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Ester Mägi - A Musical Portrait

Serenade (1982)
Haiku (1971)
Cantus (1987)
Vana Kannel (1985)
Huiked (1995)
Dialoge (1976)
Variationen (1972)

Villu Valdmaa, baritone; Kala Urb, Vocalise; Helki Matlik, guitar; Janika Lentsius, Jaan Oun & Sigrid Orusaar, flute; Toomas Vavllov & Alfred Sikk, clarinet; Lauri Vainmaa, piano; Jaak Sepp, violin; Andrus Jarvi, viola; Henry David Varema, cello; Boris Bjorn Bagger, guitar; Martti Raide & Aleksandra Juozapenalte, piano; Orchester des Estnischen Rundfunks/Neeme Järvi

ANTES EDITION BM-CD 31.9110 [1998, TT: 65.21]

Knowing the difficulties for women composers in UK until very recently, it is good to read that Ester Mägi (b. 1922) has enjoyed esteem in her native Estonia for nearly half a century and commissions from Sweden and Germany.

This CD, mainly of small scale chamber pieces, shows her fresh approach and it makes a very pleasurable hour's listening. Nothing dauntingly avant garde, but good craftswomanship and usefully unusual instrumentation.

The Serenade for flute, vln & vla was written to augment this combination's slender repertoire (I have always enjoyed Reger's). There are pieces for cello with guitar and another, very striking one, in which the cello enters late with a powerful solo to complete a quartet with flute, clarinet & piano, all these paired in a sequence of overlapping Dialogues. There are two vocal items, a wordless vocalise with flute and guitar (I am always uneasy about those) and a trenchant and highly effective group of eight Haiku, a minute each. To finish, the earliest work included, Variations for piano, clarinet and string orchestra dating back to 1972.

Well worth exploring, and a reminder of how insular we all are? Perhaps mutual agreement might be sought amongst radio stations to have a period each year (Lent, maybe?) during which music of their own countries is banned and replaced by that of selected countries whose contemporary music is unfamiliar?

Responses, please?

© Peter Grahame Woolf