A treasure island of piano music — Spiegel Online
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RÄÄTS, Jaan (b. 1932)


  • Nicolas Horvath, piano

Jaan Rääts has written prolifically for the piano and his ten sonatas, spanning half a century, reveal his sophisticated control of expressive gestures. The composer himself has said: “I don’t like rigid systems. I like absorbing musical material, filtering it, emotionally developing it as needed. Using it as a springboard for my imagination… ”


Piano Sonata No. 9, Op. 76 (1985) (00:11:00 )
I. — (00:03:39)
II. — (00:02:08)
III. — (00:02:47)
Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 114 (2000) (00:06:08)
Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 11, No. 1 (1959) (00:11:11 )
I. Allegro (00:01:56)
II. Grave (00:06:18)
III. Allegro (00:02:59)
Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 11, No. 2 (1959) (00:11:14 )
I. Moderato (00:02:56)
II. Allegro (00:01:42)
III. Grave (00:04:32)
IV. Energico (00:02:06)
Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 11, No. 3 (1959) (00:06:45 )
I. Largo (00:01:45)
II. Allegro (00:00:48)
III. Adagio, recitative (00:02:18)
IV. Allegro (00:01:57)
Piano Sonata No. 4, Op. 36, "Quasi Beatles" (1969) (00:07:21 )
I. — (00:02:18)
II. — (00:02:31)
III. — (00:02:38)
World Première Recording
Total Time: 00:51:26

The Artist

Horvath, Nicolas Recognised as a leading interpreter of Liszt’s music, Nicolas Horvath has in recent years become one of the most sought-after pianists of his generation. Holder of a number of awards, including first prize of the Scriabin and the Luigi Nono International Competitions, he frequently organizes events and concerts of unusual length, sometimes over twelve hours, such as Philip Glass’ complete piano music or Erik Satie’s Vexations, and composers from a number of countries have written for him. Nicolas Horvath is a Steinway artist.

The Composer

Jaan Rääts belongs to a group of composers including Veljo Tormis, Eino Tamberg and Arvo Pärt who emerged in the 1960s to bring Estonian music into the modern mainstream, embracing the styles, philosophies and techniques taking hold among Western postwar composers.

Born on October 15th 1932 in Tartu, Estonia, Rääts studied piano at the Tartu Music High School. In 1957 he graduated from the Tallinn Conservatory, where he studied composition with Mart Saar and Heino Eller. From 1955 to 1966 Rääts worked at Estonian Radio as a recording engineer. He went on in 1966 to become their chief editor of music programmes, and worked between 1970 and 1974 as music manager of Estonian Television.

Rääts also served as chairman of the Estonian Composers’ Union from 1974 until 1993, and as teacher of composition at the Estonian Academy of Music was named professor in 1990. Composers such as Raimo Kangro, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Rauno Remme, Tõnu Kõrvits, Mihkel Kerem, Avi Benjamin Nedzvetski, Kerri Kotta, Toomas Trass, Vsevolod Pozdejev, Tõnis Kaumann and Timo Steiner make up a diverse and distinguished list of former Rääts pupils. In addition, Rääts has received numerous honours and awards in his native land, most recently the Estonian State Cultural Award (1995), the Annual Prize of Endowment for Music of Culture Endowment of Estonia (2002), the Annual Award of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia (2007), the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Estonian National Culture Foundation (2011), and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Republic of Estonia (2011).

The bulk of Rääts’ compositional output encompasses instrumental music, with ten symphonies and 24 concertos, an extensive catalogue of chamber music, and film scores. Rääts’ prolific body of work for piano includes the cycles 24 Preludes (1968), 24 Preludes to Estonian Folk Melodies (24 prelüüdi eesti rahvaviisidele, 1977), 24 Estonian Preludes (24 eesti prelüüdi, 1989), and three different series of miniatures entitled 24 Marginalia (24 marginaali – 1979 for piano solo, 1980 for electronics, and 1982 for two pianos). His ten piano sonatas span a half century of creativity, and are only just getting to be known to Western listeners.


“A recording that will please both connoisseurs of Estonian music and amateurs seeking new discoveries” – Crescendo (France)


“Among his [Rääts’] works devoted to the piano, his ten sonatas stand out, undeservedly neglected, which French pianist Nicolas Horvath performs with passion, enthusiasm and verve… ” – ResMusica.com

“Nicholas Horvath seems in masterly command of Råäts’ often dark yet gleaming materials whether in propulsion or in the hypnotic doldrums.” – MusicWeb International

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