The Estonian Cello
Music by Tüür, Pärt et al
Allar Kaasik vc, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and others

I’d wager that a solid proportion of these works would be unfamiliar to most listeners. The most-played composer on this disc, “Holy Minimalist” Arvo Pärt, makes an appearance only through one of his early pieces. Still, there are elements of Pärt’s calm minimalism in the other pieces, given the thread of spirituality running through this disc. In the notes, cellist Allar Kaasik links the explicitly religious nature of some of this music to his experiences performing in churches.

The first work is by Galina Grigorjeva: Molitva (Prayer). For cello and (mostly) wordless male choir, it’s a slow-building work that culminates in powerfully ecstatic outbursts from the cello.

This intense work is followed by an equally spiritual piece by Kuldar Sink, Gospodi, pomilui nas (Lord, have mercy on us) for solo cello. Unfinished at the composer’s death, Kaasik himself completed it. Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Spectrum IV for cello and organ is similarly serious, and inventively uses the acoustic space between the instruments.

The odd one out is Arvo Pärt’s early cello concerto Pro et contra. It’s a bite-sized piece at eight minutes long, but Pärt’s stuffed everything into it. The piece opens with a single major chord before falling into a jumble of percussive sweeps. Partly aleatoric and partly dodecaphonic, it somehow closes with a resounding C Major chorale. It’s bizarre, but invigorating. A deeply-felt performance of serious music.

Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine