“The whole sky was in motion. Everything around me flashed and whirled, all of nature”, Tubin said.
|Sonata allegro E Major ETW 31-1 (1928)
|Ballade on a Theme by Mart Saar ETW 40 (1945)
|Variations on an Estonian Folk Tune ETW 41 (1945)
|Sonata No 2 Northern Lights ETW 44 (1950)
|I Rubato e agitato
|II Andante. Variations on Laplandian Tunes
|Piano Quartet C-sharp minor ETW 59 (1929–1930)
#2, Ballade on a Theme by Mart Saar, 10 min 5 sec, mp3, 224 Kbps
#7, Piano Quartet, fragment, 1 min 46 sec, mp3
Performed by Vardo Rumessen (piano), members of the String Quartet of St Petersburg Philharmonic Society (#7): Lev Klytschkov (violin), Andrei Dogadin (viola), Sergey Tschernjadjev (violoncello)
Published by AB Gehrmans Musikförlag
Recorded in Estonia Concert Hall in June 2004 and October 2005
Engineered by Maido Maadik / Estonian Radio
Liner notes by Vardo Rumessen
Translated by Eino Tubin
Cover photo: Dennis Anderson (Alaska, USA)
Design by Tiina Sildre
Co-produced by Peeter Vähi
Supported by Ministry of Culture of Estonia, Estonian Cultural Endowment
© 2007 International Eduard Tubin Society
Manufactured by Sony DADC, Austria
Tubin’s piano works form an important part of his oeuvre in the development of his musical style. Of Tubin’s early piano works the Piano Sonata No 1 merits special attention. It was written in 1928 in Heino Eller’s composition class in Tartu. It is the first of Tubin’s works on a large scale. The sonata was written in four movements, the first of which was later released by the composer as an independent piece with the title Sonata-allegro. Here the composer’s most passionate and emotional way of expression reveals itself, finding a way out in a Scriabin-like ecstatic culmination, where we find Tubin as above all a great romantic. Although this work may be a bit uncharacteristic for Tubin, it shows how the composer’s rich and versatile creativity developed from the ideals and starting points of his first creative period. The Sonata-allegro was first performed by the composer on May 13th, 1928 on a concert celebrating the centenary of the Tartu Teachers College.
The next work was created in Sweden in 1945, soon after the composer’s flight from his homeland. In the Ballade in the Form of Chaconne on a Theme by Mart Saar Tubin has used the theme from Saar’s choir song Seven Moss-clad Tombs. The text of the song is based on the national epic Kalevipoeg and the seven tombs are symbolizing seven centuries of serfdom for the Estonian people. Tubin was inspired by the ancient legends of the past of the Estonian people, which got a personal meaning for him after losing his homeland. With its carefully wrought musical material and formal concentration, this is one of the most seminal of Tubin’s piano works: it impresses with its dramatic development and suggestive expressiveness. The Ballade was first performed on June 6th, 1945 in the Stockholm YMCA hall by the pianist Olav Roots. Later the Ballade became one of Tubin’s best known piano pieces.
At the end of the same year Tubin also wrote other piano works using Estonian folk tunes. The theme of Variations on an Estonian Folk Tune of two different tunes, joined together to form an integral whole. Compared with the Ballade, the Variations are more subjective, fascinating us with the poetic sound peculiar to folk music and narrative presentation suggestive of a ballade. A typical feature of Tubin’s works inspired by folk tunes, is the generalization of the artistic and figurative world implicit in folk music, and because of that it sounds like a paean to Estonian folklore. The Variations were first heard on January 19th, 1946 in the Stockholm Borgarskola hall, played by Olav Roots. The composer later withdrew his manuscript and didn’t want it performed again. The work was somewhat revised when Vardo Rumessen played it in 1981 in the great hall of the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
One of the high points in Eduard Tubin’s career was the Piano Sonata No 2. A strong inspiration for the sonata were the northern lights seen above Stockholm in the autumn of 1949. “The whole sky was in motion. Everything around me flashed and whirled, all of nature”, Tubin said. The Sonata was completed in 9 months in 1950. It begins with a whirl of sounds in free rhythm, in which one can trace the play of the northern lights. Obviously the “theme of the Northern Lights” assumed a deeper meaning for the composer. The “image of the northern lights” is contrasted in the sonata to the main theme of the first movement as well as of the finale, which symbolizes some kind of inner resistance. 1st movement shows the main theme together with the “northern lights theme” developed through variations. 2nd movement consists of variations on two Saami folk themes. Tubin has joined two rather different melodies into an integrated whole on which he builds up free variations in three large passages. An extensive cadenza reminiscent of the fantastic shimmer of the northern lights before the final section. The finale starts with the sound of drums reminiscent of shaman ritual and develops into a great symphonic drama. Two contrasting themes are of essential importance. These themes, developed and transformed together with the ostinato rhythm of Saami drums, make up the axis of the finale. Like the 1st movement, the finale is formally based on a sonata allegro scheme although it has been used very freely. Tubin’s Sonata No 2 is undoubtedly his most remarkable piano work. It was first performed by Olav Roots on March 26th, 1951 in the Konserthuset of Stockholm.
The Piano Quartet in C-sharp minor was written during Tubin’s studies with Heino Eller at the Tartu Higher Music School in 1929–1930. The première performance took place on May 11th, 1930 at a concert by the students of Heino Eller’s composition class. It was performed a few times in Tallinn and Tartu, but was then forgotten for many decades. Only on April 16th, 1977 was it played again, at the Estonian Theatre and Music Museum in Tallinn at an event organized by Vardo Rumessen. Although it was already written during Tubin’s time as a student, the Piano Quartet has great musical value, found in the inventiveness of the melody, in interesting harmony and in the mastery of composition. The Piano Quartet is in one movement, starting with the slow introduction. It is succeeded by the main theme with energetic movement. The secondary theme is a somewhat Nordic melody, played by the viola. In the recapitulation the main theme emerges in a forcefully transformed shape, this being like an extra step before the main culmination of the work in the coda. The last Presto section finishes the quartet with brisk movement.
As the whole of Tubin’s oeuvre reveals the composer’s deeply personal world of thoughts, where his individuality is united with national distinctions. Building on the traditions of Estonian classical music, Tubin has enriched them with his deep personality. Thanks to the imagery and dramaturgically clear development in Tubin’s music, one work after another rises to the level of universal human problems, seizing with inner strength and philosophical hidden meanings. Therefore his piano works have earned a conspicuous place in the whole piano music of the 20th century.
Vardo Rumessen was born in 1942 to a family of musicians. In 1971 he finished the piano class of professors Bruno Lukk and Eugen Kelder at the Tallinn Conservatory, beginning a wide-ranging career as concert pianist as well as musicologist. Vardo Rumessen is above all known as an interpreter and champion of Estonian classical piano music. Besides appearing in his homeland Estonia, he has performed in several foreign countries – in Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada, the USA, Latvia, Australia, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, Russia, Japan…
Vardo Rumessen has been characterized in the press as a “heroic” and “masterly” pianist, “unique and competent”, his piano recitals have been called “great and unforgettable events”, in his performance has been found “fine interpretation”, “dynamic force”, “technical confidence”, “good ability to interpret”, his playing has been characterized “soft or powerful, his touch is always constantly sensitive” and “his sound is open and natural”.
He has recorded the piano and chamber music of Rudolf Tobias, Mart Saar, Heino Eller and Eduard Tubin. He has achieved great recognition above all as an interpreter of Eduard Tubin. He has repeatedly performed Tubin’s Concertino for piano with various orchestras in Estonia, America, Sweden, Turkey and Switzerland. He has also played together with singers, violinists and cellists and with various ensembles. Vardo Rumessen has published a lot of works by the Estonian composers Tobias, Saar, Eller, Eduard Oja and Tubin. His greatest work was the restoration and publishing of Tobias’ oratorio Des Jona Sendung. He has written numerous articles and compiled books about Tobias, Saar, Artur Kapp, Oja and Tubin. He is chairman of the International Eduard Tubin Society founded in 2000.
Other recordings of Eduard Tubin on ERP: 100 Years of Estonian Symphony, Kratt, Estonian Preludes, Musica triste, Tubin, Eduard Tubin and His Time, Works for Violin and Piano Vol I, Works for Violin and Piano Vol 2
Other recordings of Vardo Rumessen on ERP: Estonian Preludes, The Call of the Stars, Wiegenlieder der Schmerzen, Koidust Kodumaise viisini, Eduard Tubin and His Time, The Well-Tempered Clavier I, Sergei Rahmaninov. Piano Works, Fryderyk Chopin. Melancholy