Artists: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir|
Album: Baltic Voices 2
Label: Harmonia Mundi
Religious choral music from several Baltic nations, but especially
Estonia. How can a country with a population less than that of San
Francisco produce such a disproportionate effect on late 20th/21st
century classical music? As an addition to the more famous music of
Arvo Part, this CD features choral compositions by Estonians Urmas
Sisask, Toivo Tulev, and Galina Grigorjeva. Anyone familiar with Arvo
Part's choral music will detect definite similarities in the Estonian
contributions-tuneful and tonal compositions with medieval melodic
inspirations, and more modern compositional techniques snuck in on the
sly. There's not a weak selection on this CD. I liked tracks 2, 8, 9, 10,
and 14. However, I'd recommend playing tracks 8-12 together, since
they work best as a whole.
1-5) Urmas Sisask: Five songs from Gloria Patri. The songs are
centered around C#, D, F#, G#, A, which the composer derives from the
orbits of the planets (!). The composition and recording quality
combine for a very pleasing, luminous sound.
1) Brief introductory piece, declamatory, but not overly strident.
2) More mysterious, with a short, beautiful melody traded between bass
and sopranos. Recommended
3) Brief, medieval-like call and response, again between male and female voices.
4) Long, very quiet intro. Suspended, slowly evolving chords,
predominantly sopranos and altos. Rest of choir slowly joins. When
the sound develops fully, it is stunning. Volume increases at ~6:30
into song, then abruptly drops again, fades into silence.
5) Gloria Patri. Again, medieval/early renaissance, but with much
richer harmonies. Nice but brief, tenor/soprano solos.
6) Tolvo Tulev: And then in silence there will be only You. Based on
the Hail Mary. Amorphous choral music. Tonal, with only occasional
slight dissonance. Austere, and mysterious. Gets very quiet about 1'
before end of track.
7) Per Norgard: Winter Hymn. Lovely, contemporary classical choral
work. Lyrics in either in English or Danish (I couldn't tell)
8-12) Galina Grigorjeva. Transplanted Russian/Ukrainian currently
working in Estonia. These tracks are adaptations of Orthodox liturgy.
This is the first recording. This composition is influenced by
15-17th century Slavic polyphonic singing.
8) Slow and beautiful soprano/alto opening. About halfway through,
very effective dissonance develops between the female and male voices
within the choir. Recommended
9) Begins with high tenor solo, quiet soprano accompaniment. Then
minimal bell, flute join. Flute becomes more energetic, although the
tempo remains slow. Later soprano choir and flute.
10) Opens with monkish bass choir, similar to plainsong. Later tenor
counter-melody appears. Blossoms into powerful and beautiful harmony,
before fading into obscurity at the end. Recommended.
11) Soprano/alto choir, later adds tenors. If the previous movement
was strength, this one sounds like mercy.
12) Resolution of previous themes. Full choir. Beautiful, balanced
sound that is particularly effective following the isolated choral
elements in the previous movements.
13-15) Alred Schittke: Three sacred hymns: German/Russian composer.
These hymns were written in 1983. They fit well with the remainder of
the CD, despite their differing musical and liturgical inspiration.
Again, slow amorphous, and pretty.
13) Canon, with 2 choirs in E-flat major and C minor separated by 1
bar. The effect is slightly disorienting, but in an almost subliminal
way. The music is still lovely, with an amorphous, slow tempo, and
careful balance of dissonance and harmony.
14) Classical hard-core? Only 1:21 long, goes from whisper to
full-throated in one beautiful swoop.
15) More varied (and longer) than the previous two movements. Some
evidence of Bach, maybe a little Brahms.