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Estonian Orchestra Storms Through ND

| Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (ENSO) came to Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center last Thursday. Conducted by Nikolai Alexeev, the orchestra performed “Overture No. 2” by Veljo Tormis, “Concerto in B minor” by Antonín Dvořák and “Symphony No. 5” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
Written by one of the greatest living choral composers in Estonia, “Overture No. 2” is an early, purely orchestral piece that premiered in 1959. This piece was the first Estonian composition played at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1961.
“With ‘Overture No. 2,’ you hear something truly unique,” Jonathan D. Kramer wrote in the program, “Tormis claims that he has ‘never composed pure music,’ music for music’s sake. Even the meaning in the often performed ‘Second Overture’ is to be found elsewhere, not in the music itself.”
Listeners certainly felt the strong narrative emerging from the dramatic music. The violins and the cellos played with intense urgency, as if a storm were rolling into the Leighton Concert Hall.
The best moment was when the bassoons and the trumpets swelled and flowered into gorgeous blooms of harmony. Tormis wove a powerful and fluid story that transported the audience to a different time and place.
Estonian prodigy Silver Ainomäe starred in the ‘Concerto in B minor’ in 1995. Ainomäe began playing the cello when he was six years old. He has performed in more than 30 countries, but made his soloist debut with none other than the ENSO in 2000.
Ainomäe’s operatic performance stunned the crowd. He sat in downstage center in a cobalt silk shirt, bowing and turning to the music. Every once in a while, he would wrinkle his brow, as if he too saw the increasing danger told in the story of the music.
The orchestra was conducted by Alexeev, winner of the Herbert von Karajan Competition in 1982. The ENSO began as a small radio orchestra in 1926 and has toured around the world to attend music festivals in Russia, Italy, Bulgaria and the United States. The ENSO also played in Turin Cathedral as a part of the 20th Olympic Winter Games.
Contact Meghan Thomassen at mthomass@nd.edu