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Tormis: Songs / Stephen Layton, Holst Singers


Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67601   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


It's hard to imagine a composer "retiring" (as good an idea as it might be for some we can think of), but that's just what the Estonian Veljo Tormis did in 2000 at age 70. And the more of his music we hear--and thankfully, that's getting easier to do these days--the more sorry we are that he's not continuing to write new works. For choral fans this disc is a treasure, and I'd be surprised if it doesn't become an oft-played favorite. The reason: the music is invariably tuneful, harmonically inventive, and tonal, the rhythms primordial and born of both text and culture, all accomplished with an assured command of choral writing, of how to make music of the most compelling kind with nothing
Read more but voices.

Tormis' well-known "evangelism" for his homeland's folksongs is vividly on display in many of the works featured here (the program also contains several "original", pre-folksong-period pieces); but as we have heard before (type Q4756 and Q8046 in Search Reviews), the composer is far from an "arranger" of these tunes. He creates entirely new entities out of them while still preserving the original song, the inflection and meaning of its language, and what I can only describe as its cultural ambience. You hear the music and you can tell where you are--and in some cases, what the song is about--without knowing the language itself.

Evocative is another apt description of Tormis' choral music, especially in his settings of Estonian "game songs", or "The Wave Rolls", the several lullabies, and in the striking sounds of the "Herding calls". Many of these works demonstrate Tormis' very clever use of ostinatos and other repetitive devices--for instance the hypnotic effect in the lullaby "Wee winkie mouse" or the scurrying then rolling rush of clouds in "Clouds are racing" and the lilting, dancing "Daughters of the Meadow Matron" as they "go swaying merrily and playing...on blades of bent grass." Tormis also uses harmony to create special moods, as in the jazz-influenced "Pale light" and "The finger-binding game".

There's so much here to enjoy--and play over again--and it's remarkable how Stephen Layton and his Holst Singers have so convincingly captured the flavor and character of the music and language--we usually only hear native choirs in this repertoire. The sound, from London's All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, is just perfect--and Meurig Bowen's excellent notes complete an all-around first-rate release. This immediately joins my "best discs of the year" list!

--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Singing Aboard Ship by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1983; Estonia 
Length: 4 Minutes 59 Secs. 
2.
Songs (2) after Ernst Enno by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1948 
3.
Estonian Game Songs (3) by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1972/1992; Estonia 
4.
Songs (3) from Epic "Kalevipoeg" by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; Estonia 
5.
Forgotten Peoples: Livonian Heritage by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1970 
6.
Autumn Landscapes by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
7.
Estonian Lullabies (4) by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
8.
Herding Calls by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Stephen Layton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; Estonia 
Length: 8 Minutes 2 Secs. 

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