horizontal line

This disc marks the mid-way point in Sten Lassmann’s eight-disc survey of Heino Eller’s complete piano music. Once again, Lassmann has assembled a programme ranging across Eller’s career, from 1918 to 1955, and in size from the grand canvas of the First Sonata (1919-1920) to tiny miniatures such as Butterfly (1935) or the Six Pieces of 1953 (not to be confused with the 1946 set recorded on Volume 1).

And fascinating insights it provides. At 40 minutes, Eller’s First Sonata, his graduation piece, is the largest work he wrote for the piano. Unsurprisingly, it is an uneven work. The fine, dramatic opening Allegro assai dwarfs the three succeeding movements, all extended beyond their natural span to balance it. In the case of the Finale, the result is repetitive and pompous; but it taught him valuable lessons as a composer and pedagogue, as his later sonatas testify.

More consistently impressive are the smaller items, such as the reflective Intimate Moment (1938, for his colleague and rival Artur Kapp’s 60th birthday) or the diverting Butterfly. Eller’s second Nocturne (1934) is gentle and relatively free from Chopinesque influence. The concluding C sharp minor Ballade (1955), in which some individuality re-emerges after the Zhdanovian repression of the previous seven years, is by some way the most accomplished composition here.

Lassmann plays again with great skill in a rather flat acoustic. Toccata’s sound is crystal clear. Devotees of the composer or label need not hesitate.

GR Read the full review on Agora Classica

   Read full review   

To continue reading, please upgrade to a premium account. You will have immediate full access.

Read more classical music reviews online here:

Piano International, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing