Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 8
PERFORMER: Estonian National SO/Arvo Volmer
In most of the symphonies by the Estonian Eduard Tubin there’s a sense of purpose, expressed in the strong development of urgent, pithy motifs or in long, searching melodic lines. In other words, however dark the emotional colouring, the underlying feeling is positive: the motto could well be ‘travel hopefully’. That’s clear as early as the First Symphony – not as concise or as imaginatively contrasted as some of the later ones, but still clearly and upliftingly goal-directed. No. 8 is different. Most of the familiar Tubin elements are there, but this is music that broods or circles fretfully, until in the finale the striving becomes impaled on a single chord, all hope of purposeful movement frozen out. Arvo Volmer handles the earlier stages of the argument well, though I miss Neeme Järvi’s despairing intensity in the slow finale. Järvi also brings more light and shade to the First Symphony – it doesn’t feel quite as dogged and unrelenting. These are good performances – well shaped and technically secure, with plenty of expressive conviction – but success is intermittent in both works. And the recordings have a slightly congested feel in full orchestral fortissimos – no match for the spaciousness and freshness of the BIS sound. Stephen Johnson