Artur Kapp (1878-1952), and Rudolf Tobias are seen as the co-founders of the symphonic tradition in Estonia. Artur's son, Eugen (1908-1996), and nephew, Villem (1913-1964) were composers in their own right. This release contains three disparate works by the three Kapps, but each is engaging in its own way.
The heavy use of minor tonalities within Artur Kapp's Don Carlos overture (1899) gives the work a dramatic tone. This is a highly romantic, tempestuous, work, filled with lots of orchestral swells, cymbal crashes and accented chords. The work's underlying melody eluded me; however identifying all of the similarities between Kapp's overture and the orchestral works of Tchaikovsky has provided me with much entertainment.
Eugen Kapp's 'Kalevipoeg' Ballet Suite (1947) contains six delightfully rustic dance pieces. The earthy opening dance (Track 2), containing an infectious staccato motif, is especially charming. The remaining dances seem to borrow heavily from other composers, ranging from Sibelius to Copland. The 'Forging of the Swords' dance (Track 4), as an example, has an undeniable 'American frontier' flavor about it. Despite the wide ranging influences, the suite on the whole is quite enjoyable.
The most compelling composition on this release is Villem Kapp's Symphony No. 2 in C minor (1955). The work is heavily steeped in the nineteenth-century symphonic tradition, so listeners won't find anything too audacious here. But there's still a lot to like.
The symphony is unified by a powerful four note motif. This motif propels the opening movement along a stormy path that culminates with a fiery coda. The dark and boisterous tone of this movement gives the work a distinctive Nordic character. The second movement contains a lush melody, whose melancholic charm will certainly stay with you after the music has ended. I especially enjoy the aggressive finale, which contains shades of Shostakovich. The work's conclusion, filled with brass and percussion, is completely over the top, but it certainly is exciting.
The overture and the ballet suite do seem a bit derivative, but are delightful nonetheless. Villem's powerful symphony, in my opinion, certainly deserves more attention than what it has received. As a final consideration, the BBC Philharmonic, under Neeme Järvi, delivers a very enthusiastic performance of these works. And, of course, the sound quality is outstanding.
Recommended to obscure music enthusiasts!