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Baltic Voices 1 / Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir


Release Date: 02/11/2003 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 907311   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Veljo TormisPeteris VasksSven-David SandströmArvo Pärt,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber ChoirTallinn Chamber Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Paul Hillier's naming as conductor and artistic director of the acclaimed Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) is an occasion that deserves some celebration. Harmonia Mundi has come through with the release of the first disc in a three-year project entitled "Baltic Voices", an exploration of (mostly) 20th-century music from the countries that ring the Baltic Sea, from Norway to Russia.


Hillier opens the disc by reminding us that local art music flourished in pre-Soviet Estonia: Cyrillus Kreek's Psalms of David was written in 1923. Kreek collected the folk music of his native country, and these lovely, glowing settings bear the obvious stamp of that interest. But the album's focus is largely on
Read more contemporary composers who to some degree are Kreek's aesthetic and even "spiritual" heirs.


This first volume offers a stunning and varied program with no less than three world-premiere recordings: Veljo Tormis' Latvian Bourdon Songs, Arvo Pärt's ...which was the son of..., and Peteris Vasks' Dona nobis pacem. Tormis, a longtime associate of the EPCC, wrote this collection in 1982, using the sung drone called a bourdon as a common current in the six songs. Like Kreek before him, Tormis is intensely interested in traditional music, and he achieves a tricky balance between the old and new: his vigorous rhythms and bracing cluster harmonies strongly evoke the folk music of the region yet he is not enslaved by tradition. Pärt's piece is a setting of the Gospel of Luke's lengthy chronicle of Jesus' genealogy; sung in English, it begins with a forcefully chanted recitation before flowering into a piece that bears more compositional similarity to tender English hymns than perhaps anything else in his output. But there's bite, too--just listen to the singers' gleefully hard-trilled "r" about two-and-a-half minutes into the work ("which was the son of Er").


Originally scored for choir and organ, Vasks' Dona nobis pacem has been transformed in an arrangement for choir and string orchestra (with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra joining the EPCC). Its affecting, yearning incantations of the title text, juxtaposed with slowly ascending strings, may well remind listeners of the texture and mood in Gorecki's famously successful Symphony No. 3. Sweden's Sven-David Sandstrom uses other composers' works as springboards for his own. 1986's Hear my prayer begins with Purcell's setting, but Sandstrom unfolds the piece incredibly slowly, making its harmonies unravel in a way that is both unsettling and quite effective. In Es is genug Sandstrom quotes Buxtehude as well as a Swedish folksong. Maybe it's not surprising that this work, written the same year as Hear my prayer, reflects the same preoccupations with extremely close harmonies and slow pacing. As a result, these two works feel more as if they're part of one larger piece than two discrete entities. Rautavaara's four-movement Lorca Suite features the same luminous harmonies and dynamic rhythms familiar from his other works. The Lorca Suite is a tease in its brevity--lasting not even seven minutes--but the minuteness of the canvas makes Rautavaara's portraiture all the more striking.


The opulent textures of this music suit the choir well, and the singers once again prove that they are world-class performers in all respects. They produce a rich ensemble sound, one that is well served by the wide-open sonics. This disc is an excellent introduction to the contemporary Baltic scene, one that makes me especially eager to hear what comes next.
--Anastasia Tsioulcas, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Latvian Bourdon Songs by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 17 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: This selection is sung in Latvian. 
2.
Dona nobis pacem by Peteris Vasks
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir,  Tallinn Chamber Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996/1997; Latvia 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 15 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
3.
Hear My Prayer, O Lord by Sven-David Sandström
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; Sweden 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 6 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Language: English 
4.
...which was the son of... by Arvo Pärt
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2000; Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 7 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Language: English 
5.
Suite de Lorca, Op. 72 by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1973; Finland 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 6 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Language: Spanish 
6.
Es ist genug by Sven-David Sandström
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1986; Sweden 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 10 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: German 
7.
Psalms of David: Bless the Lord, O my soul by Cyrillus Kreek
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Estonia 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 2 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: Estonian 
8.
Psalms of David: Happy is the Man by Cyrillus Kreek
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Estonia 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: Estonian 
9.
Psalms of David: O Lord, I call to Thee by Cyrillus Kreek
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Estonia 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: Estonian 
10.
Psalms of David: The sun will not strike you by day by Cyrillus Kreek
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; Estonia 
Date of Recording: 07/2002 
Venue:  Tallinn Methodist Church, Estonia 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: Estonian 

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