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Baltic Runes - Tormis, Sibelius, Kreek, Bergman / Hillier

Estonian Philharmonic / Hillier
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 807485   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Veljo TormisJean SibeliusCyrillus KreekErik Bergman
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

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BALTIC RUNES Paul Hillier, cond; Estonian Philharmonic C Ch HARMONIA MUNDI HMU 807485 (SACD: 69:09 & )


TORMIS Laulusild. Piispa ja pakana. Jaanilaulud. SIBELIUS Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Rakastava. KREEK 3 Folksongs. BERGMAN Lapponia.


“Rune” is a word with a number of meanings, including “a Finnish poem, or division of poem, especially one of the separate songs of the Kalevala .” More generically it can be used, particularly in Scandinavia, but also in the Baltic, to mean “any song, poem, or verse.” And it is that broader meaning that applies here. The excellent notes that accompany this disc give further insight into the Balto-Finnic folk-song tradition, and these notes help in connecting with the music heard here. That is particularly true for Erik Bergman’s Lapponia.


Lapponia is the longest work here (about 24 minutes), and for me, at least, the toughest. The composer says that “the title refers to Lapland, the northernmost part of Scandinavia which in midwinter is plunged in a perpetual darkness, sporadically lit up by the Northern Lights. … The second movement has imbibed the primordial song of the Lapps, the yoik , which is performed in a primitive fashion with tense vocal chords and a forced tone. It is improvisatory and emotional in character.” There is more explanation, speaking about the life of the Lapps, the desolateness of nature where they live, and the highly spiritual nature of these people. Try as I might, I found it very difficult to connect with Bergman’s music. What the composer calls a “spontaneous and cathartic outpouring of feelings,” along with music that Bergman describes as having “uncertain” intonation, seems so different from everything else on the disc that it strikes me as a misfit.


Much of the remaining music on this brilliantly sung recording is beautiful in the traditional sense of that word. Not to say that there are no dissonances, and no challenging moments, but the elements of mysticism, spirituality, or human love permeate most of the remaining pieces. Cyrillus Kreek’s setting of Estonian folk songs was a lovely discovery, and the works of Veljo Tormis once again prove that he is one of Estonia’s true masters. Sibelius’s Rakastava (The Lovers) was originally written for male choir, then for mixed choir, then later for string orchestra. This is the mixed choir version. In any of its versions, it is one of Sibelius’s most strikingly original works.


Harmonia Mundi, in addition to the excellent notes, provides full texts and multilingual translations. The warm, rich recorded sound, heard in two-channel stereo, is beautifully balanced, and the performances are stunning. Estonia’s long choral tradition obviously remains vital today. I found myself, after three hearings of the entire disc, programming out the Bergman. In that way, for me at least, it became a very satisfying recording. You might find yourself more open to the more experimental, less traditional language of Lapponia , in which case you’ll get even more out of the disc than I do.


FANFARE: Henry Fogel
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Works on This Recording

1. Laulusild by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
2. Rakastava, Op. 14 by Jean Sibelius
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: Romantic 
Written: Finland 
3. Folksongs (3) by Cyrillus Kreek
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
4. Piispa ja pakana by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
5. Lapponia, Op. 76 by Erik Bergman
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975 
6. Jaanilaulud by Veljo Tormis
Conductor:  Paul Hillier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

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