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Musica Triste Estonian Flute Concertos Maarika Jarvi Tallinn Chamber Orchestra Conducted by Kristjan Jarvi Eduard Tubin (1905-82) Concerto for flute and strings (1980) Kuldar Sink (1942-95) Concertino for flute, strings and percussion (1960) Eino Tamberg (1930- ) Musica Triste for flute, vibraphone and strings (1991) Heino J,risali (1930-91) Concerto for flute and orchestra (1969) Recorded in the Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn; September 2000 and April 2001 Finlandia Records 0927-42991-2 TPT 59'07" Estonia has an artistic reputation out of all proportion to its size and political importance. For a small country well of the beaten track of European artistic development, it has produced a surprising number of great musicians, performers as well as composers. The most well known of them is the almost ubiquitous Arvo Part, none of whose interminable music features on this recording. The variety of listening on a disc of Estonian flute concertos may not be expected to be that great, but in fact there is much individualism about the composers chosen. Of the composers here represented, the best known would be Eduard Tubin, whose concerto for flute and strings opens the selection. In actuality it is not Tubin's concerto at all, but an orchestrated version by the American Charles Coleman of Tubin's sonata for flute and piano. This was the last work Tubin wrote and yet it still shows his classical lineage and a remarkably conservative tonal palette. Given that Tubin lived the latter half of his life in exile in Sweden he was, of all the composers on this disc, the one most able to absorb the developments of western music from the 1950s onwards. That he did not employ them in this work does not make it a poor work, but in its extremely traditional dress, it comes across as the least interesting of the pieces here recorded. The concertino of Kuldar Sink, and the title track by Eino Tamberg are both much more interesting compositions. The Sink makes excellent interplay of the flute and percussions. In its duets for rhapsodic flute phrases and quietly subversive timpani there is something of the orchestration colour of Respighi and the rhythmic impetus of the percussion writing, coupled with the essentially angular neoclassical style puts Sink firmly into the role of the Estonian Stravinsky. Eino Tamberg's Musica Triste is quite different. Dating from 1991, by which time music could be said to have reached neo-post-neo-classicism, this work maintains a strangely other-wordly landscape, coloured by expressive use of flutter tonguing in the flute part and interesting harmonic clusters in the vibraphone. The architectural aspects of the writing are taut and well controlled and the overall effect is one of a faintly surreal dream-like existence. It is a most effective work. The concerto by Heino J,risalu takes us back to a more traditional classical sound. Dating from 1969 it could be said to be in the "international neo-rhapsodic" style (if there is such a thing.) Essentially, the lines are long and flowing, the structure is one of balanced phrases of dialogue between the flute and the strings, and the harmony is conventionally tonal, with chromatic colourings. The timbre is much enlivened by the addition not only of percussion but also a piano, although this is used as a purely orchestral instrument and does not dominate the texture. The performances are all first class. The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra have an international reputation by now and are ably directed by Kristjan Jarvi. The soloist plays with forthright tone and colour and negotiates the twiddles with Elan. There are informative composer biographies, with photos, although a little more discussion of the works themselves would be helpful for the listener not versed in this period or geographical area. Overall the presentation and packaging is excellent and attractive. While the subtitle `Estonian Flute Concertos' is the most accurate description it is nonetheless a very boring one and belies the attractiveness of the music. Unknown stuff, well worth a listen. (c) 2002 (Peter Wells)

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