The Suspended Harp of Babel – The sun shall not smite thee; Whilst Great Is Our Poverty; Jacob’s Dream/Orthodox Vespers – Proemial Psalm; From Heaven Above to Earth I Come; Bless the Lord, my soul; Awake, My Heart; Orthodox Vespers – Praise the Name of the Lord; Do the Birds Worry?; Lord, I Cry unto Thee; He, Who Lets God Prevail; By the Rivers of Babylon; plus works by Machaut, Marco Ambrosini and Anna-Liisa Eller
Vox Clamantis/Jaan-Eile Tulve ECM4819041 67:01mins
Gregorian chant affords a common meeting place for the musicians of Vox Clamantis, but their reach has spanned medieval polyphony to contemporary music – including that of compatriots such as Arvo Pärt, Helena Tulve and Erkki-Sven Tüür. This latest disc honours a major figure of Estonian choral music from an earlier generation: Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), pioneering folksong collector and composer of folk- inflected sacred music.
Included are four psalm settings written between the two world wars; a treasury of ancient runic and folk hymnic works; the instrumental gilding of nyckelharpa and kannel (a sort of Estonian zither); and, by way of extended finale, the free-wheeling
‘Oh Jeesus, sinu valu’, in which folk music, Machaut and an iconic Lutheran choral are hauntingly enmeshed. A caressing velvety choral reassurance underpins Jaan-Eile Tulve’s tender direction of Psalm 121. Nothing is forced. The singing breathes with a collective, gentle inevitability, (consummated in the evenness and control of ‘Kui suur on meie vaesus’ poised plenitude). ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ divides the choir into eight ear-filling parts and takes the basses to a rumbling low B flat; though in a setting ranging from ‘triple quiet’ to ‘double loud’ Tulve somewhat softens the dynamic distinctions. The final impression is abiding solace, nonetheless, for these distracted times. Paul Riley