Toccata Classics has taken on the vital role of putting to disc piano music of the 20th century that is either relatively or completely unknown. The results have been very rewarding. Albums from the recent past have given us keyboard music of Arthur Farwell, Riccardo Malipiero, Leo Ornstein, Alexander Tcherepnin, Janis Medins… and the list goes on. The CD recommended here is the second in a projected seven disc series of the complete music for piano of Heino Eller (1887 – 1970).
Eller was a prolific composer, celebrated violinist, and a renowned teacher who counted among his students Eduard Tubin, Lepo Sumera and Arvo Pärt. His musical language is lyrical and romantic, employing interesting modal harmonies and an imaginative use of polyphonic textures. His music is evocative of Sibelius and Scriabin, seems influenced by impressionism and is not untouched by composers of the Second Viennese School, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg. I was drawn to Eller’s music from the opening tracks, and only became more enamored as the music played on. The deal that this would be an Uncommonly Classical recommendation was sealed about 25 minutes in as I listened to the potent and darkly beautiful Episode from Revolutionary Times (1917). This alone is worth the price of the CD.
Most of the works here are world premiere recordings. Performances by pianist Sten Lassmann, who is making this Eller cycle his PhD project at the Royal Academy of Music in London, are excellent. Hopefully the young doctor will bring Heino Eller’s piano music the recognition that it clearly deserves.
As both composer and teacher Heino Eller (1887–1970) was one of the founders of the classical tradition in his native Estonia. Yet his copious output for piano – some 200 works –is largely unknown, an omission this series of seven CDs seeks to redress. Volume Two presents compositions from six decades: charming romantic miniatures, virtuoso showpieces, expressionist preludes and quirky folk-pieces. The main item is his Theme and Variations from 1939 – one of his best works for piano, but not published or recorded before now.
Heino Eller (7 March 1887 – 16 June 1970) was an Estonian composer and composition teacher. Eller was a legendary teacher of composition. The school he formed in Tartu counterbalanced the so-called Tallinn school… read more
Stenn Lassmann, piano
Performer: Sten Lassmann, piano
Sten Lassmann is an Estonian pianist trained at the Tallinn Music High School, the Estonian Academy of Music, the Conservatoire de Paris and the Royal Academy of Music best known for his work on Heino Eller’s music. … read more
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The video below provides a sample of Eller’s piano music, performed by Mr. Lassman.