Baltic Runes

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COMPOSERS: Bergman,Kreek,Sibelius,Tormis
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Tormis: Bridge of Song; The Bishop and the Pagan; St John’s Day Songs; Bergman: Lappponia, Op. 76; Sibelius: Rakastava, Op. 14; Kreek: Three Folksongs
PERFORMER: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Paul Hillier


Just in time for the 80th birthday this summer of the great Estonian choral composer, Veljo Tormis, this programme of Finno-Baltic song invites us to hear his work within the broader context of music inspired by the rune-song tradition.

Tormis himself not only transformed ancient tradition into challenging contemporary music, but is still inspiring younger generations to understand and re-invigorate the practice of Regilaul – Estonian runic song.

‘Rune’ in this sense means enchanted or ritual song and Tormis’s own transformations are represented here in his oft-recorded and performed Bridge of Song and St John’s Day Songs. And there’s his wonderful simultaneous dialogue between 12th-century England and Finland in The Bishop and the Pagan

We also hear four flavoursome folksong settings by Tormis’s predecessor, Cyrillus Kreek, and the Finnish composer Erik Bergman’s powerful choral fantasia, Lapponia, on the shamanic world of the Sami.


Sibelius would visit the rune-singer Larin Paraske to learn more of runic song: his Rakastava (The Lover), from the Kalevala, makes an important contribution to this irresistible disc. Paul Hillier conducts these compelling performances. Hilary Finch