Friday, October 26, 2012

CCC 049 - Ester Magi

This installment of our Consonant Classical Challenge features Estonian composer Ester Magi. Magi writes mostly choral and chamber music, but symphonic works have found places in the concert repertoire -- at least in Europe. Magi combines the folk music traditions of her country with more traditional harmonies. The melodic leaps and turns give her music an Estonian flavor, but it also has a fresh originality about it.

A good example of this is her Piano Concerto. Although it's formal structure is in line with classical concertos of the past, the angular nature of the melodies and robust modal motion give it a distinctive character.

Magi's Symphony No. 1 is a more complex work. The harmonic language is extended beyond simple triads, and there are some unusual skips in the melody. Although Magi is primarily a choral composer, her orchestration skills are rock-solid. She combines instruments in effective and subtle ways. 


Poem (Vesper) for Strings is a beautiful short work for string orchestra. The nature of the piece makes it very close to Magi's choral compositions. Why don't orchestras program this piece? It's a mystery to me.


Ester Magi is well-known in Eastern Europe, and her music is performed often. Although Magi writes in a tonal language, she doesn't write "pretty" music. Her compositions have real emotional depth, and while she frames her works in traditional forms, she does so in an original fashion.

Magi's music should appeal to traditionalists who enjoy Dvorak, Smetana, and other Eastern European composers. At the same time, younger multicultural audiences should enjoy the ethnicity of the music.

To keep this series going, I've have to do some serious exploring of the classical repertoire. But as long as discover composers like Ester Magi, I consider it time well spent.

Recommended Recordings

Ester M├Ągi: Orchestral Music

Tree of Song: Choral Music

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