Alba Records 1999

Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniaorkester

Eduard Tubin (1905–1982)
Complete Symphonies vol. 1

Sümfoonia nr 2 (“Legendaarne”) (1937) (30:57)

1. Legendaire. Molto allegro e agitato
2. Sostenuto assai, grave e funebre
3. Tempestoso, ma non troppo allegro (quasi toccata). Lento

Sümfoonia nr 5 (1946) (30:21)

4. Allegro energico
5. Andante
6. Allegro assai


Rob Barnett. MusicWeb

These two symphonies are divided by eight years and by Tubin’s flight to Sweden in 1944 when the Soviets invaded Estonia. No. 5 was written by the newly-exiled Tubin in Stockholm, No. 2 in Toila in Estonia.

Scriabin and Mussorgsky are reasonable approximations of Tubin’s way with the Legendary. The writing tends to atmospheric pictorialism rather than strong lyrical release with the tone pictures of his teacher Heino Eller not far distant. The solo piano and solo violin are quite prominent. This work is certain to please admirers of Ravel’s Daphnis, Bax’s Spring Fire and of Janis Ivanovs’ Atlantis Symphony. The finale is warlike amid hammerhead stormclouds but Tubin surprises with a slow bardic caprice for solo violin before the silvery censers of the violin section close the work ppp as it began.

A dimly perceived voice in the finale of No.2, there is yet more of Shostakovich in No. 5, especially in the rhythmic element (e.g. 6.20 first movement and the aggression of the finale). This is agreeably spiked by a Sibelian tune (Symphony no. 3). After the foggy dawn of the andante, the allegro is forwardly accented, tightly and buoyantly positive if not exactly optimistic. The violins shimmer in an icy recollection of the Legendary at 7.20.

The notes are full though the English version is not very fluent – clear enough however.

This disc (the first of a complete cycle) has to contend with Neeme Järvi’s historic pioneering cycle (mostly 1980s) from BIS (differently coupled). Volmer is on a par with Järvi (who also recorded No.6 on a very early Melodiya LP – now THAT I would like to hear!) interpretatively speaking. The recording is all you could ask. No need to hesitate. Further instalments are impending and will be worth the short wait.