovely focussed voice, and the vocal line though essentially lyric had some moments of real drama to which Liiv brought real passion. The conclusion was very dramatic and thrilling.

Finally a work written specially for the event, for violin and organ, designed to take advantage of the new organ at St. Giles. Violinis Anna-Liisa Bezrodny and organist Ulla Krigul played Cantilena by Rein Rannap (born 1953). A work which displayed some lovely violin cantilena over held organ notes and which, to me, evoked something of the music of RVW.

In addition to listening to music, we got chance to talk to each other about music during the extended time for networking over a glass of wine. I talked to lots of interesting people, received many fascinating Cd's and some choral music for my choir, all of which will be processed during the coming weeks. So watch this space!

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