Sumera: Cello Concerto; Musica profana; Symphony No. 6

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WORKS: Cello Concerto; Musica profana; Symphony No. 6
PERFORMER: David Geringas (cello); Estonian National SO/Paavo Järvi
I can’t imagine any British politician being as involved in the world of the arts as Lepo Sumera: a larger-than-life character, composer and teacher, as well as Estonia’s Minister of Culture for several years. These three pieces date from the end of his life – he died in 2000 when he was only 50 – but have all the vigour of the man himself, though the beginning of the Cello Concerto, with its repeated rhythmic patterns, has more desperation than elation about it, and the central Larghetto finds the soloist searching for a consolation which never comes. The Concerto was written for Geringas, whose combination of sensitivity and virtuosity really gets to the heart of this dark piece. There’s plenty of virtuosity in the orchestra as well: from the strings alone in Musica profana, where slow passages reminiscent of Pärt vie with motoric Adams-like riffs; and from the whole band in the Symphony, Sumera’s last work. The furious outbursts in the first movement rage against the dying of the light, and it’s hard not to see the anguished, elegiac finale as an extended farewell. Like late Shostakovich, this is not comfortable music, but Järvi’s sympathy for it comes through in every clearly recorded note. Martin Cotton