Eduard Tubin is one of those composers that have "fallen between the cracks" so to speak. The only advocate for his music has been Jarvi, although there was a cycle of Tubin's symphonies released on the Alba label that appeared years later after Jarvi's cycle. Jarvi proved that Tubin's music had staying power and I have to agree it does. I do not like everything Tubin wrote, especially his later symphonies, but even they have some merit. I consider Tubin's 1st symphony to be his masterpiece.
Other than the Jarvi recording of the 1st, the only other one available is on the Alba label, so this recording is my only reference and what a reference it is! Jarvi and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra play with fire and Jarvi's sensitive conducting is exactly what the doctor ordered. The first movement will leave you breathless! It's almost a miniature masterpiece all by itself.
The other pieces on this recording "Concerto for Balalaika" and "Music for Strings" aren't that special. My problem with this concerto is that I don't think the balalaika is a lead instrument at all. It sounds out-of-place and I found myself becoming increasingly bored with the lack of range the instrument has. The other piece "Music for Strings" is a much better piece and has a neo-classical sound. It's a pretty decent piece of music much better than the concerto.
If there's one disc to pickup in Jarvi's Tubin cycle, let it be this one. The 1st really deserves to be in the standard repertoire. Again, I'm not huge fan of Tubin's music (yet), but the 1st is just outstanding. Overall 4 1/2 stars.
Balalaika Concerto / Symphony 1