Tormis: Livonian heritage; Three songs from ‘Kalev’s son’; Autumn landscapes; Childhood memory (Herding calls); Two songs to words by Ernst Enno; Three Estonian game songs; Four Estonian lullabies; singing aboard ship.

COMPOSERS: Tormis
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Tormis
WORKS: Livonian heritage; Three songs from ‘Kalev’s son’; Autumn landscapes; Childhood memory (Herding calls); Two songs to words by Ernst Enno; Three Estonian game songs; Four Estonian lullabies; singing aboard ship.
PERFORMER: Holst singers/Stephen Layton
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67601
In 2000, when he reached his 70th birthday, Tormis retired, even putting ‘composer emeritus’ on his doorbell. Whether or not he ever writes another note for public consumption, this album will remain a valuable retrospective. The earliest works here are settings of poems by Ernest Enno (1948: revised 1998) and the most recent (leaving aside revisions) are the four Estonian lullabies from 1989. Tormis’s work always contained echoes of traditional music but after a visit to Hungary in 1962, and a study of the way Bartók and Kodály incorporated traditional material, he made increased use of Estonian folk melodies. These elements contribute towards the rhythmic vibrancy and the lilting quality of much of his music, but the textural richness and dynamic power are pure Tormis. These splendid performances highlight the music’s elemental aspects (not just evocations of forces of nature but the spirit of the country, long suppressed by occupiers), the Holst Singer’s commitment bringing out the ferocity of some passages with a quite scary intensity.

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