Songs of the Baltic Sea

COMPOSERS: Choral works by Augustinas Grigorjeva Jackson Plakidis
LABELS: Delphian
ALBUM TITLE: Songs of the Baltic Sea
WORKS: Choral works by Augustinas, Grigorjeva, Jackson, Plakidis et al
PERFORMER: National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Mike Brewer
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34052

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Baltic repertoire is hot in choral circles at present, so this CD will find a ready specialist audience. For the more general listener, parts of it may be a daunting proposition. The first two sections of Pēteris Plakidis’s unaccompanied half-hour choral symphony Nolemtiba (‘Destiny’), for instance, are dark and brooding, a baleful bass drone dominating movement one, the ostinatos of movement two jerky.

Lyricism flowers in the third movement as sopranos arc sweetly over an underlay of warm humming, before primeval chant-rhythms kick in again in the scherzo-equivalent. The paean to love in the finale releases the accumulated tension, but is perhaps a little idealistic (‘If a love is really big, big things are free to happen’) to be truly cathartic.

Galina Grigorjeva’s choral concerto Svjatki looks, at 18 minutes, another lengthy work, but its six movements create a punchier impact than Nolemti¯ba, the music welling up in praise of God and Nature, its refulgence at times recalling Janáček. Gabriel Jackson’s Cantus Maris Baltici celebrates the sea in swirlingly ebullient writing which tests the virtuosity of the excellent National Youth Choir close to its limits. They are not found wanting.

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Terry Blain