Tormis: Litany to Thunder; Singing Aboard Ship; Curse Upon Iron; The Singer’s Childhood; Songs of the Ancient Sea; The Lost Geese

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Tormis
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Litany to Thunder; Singing Aboard Ship; Curse Upon Iron; The Singer’s Childhood; Songs of the Ancient Sea; The Lost Geese
PERFORMER: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Tonu Kaljuste
CATALOGUE NO: 465 223-2
It’s not often that a disc explores such fundamental musical issues as the role of the composer, the balance between history and contemporaneity, and connections between folk art and ‘high’ art. But Estonian composer Veljo Tormis’s second ECM disc is a remarkable achievement, a varied selection of choral works from the Sixties to the present day whose very simplicity forces the listener to consider what’s going on ‘behind’ the music. The menacing Curse Upon Iron and the dramatic Litany to Thunder both invoke magic, the former a shamanistic spell communicating knowledge to the metal in order to gain power over it, the latter an enactment of a rain-bringing ritual, both expressed in music of great power and sometimes frightening intensity. That these ceremonies should be brought to the concert stage is itself astonishing, and the listener often feels as though they are intruding on some private communion. Simplest and most moving are the two ‘runo-songs’, ‘How Can I Recognise My Home’ and ‘The Lost Geese’, hypnotic ancient Estonian folk melodies passed back and forth between two pure-toned sopranos with an often dissonant, bang-up-to-date piano accompaniment. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir gives immaculate, often breathtakingly beautiful performances throughout the disc in a close but resonant acoustic. David Kettle

Advertisement