Verdi Wagner 200 (Estonian National Opera, Risto Joost)
The Best of Arsis Bells (Handbell Ensemble Arsis, Estonian National Male Choir, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Kristjan Järvi, Aivar Mäe)
Ad patrem meum (Anna-Liisa Bezrodny, DVD)
Maria Magdalena (Sevara Nazarkhan, State Choir Latvija, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra)
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH
DAS WOHLTEMERIERTE KLAVIER I
THE WELL-TEMPERED CLAVIER I
Vardo Rumessen, piano
2010 marks the 325th anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) and nearly 290 years since Bach completed his collection of preludes and fugues written in all 24 keys, with the title page bearing a calligraphic inscription in his own hand: “The Well-Tempered Clavier or Preludes and Fugues through all the tones and semitones including those with a major third or Ut Re Mi as well as those with a minor third or Re Mi Fa. For the needs and use of musical youth, as well as those already experienced in this study for the passing of time, composed and prepared by Johann Sebastian Bach at present Kapellmeister to His Serene Highness the Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, and director of His Chamber Music. Anno 1722.”
|1–2||Präludim und Fuge C-dur (a 4 voci)||2:10 + 2:13|
|3–4||Präludium und Fuge c-moll (a 3 voci)||1:53 + 1:52|
|5–6||Präludium und Fuge Cis-dur (a 3 voci)||1:21 + 2:14|
|7–8||Präludium und Fuge cis-moll (a 5 voci)||3:11 + 6:04|
|9–10||Präludium und Fuge D-dur (a 4 voci)||1:22 + 1:53|
|11–12||Präludium und Fuge d-moll (a 3 voci)||1:39 + 2:17|
|13–14||Präludium und Fuge Es-dur (a 3 voci)||4:25 + 1:47|
|15–16||Präludium und Fuge es-moll (a 3 voci)||5:30 + 6:54|
|17–18||Präludium und Fuge E-dur (a 3 voci)||1:24 + 1:17|
|19–20||Präludium und Fuge e-moll (a 2 voci)||2:19 + 1:17|
|21–22||Präludium und Fuge F-dur (a 3 voci)||1:03 + 1:17|
|23–24||Präludium und Fuge f-moll (a 4 voci)||2:46 + 6:15|
|1–2||Präludim und Fuge Fis-dur (a 3 voci)||1:41 + 2:16|
|3–4||Präludium und Fuge fis-moll (a 4 voci)||1:02 + 4:52|
|5–6||Präludium und Fuge G-dur (a 3 voci)||0:52 + 2:46|
|7–8||Präludium und Fuge g-moll (a 4 voci)||1:58 + 2:50|
|9–10||Präludium und Fuge As-dur (a 4 voci)||1:17 + 2:57|
|11–12||Präludium und Fuge gis-moll (a 4 voci)||1:30 + 3:17|
|13–14||Präludium und Fuge A-dur (a 3 voci)||1:16 + 2:35|
|15–16||Präludium und Fuge a-moll (a 4 voci)||1:10 + 4:19|
|17–18||Präludium und Fuge B-dur (a 3 voci)||1:27 + 1:32|
|19–20||Präludium und Fuge b-moll (a 5 voci)||3:50 + 4:37|
|21–22||Präludium und Fuge H-dur (a 4 voci)||1:02 + 2:14|
|23–24||Präludium und Fuge h-moll (a 4 voci)||3:27 + 7:48|
Instrument: Steinway & Sons D-274 tuned by Ants Saluraid
Recorded in Estonia Concert Hall, Tallinn
Recorded in Jan 2009
Engineered by Maido Maadik / Estonian Broadcasting Corporation
Liner notes by Vardo Rumessen
The Well-Tempered Clavier
and the Renaissance of the Works of J S Bach
As the title indicates, Bach wrote The Well-Tempered Clavier in Köthen in 1722 and his didactic goal was completely clear – to introduce players to all 24 major and minor keys. It was a bold challenge to the traditions of the day, as the tuning systems of that era did not allow the use of many keys with multiple sharps or flats on one and the same instrument. Bach was the first to realize in practice a type of tempered tuning that remains the foundation of musical thought right to the present-day. It is true that, in theory, well temperament was already in existence. It was devised by the organist Andreas Werckmeister (1645–1706), and consisted of dividing the octave into 12 equal semitones. He provided the ground for his new system in his work Musikalische Temperatur (1691), which had seminal importance for Bach as well in the composing of the Well-Tempered Clavier. A number of Bach’s predecessors also attempted to apply well temperament. One who deserves mention is Bach’s contemporary Johann Kaspar Fischer (1656–1746), the composer of the 1702 collection Ariadne musica. It consisted of 20 short preludes and fugues (for the organ), but he omitted some keys with multiple sharps or flats such as D-flat major, B-flat minor, E-flat minor, F-sharp major, and G-flat minor. We know that Bach held Fischer’s collection in high regard and it presumably inspired Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. The idea to compose a collection based on well temperament was at that time so salient that in the same year as Bach, the Dresden composer and organist Friedrich Schuppig wrote the Labyrinthus musicus in all keys (1722). Two decades later, the composer Bernhard Christian Weber (1712–1758) wrote, on the example of Bach, a collection of preludes and fugues, which he also called The Well-Tempered Clavier. But the honour of the first fully-fledged artistic cycle undoubtedly belongs to Bach.
The Well-Tempered Clavier consists of two parts, each of which has 24 preludes and fugues, even though they make up two completely independent cycles. In fact Bach did not even call Part II of the work The Well-Tempered Clavier; rather he entitled it New Preludes and Fugues. Compared to Part I, Part II does not appear to comprise such a magnificent and balanced whole as the first, which was clearly intended to be a integral cycle.
According to some sources, Part I of The Well-Tempered Clavier is said to have been composed by Bach during a very brief period – and moreover, in a location where there was no instrument at his disposal and where he felt a great tedium. This presumably applies to the cycle as a whole, as we know that already in 1720, Bach wrote the album Klavier-Büchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach for his 9-year-old son, which contains 11 preludes (albeit in a shorter form), and which Bach later used in Part I of The Well-Tempered Clavier. In affirming the equal status of all keys, Bach attempted to associate each key with a particular poetic idea, characterizing each key using only its own special qualities. For instance, we can find a bathetic C minor already in Bach’s collection – long before Beethoven. E-flat minor and B-flat minor enrapture us with their sublime sadness. D major is energetic and ambitious. And what an idyllic pastoral quality is espoused in E major or F-sharp major! For Bach, C major has central importance, it is both the wellspring and final destination. When we listen to the calm flowing grandeur of the prelude in C major, we imagine a grand portal leading us into a magnificent Gothic cathedral, astonishing us with its simplicity and transcendence, its massive foundation walls, high, intricate towers, and the intersecting arcs of the vaults in the naves.
The Well-Tempered Clavier has influenced the paths of many generations of musicians. It has become the daily bread of any serious musician, a form of sustenance for the spirit and a portal into the secrets of the musical arts. For the 30-year-old Mozart, an auditory encounter with a Bach motet completely transformed his creative style. When we compare Mozart’s earlier works with his later ones, we see that polyphony and counterpoint start playing a greater role and that he explores musical figures in greater depth. And Mozart was only the beginning – composers from almost all of the later eras up to Max Reger were influenced by Bach. Ludwig van Beethoven became acquainted with the works of Bach in Bonn through his teacher Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748–1798). Already as a boy, he was familiar with Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, which he considered his musical Bible and of which he said: “It should be called not a stream but a sea.” Yet Bach’s works remained unknown for a long time after his death, as many had not been in print and were unavailable. Only a few copies of his works were circulated. One of the few works of which a large number of manuscript copies were made was The Well-Tempered Clavier. It is curious that Bach was known during his lifetime not so much as a composer but as an organist. This was an era during which Bach’s works did not enjoy wider renown or appreciation. The popular and renowned composers of the day were Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann and Johann Adolph Hasse (1699–1783) – the latter being a vocalist and one of the most popular composers during his lifetime, writing about 80 operas in the Italian style. Bach’s successor as cantor at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Johann Adam Hiller (1728–1824), considered Hasse to be a far greater and more important composer than Bach. Hiller’s lexicon Lebensbeschreibungen berühmter Musikgelehrten und Tonkünstler neuerer Zeit (1784) contains only a few lines regarding Bach. Another widely known composer during Bach’s lifetime was Karl Heinrich Graun (1704–1759), the Kapellmeister of the Berlin Royal Opera and composer of 26 operas. In addition, Graun composed passions, of which the Der Tod Jesu (1755) is the best known and which was still being performed in the 19th century, then fell into obscurity. Another key composer, vocalist and music writer was Handel’s friend Johann Mattheson (1681–1764), who wrote 24 oratorios and eight operas, among them Cleopatra, the premiere of which was conducted by Handel (1704), with the role of Antonius sung by Mattheson himself. Of Mattheson’s numerous books on music, the most important is the lexicon Grundlage einer Ehren-pforte, which contained the biographies of 149 musicians. It was published in 1740, ten years before Bach’s death, but mentions Bach only as an organist. Similarly, Ernst Ludwig Gerber (1746–1819) in his historical and biographical lexicon of composers (Historisch-Biographisches Lexikon der Tonkünstler, 1790–1792) limits himself to mentioning Bach only among the other members of the Bach family. As we can see from this, Bach’s importance during his lifetime was quite modest; he did not pen any operas, as did Handel, who was born in the same year as Bach and whose operas became very popular already during his own lifetime. A composer famous in the era, the director of the Berlin State Opera and a close friend of Goethe – Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752–1814) – considered Handel a greater composer than Bach but accused them both of relying on old forms. Yet things tend to be accorded their proper due over time, and many of the composers who were popular and acclaimed in their day have fallen into obscurity since their death, relinquishing their place to those truly deserving of it. This, too, is the case of Bach: during his lifetime he had a modest stature and was fairly little-known but later became regarded a seminal figure in musical history, who essentially laid the groundwork for everything that followed in Western musical culture.
A propos of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier, there has been much discussion as to what instrument the collection was written for. In Bach’s lifetime, the clavichord was the most common keyboard instrument, known more in Germany; while the harpsichord (cembalo in Italian) was initially more common in Italy. The forerunner of the modern piano is considered to be Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori’s (1655–1731) arpicembalo, invented in 1700, which could play at both forte and piano dynamic levels. Although Bach did not know it, he encountered a piano built by a German, Gottfried Silbermann (1683–1753). Bach was very interested in Silbermann’s work but was not originally satisfied with its sound quality. In 1747, Bach tried a new Silbermann piano, which had been improved based on Cristofori’s instrument, and it was of great interest to Bach. A scholar of Bach’s piano works, Hermann Keller (1885–1967), was presumably correct in suggesting that Bach’s piano works were written for some idealized keyboard instrument that conformed to his hopes and expectations. As the German word Klavier was used at the time for many keyboard instruments, Bach’s keyboard works were apparently intended for different keyboard instruments – harpsichord, clavichord and organ. His Klavierübung I–IV was intended for several instruments, as was The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Bach’s favourite instrument was the clavichord, but it was not satisfactory to him due to its low volume. Bach did not bequeath any clavichords, but his estate did include several harpsichords. For Bach, the harpsichord remained one-dimensional in terms of its sound, while the aural world of his “piano” works required greater range of expression. We must concur with one of Bach’s first biographers, Philipp Spitta (1841–1894), who wrote that that had Bach lived longer, he would have undoubtedly become inspired by the piano, which offers the greatest possibilities for interpreting Bach’s works for piano.
Beginning in the 18th century, the prevalent view was that musical development was a continually progressive phenomenon and everything that is new was necessarily better than the old. Anyone who wanted to perform publicly as an interpreter had to play their own compositions. Only from the mid-19the century, when interpreters adopted a lower profile and felt it necessary to play the works of other composers alongside their own, did the legacy of the past begin to be appreciated.
At the end of the 18th century, the godlike origin of Bach’s fugues could not yet be discerned, nor the sublime nature of the emotions and ideas expressed in them. In Bach’s fugues, the entire work is encapsulated in the form of the theme, not in the development of the theme, and thus they were seen rather as dry dogma and theory – the art and artistry was not seen, but rather artifice. The music of the past was considered hopelessly outmoded. A more natural and simplified style was favoured. The polyphonic style, counterpoint developments and fugues seemed old-fashioned and tedious. For this reason, Bach’s sons and the well-known song composer Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758–1832) reworked his compositions to make them more accessible for wider audiences. Zelter, who was also a good friend of Goethe and Beethoven, went as far as to accuse Bach of making excessive concessions to French influences, saying: “Bach the elder, in all his originality, is a son of his country and his time, but could not avoid the French influence, especially that of François Couperin. His desire to be worthy of adoration had precisely the unintended consequences.” Zelter did later reconsider his position, but in any event, Bach’s sons did not understand the greatness of their father’s genius and were not able to appreciate it in the manner his work merited. The mores and values of the age had changed.
At the end of the 18th century, Johann Sebastian Bach had been all but forgotten and his son Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788) was now the illustrious family’s most famous composer; C. P. E. Bach’s works in their “gallant, expressive style” were seen as a link between Baroque and Classical music. Works for piano played the central role in C. P. E. Bach’s oeuvre and had great importance in the development of the styles of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. Residing in Hamburg, where he worked as the director of music in several churches, he would have had an opportunity to perform Bach’s superb cantatas, but he was not interested in them. While writing prolifically for the piano, he completely neglected the music to the Well-Tempered Clavier that existed in his home. Bach’s oldest son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710–1784) and his youngest son Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782) also had wide renown as composers. Their creative tendencies as composers differed significantly from those of their brilliant father and were dictated by the musical values of the era and the tastes of the audiences. Music began to be seen as more of a recreational entertainment than a true art. Bach’s first biographer Forkel expressed this aspect astutely: “Our zeitgeist prefers all that is superficial and revels in only momentary values, unable to appreciate genuine greatness achieved through great travails and even struggle. […] What remains undisputable is that, if art is to remain art and not sink lower and lower to the level of an empty pastime, much more attention must be paid to studying the classic works of music.” This is a golden utterance, and it would be well if we heeded it today.
Bach’s works for the piano were not performed often in the 19th century; primarily organ transcriptions were played, in order to capture something of the organ’s acoustic power. This was what left the greatest impression on the public, and the tradition continued in the first half of the 20th century – not only in Western Europe but in Estonia as well. For instance, when Bruno Lukk performed six preludes and fugues by Bach at one of his solo concerts in 1938, some older German concert-goers were disgruntled: “Bach is good, but there was too much of it.” This attitude had a long-lasting influence on the development of music. Superficial effects and virtuosity were held in higher regard. Let us return to Forkel once more, who back in 1802 wrote: “Audiences desire all that is worldly, but a true artist must create in the name of grand ideals. How can genuine art be juxtaposed with the ovations of the masses?”
In the first years of the 19th century, Bach’s work began to experience a renaissance. His Well-Tempered Clavier appeared in print for the first time in 1799. The first overview of Bach’s life and work was published in 1802 by German music scholar Johann Nikolaus Forkel (1749–1818), whose Über Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke remained the Ur-source for all later Bach scholars. Forkel boldly countered the general views, writing the following with regard to Bach: “This man – the greatest musical poet and greatest musical declaimer, the likes of whom will not be seen again – this man was a German. May our homeland feel pride over that fact, yet may she also be worthy of him.” Forkel’s biography was intended to prepare the way for Bach’s Collected Works. Unfortunately the idea did not find enough supporters and only a few Bach works appeared in print around 1800 in editions published by various printing houses.
The first scholar of the aesthetics of Bach’s music was Johann Friedrich Rochlitz (1770–1842), who in 1798 founded the musical journal Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung. He was a personal acquaintance of many of the intellectual giants of that era, such as Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Schubert; and the musical world owes him the highest gratitude for reviving the work of Bach. He wrote about how he became engrossed in the Well-Tempered Clavier; annotating, initially in pencil, some of the preludes and fugues that appealed to him. Over time, there were more and more of them, until he had finally annotated all of them. Contrasting the adherent of Bach’s works to the rank-and-file music audience member who appreciates music only in terms of what is pleasant and “offers enjoyment”, Rochlitz stressed that the value of music depends not only on its composer but on the listener as well, referring to the listener’s capacity for understanding and evaluating music. Such an understanding is surely one that should be held in higher regard today as well.
Rochlitz was also the first person who dared place Bach higher than Handel, asserting that, in Bach, the voices are more independent and comprise an unbroken flow of sound. In his opinion, there was more pomp and majesty in Handel, but Bach was more profound and authentic. He wrote: “Bach’s time is yet to come.” Rochlitz was also the first to dream of publishing the Bach’s Collected Works and in 1800 wrote to readers in the abovementioned journal calling for the publication of Bach’s Collected Works. One of the first to lend his immediate support to the idea was Beethoven. The publishing house of Hofmeister & Kühnel (later Peters) started taking advance orders, but did not receive a sufficient number. Many believed there was no practical need for such an edition. Rochlitz was a fervent supporter of publishing the Collected Works and emphasized not the practical meaning but rather the necessity in the longer view, “for developments will sooner or later bring out the most important part of the works by outstanding masters”. Rochlitz’s words proved prophetic.
Others who became great devotees of Bach’s work included Goethe and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and their friend Carl Friedrich Zelter, who first exposed them to the works of Bach. Earlier, Zelter had considered Bach old-fashioned, but he now stated: “Bach is a truly great poet. The cantor from Leipzig is a divine incarnation, clear yet inexplicable.” Having become acquainted with the work of Bach, Goethe wrote: “The eternal harmony in Bach's work was in a dialog with himself and spoke of God before the world was created.” Zelter entrusted a performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion to Mendelssohn, and it took place in Leipzig on March 11th, 1829, exactly one hundred years after the premiere. The choir consisted of 400 singers, and all of them performed without remuneration. This historic concert laid the foundation for the Bach renaissance.
After the resurrection of St Matthew’s Passion, it was proposed in 1830 to create a Bach Society, but this idea, too, did not initially find enough supporters. In 1843, Robert Schumann wrote an emotional article in the Neue Musikzeitung in which he once more called for the beginning of publication of Bach’s Collected Works. Only in 1850 was the Bach Society founded, dedicated to the goal of publishing the Collected Works. Moritz Hauptmann, cantor at Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church (1792–1868) was elected the society’s chairman. Schumann was a member of the society. That same year, the first volume of the Collected Works was published by Breitkopf & Härtel. Over the next 50 years, a total of 70 volumes were published, and the final one appeared in 1900, when none of the original initiators were still alive. Great difficulties emerged in publishing the Collected Works. Years of work were necessary to find all of the manuscripts and prepare them for publication. Many musicians had been involved in amassing the manuscripts. In 1841 the Berlin Royal Library bought a large number of Bach manuscripts and Joseph Hauser (1794–1879) compiled the first catalogue of the works of Bach (Sammlung von Werken Johann Sebastian Bachs), listing 672 titles. Philipp Spitta’s two-volume Bach monograph, published in 1873 by the Bach Society, also was a key work.
The publication of the first volumes of Bach’s Collected Works was undoubtedly a landmark event in music history. For instance, Johannes Brahms mentioned two important events in his life: the unification of Germany and the publication of Bach’s Collected Works. Brahms looked forward keenly to each new volume and studied them in depth, which had a significant influence on his own work. Unfortunately, the press did not take sufficient interest in this endeavour and Bach enthusiasts and Society members had a hard time finding enough orders.
The services of Franz Liszt in championing the work of Bach must also be credited. Liszt’s transcriptions of Bach’s organ works, such as the fugues in G minor and A minor, played a large role. At the initiative of Liszt, a Bach monument was opened in Eisenach in 1885. Other Romantic composers had a high esteem for Bach’s works. For instance, we can see Chopin’s first Etude in C Major op. 10 as a direct continuation of Bach’s first prelude. Schumann expressed his enthusiasm in the following words: “The Well-Tempered Clavier is my personal grammar, being the best one. I analyzed independently all of the fugues down to the smallest nuances. The benefit has been immense, but what a moral influence it has on a person as a whole, for Bach was a human being through and through (…) and he did nothing by halves. It’s as if he wrote for eternity.” To this the famous pianist and composer Hans von Bülow added: “If The Well-Tempered Clavier was like the Old Testament for us, Beethoven’s 32 sonatas are our New Testament.” The great Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein expressed the same idea: “The Well-Tempered Clavier is the Gospel for any thinking musician aspiring to lofty ideals.” Thus we can say that the work emanates an eternal spirit – tens of generations of musicians have grown up on it.
When we explore The Well-Tempered Clavier as a work of art, it seems that everything about the cycle is exceptional from the standpoint of the world’s music. It is not just an outstanding example of technical perfection in terms of composition, but an limitless source of intellectual depth and artistic maturity, an encyclopedia of polyphony that became the foundation for all that followed in music. In the 20th century, one of the leading experts on the work of Bach, the organist, theologian, philosopher, physician and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965 has had a great impact on the understanding of Bach’s music. In his biography of the composer, Schweitzer wrote: “Nowhere so well as in The Well-Tempered Clavier are we made to realize that art was Bach's religion. Aesthetic elucidation of any kind must necessarily be superficial here. What so fascinates us in the work is not the form or the build of the piece, but the world-view that is mirrored in it.”
Vardo Rumessen (1942) graduated from Prof Bruno Lukk and Eugen Kelder’s piano faculty at Tallinn Conservatory in 1971. Today he is one of the best known performers and promoters of Estonian piano music. Rumessen, who has frequently performed abroad – in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, the USA, Turkey, and Australia.
Rumessen has recorded piano and chamber music by Rudolf Tobias, Mart Saar, Heino Eller, Eduard Oja and Eduard Tubin. Vardo Rumessen is recognized as a master performer of Eduard Tubin’s piano music. He recorded a set of 3 CDs with piano music by Eduard Tubin for the Swedish company BIS in 1988. Rumessen was a personal friend of Tubin and had the opportunity to discuss the composer’s intentions in depth. Eduard Tubin has to a high degree authorized Vardo Rumessen’s interpretations of his music. Rumessen performed the American première of Tubin’s Piano Concertino in 1993 with the Longview Symphony Orchestra. Rumessen has performed works by Beethoven, Franck, Tobias and Tubin for piano and orchestra with the Estonian and Göteborg Symphony Orchestras, conducted by the late Peeter Lilje and Neeme Järvi. He has also performed frequently in ensemble with numerous singers, violinists, cellists, string quartets and other musicians.
Although Rumessen has achieved his success mainly as a performer of Estonian classical music, he has performed a lot of music from other parts of the world. His largest undertakings have been such as the complete Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier I, Scriabin’s 10 sonatas, Chopin’s 27 etudes, Rachmaninoff’s 15 études-tableaux, etc.
Rumessen is not only the foremost performer of Estonian piano music but also a musicologist with a vast knowledge of Estonian music. He has published a lot of Estonian music, by R Tobias, M Saar, E Oja and H Eller, which have naturally found a place in Rumessen’s repertoire as both soloist and ensemble player. Among other works he restored and published R Tobias’s oratorio Jonah’s Mission. In addition, Rumessen has written many articles and has served as an editor of several books about R Tobias, M Saar, A Kapp, E Oja, E Tubin and others.
I’ve been hearing plenty of piano versions of this keyboard masterpiece in recent years, and the idea of receiving a new recording which would open my ears all over again was far from my mind when I first saw this release. Packaged in a nicely produced DVD-sized book... The book itself has an interesting essay by Vardo Rumessen on The Well-Tempered Clavier in Estonian and English on glossy paper, and some nice illustrations. The first impression is that it might have been aimed at some kind of tourist market, which may indeed be the case, but either way it is a nice artefact and has an aura of faux-antique quality... Pianists from Daniel Barenboim, Maurizio Pollini, Till Fellner and Roger Woodward to Angela Hewitt – twice, all show how diverse are the ways and means of expressing Bach’s marvellous legacy. /.../ The recording production for this release is very good, the well-prepared Steinway piano sound sympathetically clear without being uncomfortably close. Vardo Rumessen’s WTC Bk1 is not in a competition to be ‘the best’, and in many ways stands aloof from direct comparison with other recordings. In my opinion it is rather special, and not only for opening my ears to new perspectives in this Panglossian polyphonic masterpiece. (Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International, 2011, the UK, whole article)
The piano sound is very open and natural... Recommended with enthusiasm. (Fanfare, USA)
Vardo Rumessen does not fit under any ordinary pianistic standard. (Sirp ja Vasar, Estonia)
Undoubtedly Rumessen is unparalleled as a performer of Tubin... (Aftonbladet, Sweden)
Rumessen is a pianist of very considerable stature and Tubin is fortunate in having so commanding and sensitive an advocate. (Gramophone, UK)
Vardo Rumessen, himself an Estonian, is as Tubin seems to have acknowledged, a master of the music. (Hi-Fi News)
Rumessen’s visit was not only a great musical event; it was a reminder for us to keep alive in our minds the struggle for Iceland’s independence and culture. (Morgunbladid, Iceland)
A master pianist... one of the most notable interpreters of Tubin... (Länstidningen, Sweden)
It would hardly be possible to play the music any better... (Goteborgs-Posten, Sweden)
The world will largely depend upon Rumessen for interpretive insight into Eller’s work, as he is one of the best known advocates not only Eller, but of Estonian music in general. (The Morning Journal, USA)
He plays them here with extraordinary sensitivity and poetic freedom... (American Record Guide, USA)
Download: Vardo Rumessen in 2005, photo by P Vähi, jpg, 300 dpi, 1235 KB
Distribution by Easy-Living Music
See also other recordings of Vardo Rumessen by ERP: Koidust Kodumaise viisini, Eduard Tubin and His Time, Northern Lights Sonata, Estonian Preludes, Sergei Rahmaninov. Piano Works, Fryderyk Chopin. Melancholy, Silent Moods, The Call of the Stars