Peeter Vähi. Handbell Symphony
Peeter VähiHandbell Symphony
December 10, 2011
In Dies
In dies
December 11, 2011

Aleksandra Juozapénaité-Eesmaa, piano

One of the first Estonian symphonists, educated in St Petersburg Conservatory, Heino Eller was also known for his love of piano music. His skills of using the Estonian Folk tunes were outstanding. The music on the current CD is strongly influenced by the chimes of his neighbouring church bells.
Produced by ERP for Antes Clssics. Winner of Heino Eller Music Award.

Thirteen Piano Pieces On Estonian Motifs
1 Andantino 1:21
2 Vivo 1:09
3 Allegro pastorale 1:49
4 Allegro 1:06
5 Andante sostenuto 3:08
6 Presto scherzando 1:28
7 Alla ballata 2:22
8 Allegro con brio 1:28
9 Lento 2:47
10 Allegretto grazioso 1:43
11 Allegro giusto 1:36
12 Vivace 0:58
13 Moderato assai 3:21
14 Bells 6:12
Sonata No 1
15 Allegro assai 11:58
16 Larghetto 9:31
17 Scherzo. Presto 4:43
18 Finale. Allegro moderato 7:34


Bells, fragment, 3 min 1 sec, mp3, 320 Kbps

Recorded at Estonia Concert Hall in 2000 / 2001
Recorded by Aili Jõeleht / Estonian Radio
Edited and mastered by Marika Scheer / Estonian Radio
Booklet: 16 pages in German, English, French, Italian, and Estonian languages
Liner notes by Reet Remmel
English translations by Tiina Jokinen
Recording producer − Peeter Vähi
Piano Steinway & Sons D-274 tuned by Ants Saluraid
Special thanks to Tiia Teder, Kersti Inno
Published by Ilukirjandus ja Kunst, Tallinn (1−13), Muzyka, Leningrad (14−18)
Total time 64:44
Stereo, DDD

Produced by ERP for ANTES Edition Classics
BM-CD 31.9163

“Bright composer’s talent, excellent musician, fresh ideas, interesting figures of rhythm. More independence in form could be recommended.” These are the words Alexander Glazunov told Heino Eller, newly graduated composer from St Petersburg Conservatory in 1920. It is a general knowledge that the Rector of the Conservatory Glazunov was extremely critical, at times even picky at exams. One of Eller’s works for graduation was Piano Sonata No 1.
The three pieces on the present CD are in the opposite chronological order dating back to different periods in Eller’s long creative biography.
Thirteen Piano Pieces on Estonian Motifs, composed 1940−1941, remind one of the famous sentence by Confucius “Clarity in language means all!” Also, in the language of music. A clear, transparent, nearly graphic texture unites all the thirteen pieces where in total 16 Estonian folk songs have been used. Those hearing Estonian music for the first time, immediately grasp the essence of Estonian folk melody. In Eller’s presentation folk songs are like a demonstration with the aim to maximally expose the initial source, showing it in sequence and canon, inverting the motifs, sometimes also extending the melodies and thus further developing the elements of rhythm and intonation. Everything that Eller adds on his behalf is extremely modest and discreet. Music seems to be placed on a sieve where all unnecessary ballast gets discarded.
Eller was inspired to compose Bells (1929) by the bells of St Paul’s church in Tartu while living many years in its close vicinity. St Paul’s church designed by a Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen and being a new step in architecture had been completed only a year before Eller’s moving to Tartu. During the first years the church had no bells. In 1923 the church obtained steel bells made in Bochum with the weight 800 and 1280 kg and tuned in G-flat and E-flat respectively. “Bells” is the most played piece by Eller.
Piano Sonata No 1 (1920) was one of Eller’s two graduation works in St Petersburg Conservatory. By the completion of the sonata Eller had already composed about 60 pieces for piano. The sonata with its duration of more than 30 minutes is the most extensive work for piano by Eller. According to the composer himself this sonata is “a whole big symphony”. By its themes and structure this work is close to the symphonic poem Voices of the Night that reflects impressions from a stormy night at the seaside near St Petersburg during the First World War. The texture of this piece is characterized by occasional redundancy. That was pretty common in Russian and German schools where the composer often were also good piano-players. Eller himself pointed out that the sonata has “too many notes”. The work is a real expression of Sturm und Drang, an overwhelming emotion and due to its technical complexity it has not found a place in the piano players’ repertoires. Disregarding Artur Lemba’s (piano professor in St Petersburg Conservatory at that time) presentation of the piece at Eller’s graduation exam, the present recording is the first full performance of the sonata for the wider public.

ImagetextHeino Eller (1887−1970) is considered to be the founder of Estonian national school of composition and a symbol of national classics. Summarizing the result of his long life in plain numbers it looks quite awe inspiring: approximately 300 musical compositions and about 50 composers from among his students.
Eller was born in Tartu, one of the oldest university towns in Europe and the cultural centre of Livonia. Here he received his first musical education and practical knowledge of violin playing. His youth from the age of 20 to 33 was spent in St Petersburg. He studied violin, thereafter suffering from bad arm took up law, was mobilized as musician to Tsar’s army during WW One, continued his studies even through difficult times of political turmoil and graduated as a composer from St Petersburg Conservatory 1920. Eller met his future wife pianist Anna Kremer with whom he stayed together until the tragic death of Anna Kremer in a German concentration camp in 1942.
Eller had acquired profound experience in music during his St Petersburg period. He had listened to the conducting of Nikischi and Sibelius, the performances by Casals and Ysaÿe, the music by Wagner, Richard Strauss and Sibelius. He had been very fond of the works by Chopin, Grieg, Sibelius and Skryabin. This was the background that Eller brought back to Estonia, dedicating the last 50 years of his life to educating young composers first in Tartu Music High School and from 1940 until his death in Tallinn Conservatory. “Through him, as a personality of a different generation, we came into contact with the pre-revolutionary aristocracy and its cultural heritage. Soviet ideology was incapable of dimming his insight into human and cultural values. Thanks to his training in St Petersburg, with its centuries-old music tradition, he was able to establish totally new standards in small Estonia, thereby laying the cornerstone of professionalism in music,” gratefully writes Eller’s student Arvo Pärt in the booklet of CD Neenia. Besides Arvo Pärt also Eller’s other students Eduard Tubin, Villem Kapp, Jaan Rääts, Lepo Sumera possess strong individuality in their creation.
Eller’s mostly instrumental output comprises 3 symphonies, several symphonic short pieces, a violin concerto, 5 string quartets, 4 piano sonatas, 2 violin sonatas, about 180 smaller pieces for piano. According to many musicologists Eller with his cultivated musical language and individual style is classed among the Northern top composers. In Estonian culture, though, Eller has even more multilayered meaning – his Homeland Melody and Dawn have become a symbol expressing the undescribable feeling of Estonian identity.

ImagetextAleksandra Juozapénaité-Eesmaa (1943-2012) had her debut at the age of 9 performing Piano Concerto in D Major by Haydn together with Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra. At the age of 14 she gave her first solo concert. Her quick development took the pianist after two years in the Lithuanian Academy of Music to the Conservatory of Moscow to Prof Jakov Zak under whose supervision and guidance she also took her post-graduate course. 1976−1977 Juozapénaité-Eesmaa had the luck to study in Paris National Conservatory. Under the tuition of professors Claude Helffer and Yvonne Loriod (the wife of Olivier Messiaen) she dedicated most of her time and effort to French contemporary music. Being an extremely talented pianist her Paris connections offered many an opportunity to discover the world, had the ideological discrepancy between East and West not been an unovercomeable obstacle at that time. Still, the year in Paris gave that profound knowledge of French contemporary music that in 1993 the French record company JADE ordered from her the recording of the cycle Twenty Glances at Jesus-Child by Olivier Messiaen. Later this cycle in Juozapénaité-Eesmaa’s performance was released as a double-CD in the year 2001 being a co-operation project of Lithuania and Austria through record company “Semplice”. The current CD is Juozapénaité-Eesmaa’s 11th. She has recorded for the radios of Vilnius, Tallinn, Moscow, Paris and Amsterdam focusing on French, Estonian and Lithuanian music. She has frequently been the first performer of several works. Likewise, the present is the first recording of Sonata No 1 by Eller. Among her achievements are various diplomas and titles from international competitions and the 1st prize in the International Piano Competition named after Čiurlionis 1968. She has given recitals as well as performed together with orchestras in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Hungary, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.
“She is an artist that has a message to deliver, who always plays exemplarily true-to-text and with polished preciseness; who has good taste and sense of tact, whose emotions and reason live in harmony and perfect balance. At the same time she always possesses an attitude of her own towards the music to be performed.” (Prof Bruno Lukk)
“Happy times”, the pianist said about the recording of the present CD in spring-summer 2001. “I like to work with concentration. Emotions and dramatism suit me, I am glad that I can express it.” Aleksandra Juozapénaité-Eesmaa has passion, grasp and power, sometimes even pathos − and at the same time also sufficient clarity, preciseness, respect and distance. These are the characteristic features of her interpretation of Eller’s work.

Press resonance

See also Aleksandra Juozapénaité-Eesmaa’s other recordings on ERP: Aleksandra Juozapénaité-Eesmaa
See also other recordings of Heino Eller by ERP: 100 Years Of Estonian Symphony, Koidust kodumaise viisini
See also other piano recordings by ERP: Marginalia, Resurrection of Mozart, Magic of Sound, Melancholy, The Call of the Stars, Walzing Mephisto by the Danube, Keyboard Juggleress, Enter Denter, Estonian Preludes, Northern Lights Sonata, The Well-tempered Clavier I, Sergei Rahmaninov. Piano Works, Toivo Nahkur, Neeme Järvi, Deus Ex Clavier