WORKS: Casting a Spell: Estonian Calendar Songs
PERFORMER: Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir/Tonu Kaljuste
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45185 2
Through their successive periods of occupation, the Estonian people have always sung themselves to freedom. And what better way to sing in their sixth year of independence than with the Estonian Calendar Songs: a yearful of ritual runo songs and spells collected, preserved, and re-composed into classical choral song by Veljo Tormis, a Bartók figure of Estonia.
Here are songs and incantations for Martinmas, St Catherine’s Day and Shrove Tuesday. The fire of Midsummer is kindled and caught, fleetingly, in the St John’s Day songs as boats are burned and beacons lit. The Swing songs of spring epitomise the fusion of beautiful poetry, pulsating chant and robust part-singing in this extraordinarily varied programme from the Balto-Finnic peoples.
The unique timbre of native singers in the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir makes these spells uniquely potent. The sharp focus of their performances gives it the final edge over the nonetheless fine singing of the BBC Singers who fearlessly tackle Tormis’s great Curse upon Iron and the five moving runic songs of his Karelian Destiny cycle. These are twinned with eloquent performances of Pärt’s Seven Magnificat Antiphons, the Magnificat and the Summa, supervised personally by the composer. Hilary Finch