Sunday, 24 April 2016
If you can see the small print - miniscule at the above size - you'll note that I had a review of (the last four days of) the Estonian Music Days festival in amazing Tallinn printed in the country's main national, Postimees. Dealings with the editor, as with all Estonians I've met, have been a delight, in marked contrast to most newspaper liaising over here. And what I wrote seems to have been kept intact in the translation. Should you read Estonian, or wish to see some more festival photos, the whole thing is here.
A different piece with some overlap that might make more sense to you is over on The Arts Desk. That covers most of the ground as far as the events were concerned - more to come here about other discoveries this time in Tallinn - but I want to be indulged with a few of my own pics. I got some good ones at the re-launch of Estonia's first electronic organ the varioola.
Having expressed doubts about whether I would survive the experience - 'Eek!! First electronic organ: must it be revived?!' responded one friend by e - I found most of the experience riveting: not just the compositions, in amplified sound by Tammo Sumera which made the veteran, born 1959, sound splendid, but also the visitation of one of its two inventors.
Anatol Sügis's biography reads nicely in the English half of the programme book, according to which he is 'a determined, particular person who is often referred to as an "eco-refugee and gastronomic noncomformist". He has a PhD in physics and, himself a vegan [here a gratuitous food photo, to signal that I ate in the wonderful V - for Vegan - restaurant in the old town, and had to try their beetroot ravioli],
promotes ways for green living.' Although, as I wrote, I could hardly understand a word of his conversation in Estonian with the rather more reserved electronics prof Margo Kolar, I was instantly charmed.
Managed to have a brief chat with him in English while inspecting the instrument (caught here by festival photographer Mari Arnover with fellow writer, the composer Simon Cummings)
and learnt that his co-inventor is living still but was unable to get out of the house and come along. The charming informality of this aftermath was typical of all the events. And this cues a real delight I was lucky to catch while out wandering that afternoon. Looking out from the window of a second-hand bookshop I saw a group of teenagers holding hands and dressed in various national costumes.
Following them to the main square, where they formed a circle and did a kind of hokey-cokey to a national song, I found they were marking the last day of school.
This is good tradition in a country that's anything but conservative in its general outlook - and the kind of thing a visitor always hopes to encounter, a national rite that's not put on for tourists.
As for the progressive, of course that was present in every event I attended. And the last was gobsmackingly impressive in the Cauldron Hall of the vast former power plant, over 100 years old and now serving as an arts centre. Somewhat concealed here behind another old industrial building, but the chimney makes a nice counterpart to St Olav's Church spire.
Next to it is the deliciously makeshift Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art.
I found its good bookshop run by a friendly girl and its creatively wrought cafe run by a rather melancholy one with a shy dog. What I like about this whole area down near the Baltic shore is that there clearly hasn't been the money to chichify it in the way you might find in Paris, London or Berlin (now, at any rate - parts of the city do remind me of the east Berlin I first got to know in the late 1980s). They've just left the Linnahall, formerly the Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport built in 1980 for the Olympics, to its own devices, so it's covered in some quite lively graffiti (love the crows) and left to the young to hang out there in a very non-threatening way.
I was lucky to catch a set of installations at the Contemporary Art Museum which had only been assembled the previous day. All six are competing for the prestigious Köler Prize, and I got to vote which one I liked the best.
From an historical perspective, the most striking installation had to be Art Allmägi's Cold War with its surveillance devices covered in simulated snow and ice below,
with radars in the dark on the floor above.
One 'operations' room has surveillance screens beneath an icon and (out of sight here) an old chandelier and iron gates to suggest the placid surface.
Like the landscapes of terror I heard in Lepo Sumera's masterly Sixth Symphony, this is a powerful commentary on what always lay below the surface of Estonia's Soviet years, evident everywhere outside the Old Town.
In the meantime, new life pulses within the Creative Hub, and the EMD's special theme had greened the space, with striking effects on the piping and the boilers.
If the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir's concert here did not provide the anticipated grand finale to the festival - though the acoustics were superb - then plenty else had hit the heights. And I'll never forget the Sumera symphony conducted so assuredly by Anu Tali. Have to discover the other five now.
Finally, an appropriately Shakespearean note the day after the anniversary (and a superb 400th anniversary concert conducted by Jurowski, which I came back early from Odense to catch and write about on The Arts Desk, well worth it): which play is this, being performed in Tallinn's beautifully located City Theatre?
I couldn't make it out - and the image didn't exactly help - until an Estonian told me that suve means 'summer' and õõ 'night' - that's become a favourite word. You grasp the rest. The full picture follows.