Known as 'the First Lady of Estonian music', Tallinn born 85-year-old Ester Mägi studied first with Mart Saar, folk song collector and founder of the national school of Estonian music, inheriting her mentor's enthusiasm for folk music. After graduating in Tallinn she continued her studies at the Moscow Conservatoire where, in the early 1950s, she developed an independent folk style whilst trying to steer a careful route around politically acceptable models, Shostakovich being, as she willingly accepted, the best.
Her Piano Concerto, a student work, was completed in 1953 and shows its influences integrated with technical command
[listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:31].
Here are also later works, the Symphony of 1968 -- a work which surprised audiences at the time with its unyielding harshness, critics drawing attention to this inappropriate expression of her gender in a way that would not now occur
[listen -- track 7, 0:54-1:35] !
There is also a succinct set of Variations for Piano, Clarinet and chamber orchestra (1972) and a short exciting and colourful series of pastoral scenes for orchestra, Bukoolika (1983) in which bird song, herders' pipes and folksong mingle in ways that only Estonians would recognise best
[listen -- track 5, 2:10-3:48].
The most recent work, Vesper, completed in 1998, was originally for violin and piano and translates powerfully to the string orchestra
[listen -- track 1, 5:23-6:50].
Mägi has no great concern for public acclaim -- a fact that allowed her to avoid state commissions under Soviet control and remain an independent voice, but she certainly deserves to be heard now.
Copyright © 7 February 2008
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK
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Ester Mägi Orchestral Music
TOCC 0054 DDD Stereo REISSUE 64'44" 1992-2002 Eesti Radio; 2007 Toccata Classics
Ada Kuuseoks, piano (Piano Concerto); Mati Mikalai, piano (Variations); Tarmo Pajusaar, clarinet; Estonian National Symphony Orchestra; Arvo Volmer, conductor (Vesper, Piano Concerto; Bukoolika); Mihkel Kütson, conductor (Variations; Symphony)
Ester Mägi (born 1922): Vesper (1990, arranged 1998); Piano Concerto (1953) (Allegro moderato; Andante sostenuto; Allegro); Bukoolika (1983); Variations for Piano, Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra (1972); Symphony (1968) (Allegro assai; Andante; Presto)
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