Kreek, Rautavaara, Tormis, Sven-David Sandström, Pärt & Vasks

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COMPOSERS: Kreek,Pärt & Vasks,Rautavaara,Sven-David Sandström,Tormis
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Baltic Voices, Vol. 1
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn CO/Paul Hillier
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907311

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In his three-year recording project as new principal conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier sets out to explore the wider shores of Northern Europe lapped by the Baltic Sea. So, this first ‘Baltic Voices’ disc offers not only work by Vasks, and the haunting Psalm settings of Cyrillus Kreek, an Estonian contemporary of Vaughan Williams, but it also focuses on Rautavaara and the Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström. There are two substantial works by Sandström, including the 10-minute Hear My Prayer: it starts with the Purcell we know and love, then veers off almost imperceptibly, like the moments before a turning tide, into an eloquent lament all its own. Hillier is also keen to continue his and the choir’s advocacy of Veljo Tormis and Arvo Pärt. Tormis’s ardent commitment to and regeneration of the music of those almost forgotten Finno-Baltic tribes is celebrated in the first ever recording of his Latvian Bourdon Songs – complete with subtle acoustic effects of distance and movement. And from Pärt we have the world premiere recording of ‘which was the son of’, a robust setting of St Luke’s genealogy of Christ, composed in 2000 for the city of Reykjavik and inspired, I suspect, as much by the Icelanders’ own obsession with genealogy as by the Millennium itself. The EPCC perform throughout with the concentrated focus, fine-tuning and the full-bodied yet translucent timbre which distinguishes all their work. Hilary Finch