0 of 5 stars

Artur Kapp
Don Carlos – Dramatic Overture after Friedrich Schiller
Eugen Kapp
Kalevipoeg – Suite
Villem Kapp
Symphony No.2 in C minor

BBC Philharmonic
Neeme Järvi

Recorded in Studio 7, BBC Broadcasting House, Manchester – Symphony on 5 & 6 March 2001, the remainder on 8 July 2005

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2007
Duration: 64 minutes



Three generations of a musical family – the Kapps, an Estonian dynasty – conducted by one of the great musical explorers, Neeme Järvi.

Artur Kapp (1878-1952) is the traditionalist. Don Carlos (1899), a Dramatic Overture, is Central European with a vengeance, a good, solid chunk of Romanticism, quite Lisztian with hints of Tchaikovsky, rather imaginatively scored and certainly powerfully atmospheric and strongly descriptive. It’s rather a good piece, dramatic and fervent with fine impetus.

Eugen Kapp (1908-1996) was Artur’s son and pupil. His ballet, Kalevipoeg, based on Estonia’s “national epic poem … Kalevipoeg is a giant hero [who has] various adventures…”. That the ballet won the Stalin Prize in 1948 may give a clue as to the music’s conforming stance – nothing here to frighten either horses or Party officials – but that would also be to overlook the sheer melodic charm of the six-movement Suite, which invokes Prokofiev at his most bittersweet and unashamedly looks back to Tchaikovsky and ‘Grand Ballet’ of the nineteenth-century. This is open-air and open-hearted music, lucidly and colourfully scored and thoroughly likeable and unpretentious – light, tuneful and fantastical – as well as suggesting itself as eminently danceable. The heavy stamping of the final ‘Folk Dance’ could easily have come from the pen of Khachaturian.

The Kapps. Photograph: Estonian Theatre and Music Museum ArchivesThe meat of the disc is Villem Kapp’s Symphony No.2, which is recorded for the first time. Villem (1913-1964) was Artur Kapp’s nephew and another pupil. Symphony No.2 is from 1954/55 and is a concise four-movement affair lasting half-an-hour. The musical language teeters to the century before. A dramatic slow introduction, as much ‘opera’ as ‘symphony’, leads to an energetic Allegro risoluto, music that is confident and also somewhat conflicting, the contours of Russian folksong discernible in the background and with a ‘second subject’ that seems to hearken back to Borodin while also auditioning to be a score for a heroic film. The scoring is vivid. The slow movement is subtly expressive and reveals a generous gift for stirring the heart. Following is a quirky and witty waltz – a cheery piece that could become a stand-alone favourite (with hints of Robert Farnon!) and the finale is momentarily big and brash before a halting Largo intercedes. Then the suppressed energy of a gawky march gets decisively underway – orchestral guns blazing – all leading to a credit-rolling paean of optimism. All a bit corny, but actually quite an accomplished piece.

The performances are excellent, so too the sound – fully up to the wide-screen and deep perspectives that are the traditions of the Chandos house-style. It’s just a shame that the recordings have been denied to us for so long. But, they’re here now!

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