Tamberg: Joanna Tentata Suite, Symphonic Dances, Concerto Grosso / Jarvi, Hague Residentie
Estonian composer Eino Tamberg (b. 1930) is the real deal--a composer with a fresh take on traditional tonal music who knows how to write tunes and score them with unfailing color and point. His Concerto Grosso--for flute, trumpet, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, piano, harp, strings, and percussion--is a masterpiece of 20th century neo-classicism and it deserves to be a repertory item. It dates from 1956 and at only Op. 5 it announces a major talent. The Symphonic Dances arrived a year later and fall within similar stylistic parameters, from the opening tune that has a Poulenc-like wit, to the three saxophones that give Tamberg's scoring a truly modern feel.
If you had the chance to hear Tamberg's 1976 opera Cyrano de Bergerac (and if you didn't, get it--it's on CPO), then you already know that he has a wonderful feeling for the theater, and for writing dramatic music. The ballet Joanna Tentata is based on the same source that gave us Penderecki's opera The Devils of Loudon. Now let's face it, stories about demonic possession in a convent have lots of juicy potential, as well as a long history on the stage, going back through Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel to Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable. Tamberg's ballet suite instantly establishes the story's haunted setting (church bells leading to a big, dissonant instrumental pileup), but the music at the same time celebrates and positively reeks of the dance. And once again we can only applaud Tamberg's willingness (and ability) to write a good tune.
Believe it or not, some of this music has been recorded previously. The Concerto Grosso appeared on a difficult-to-source Antes CD in a very fine performance by Estonian forces. This new version is wonderful too, even more naturally recorded, and Neeme Järvi is just the conductor for this colorful, exciting, and strongly gestural music. The musicians of the Residentie Orkest also clearly relish Tamberg's ebullient musical personality and the opportunities he gives them to shine. We can only hope that BIS will delve more deeply into Tamberg's output and help to bring him some of the international attention he surely deserves.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Catalog Number: BIS-CD-1677
Composer: Eino Tamberg
Conductor: Neeme Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble: Hague Residentie Orchestra