‘Fine readings by the BBC Symphony, led by Estonian-American Neeme Jarvi' American Record Guide
‘Neeme Jarvi has been the most consistent and passionate advocate of his country's musical literature, and he has a long association with the BBC Philharmonic that enables him to get the best from it in this very unfamiliar repertoire. It is difficult to imagine any rival version that would be able to deliver performances so authoritative, and there are no grounds for complaint in the superlative recorded sound.' International Record Review
‘Splendid sound and performances throughout' Gramophone
Although not established names in the Western musical world, the three composers of the Kapp family were instrumental in launching and nurturing classical music in Estonia and their compositions document the changes of musical orientation in that country during half a century. Conventional in conception, their music is characterised by simple harmonies and an appealing melodic style which managed to satisfy the political demands of the era.
From the early 1700s until 1917, Estonia was part of the Russian tsarist empire. In the 1860s a powerful nationalist movement emerged, which by the 1890s was strongly political in response to a policy of intensified Russification. It was against this background that Artur Kapp went to study composition under Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov at the St Petersburg Conservatory, one of the first Estonian musicians to receive academic training. His dramatic overture on the subject of Schiller's Don Carlos was composed in 1899 as an examination piece and successfully performed two years later at the summer season of concerts in Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg.
Among Artur's numerous pupils was his son Eugen, who graduated from the Tallinn Conservatory in 1931 and joined the staff in 1935. The following years were crucial in Estonian history. In the repressive post-war years of Joseph Stalin, Estonia had to submit to integration into the Soviet system, with mass deportation for those who resisted. In this environment Eugen became Chairman of the Estonian Composers' Union, a responsibility he held from 1948 to 1965, during which time he is widely credited with assisting the rehabilitation of musicians in the post-Stalin era. In 1947 he composed the ballet Kalevipoeg, on the subject matter of Estonia's national epic poem. Awarded a Stalin Prize for 1948, the ballet has been frequently staged in Estonia, and is presented here by a six-movement suite.
Villem was Artur's nephew, and also his pupil, and taught composition at the Tallinn Conservatory until his death. Dating from 1954 and revised the following year, Villem's Symphony No. 2 in C minor received its premiere in 1956 under its dedicatee Roman Matsov during a ten-day festival devoted to Estonian Art and Literature in Moscow. It expresses the forced optimism of the post-Stalinist period and this album brings the work to a wider public for the first time.