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November 30, 2005

Review - Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir


'Baltic Voices 3'

The only downside of this invigorating, spirit-rustling CD from Paul Hillier and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is that it's apparently the final entry in a series of distinctive, soul-bracing new music.

The first track, Vaclovas Augustinas' agile "The Stomping Bride," sets the tone for the frequently percussive modernity of much of this CD. Reminiscent of composer John Adams' clustering alto-tenor chimes under soaring sopranos (as in his "Harmonium"), this setting of a Lithuanian folksong is a perfect early-holidays jaunt.

And the comfort of that work helps ease the unnerving grace of wavering-vibrato lines in Kaija Saariaho's "Nights, farewells." This signal work leads you into the bravest abstractions of the CD. Menacing and imploring, the opening lyrics seize the stage: "In the air / light tears itself / from the ground / into darkness." In polyphonic moan and sigh, the ensemble ushers in the final sequence, icy with Balzac's elegiac adieu, "Granite, farewell, a flower you shall become."

By album's end, you're left on the slow walk of Henryk Gorecki's "5 Kurplan Songs," a relentless picture of gathering hope amid impending darkness: "There, the sycamore will shelter me / there, the storm will pass me by."

Posted by acapnews at November 30, 2005 12:01 AM