Estonians are serious about their music. Singing, in particular, is a part of the national identity; a tradition of choral singing began in the early 1800s and within a few decades began to flourish. A song festival was organized in Tartu, Estonia, in 1869 and featured nearly 1,000 singers singing to a crowd of over 15,000 – a crowd larger than the entire population of Tartu itself. By the beginning of the 20th century, symphony concerts and concerts of large choral works were commonplace in Estonia, particularly in the main cities of Tartu and Tallinn.
Though it has been under domination from neighboring countries for most of its existence, Estonia was independent from 1918 to 1940, a time in which state music conservatories were founded in Tartu and Tallinn. Born in Tartu and coming of age in that eventful time, Eduard Tubin (1905-1982) began work in the local theaters while also conducting symphonic concerts and choirs. After WW II, with the Soviet Union establishing its domination over Estonia, he emigrated to Sweden, where he remained for over 25 years, restoring scores of old operas and ballets at the Drottningholm Court Theatre. Tubin was also the conductor of the Estonian Male Choir in Stockholm and was a member of the Royal Music Academy of Sweden and the Society of Swedish Composers.
The music of composer Tubin is not widely known beyond his supporters and colleagues in Sweden and the immediate vicinity of his tiny homeland on the Baltic Sea. He was drawn to traditional forms, though he often utilized them in very untraditional ways. He wrote several concertos, for example, and his works in the genre are for instruments not normally featured in concertos, the 1948 Concerto for Double Bass and the Concerto for Balalaika from 1964, for example. He also completed 10 symphonies, two operas, sonatas for violin, for viola, and for flute, and a requiem (Requiem for Fallen Soldiers), among other works.
When he died, Tubin was working on his 11th symphony, one movement of which was almost complete. The orchestration of the first movement was finished at the request of conductor Neeme Järvi by fellow Estonian composer Kaljo Raid. It is this Allegro vivace con spirito movement that we hear at these concerts.
Tubin opens boldy, with an in-your-face declaration by the timpani and an equally audacious pronouncement by the strings. This gives way to a solid declaration in the brass and a hint of a fugue in the strings. A jocular passage featuring woodwinds follows, but this is interrupted by another version of the opening. This interplay of parts continues throughout.
It is moody and dramatic music, bringing to mind a kind of brooding and quasi-romantic Hollywood film score on the one hand, though at other times it has an almost German Expressionist angularity. Indeed, the composer takes us on a 10-minute rhythmic joyride that leaves us wishing for the movements that were never to be written.
-- Dave Kopplin, who holds a Ph.D. in composition from UCLA, is the Philharmonic’s Publications Coordinator.
Orchestration: 3 flutes (3rd = piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, and strings.
First performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic (U.S. premiere).