Estonian Folk Tunes for organ
by Edgar Arro on CD
Estonians, along with the Finns, Hungarians and several other nations, living mostly on the territories of Russia, belong to the Finnish- Hungarian tribe. For moreover seven hundred years, Estonians have been ruled by foreigners - Dutchmen, Germans, Swedes and Russian among others. The 19th century - the period of Estonian national awakening, established the living tradition of Song Festivals (the first of which took place in 1869). For centuries, the generations of Estonians have passed the oral folk music tradition that has been appraised and systematically categorised since the end of the 19th century. The same period presented the opportunities for founding and developing the tradition of Estonian professional music, as the first Estonian students graduated from St. Petersburg Conservatory. The first decades of the 20th century, as the period of active folk music collecting and using it in professional music, played an important emotional role in self-defining of Estonians as a nation. Besides the folklorists, the young composers of the era (among who were Mart Saar, Peeter Süda, Cyrillus Kreek) took collecting expeditions to the countryside. Thanks to the special interest these men, we are able to study today the notation, texts and recordings of the traditional music.
Estonian folk music specifies the older and newer layers of tradition. The first of mentioned, is the part of area of ancient Baltic- Finnish culture and goes probably back to the first century BC. The second tradition developed in the 19th century and was influenced by the spreading of folk song traditions of other European nations.
As the everyday -life and singing tradition were closely tied, we are able to specify the types of Estonian folk songs: there are so called working songs, calendar- and practice songs, singspiels, dance songs, songs for children and songs with lyrical- epical nature.
There also so called- calls, yodellings and imitations of the voice of the wild nature.
Although at the beginning of the 19th, the old tradition of singing was replaced by new folk song, the practice of old singing was noted even at the beginning of 20th century.
Today, the traditional singing is practised only at the island of Kihnu and at the county of Setumaa. This practice has got its traditional way of singing, meaning the antiphon duet of soloist and choir (or other soloist). Traditional singing uses mostly the unison melody; however, the tradition at Setumaa presents rare signs of harmonical singing. The melody line is very short, without any melismatic additions, in recitative manner and with monotone rhythmical structure. The texts to theses tunes are characterised by alliteration (the primary rhyme), parallelism (repeating of the idea) and verses built as trochee. The texts of older folk melodies use very specific choice of words, use metaphors and poetical synonyms.
The ways of Estonian traditional singing, its modes and melodic structure, original intonations and repetitions of the musical phrases, have always fascinated the attention of Estonian professional composers, such as Mart Saar, Heino Eller, Eduard Tubin, Veljo Tormis and Ester Mägi. The list cannot be complete without adding Edgar Arro (1911–1978) to it.
The current CD presents the first full recording of his six- part collection of "Estonian Folk Melodies for organ". The music is performed by Professor Andres Uibo (1956).
The collection 57 folk tune arrangements were composed at the final decade of the composer’s life (1968–1978) and therefore can be entitled as the musical heritage of Arro. „For me, the Estonian folk melody is sacred, so I have not found any reasons to alter it. Let the melodies present themselves as they are, with added the characteristic mood using the harmony and polyphonic techniques“.
The folk tunes from the Estonian Folklore Archives at Estonian Literary Museum are mostly preserved their original form, the composer has arranged them using different techniques of musical variation and imitation. The organist, composer and the performer of Arro’s works Professor Hugo Lepnurm has said: „There is a rich variety of arrangements- melodies of sad, fun, meditating, rushing and even humorous mood. The possibilities of the organ are used with great skills and fantasy. Every miniature of the cycle is like a rare flower with its unique natural beauty“.
Eres Estonia Edition