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Cyrillus KREEK (1889-1962)
Requiem in C minor for tenor, mixed choir and orchestra (1925-27) [44:23]
Musica Sacra for orchestra (1943-44) [16:58]
Mati Turi (tenor); Piret Aidulo (organ)
Estonian National Opera Chorus/Elmo Tiisvald
Girls Choir Ellerhein/Tiia-Ester Loitme
Estonian National Opera Symphony Orchestra/Arvo Volmer
rec. Pärnu Concert Hall, 13-14 October 2005.
ALBA ABCD229 [61:31]
Experience Classicsonline

Kreek, we are told, was the youngest founder of the professional school of Estonian music. He studied trombone and composition at the St Petersburg Conservatory. He then worked as a teacher in schools and at the Tallinn Conservatoire. In one way or another his many works use or reference the sound of the massed human voice.
The writing in his Requiem is dignified, avoids polyphonic complexity and generally speaks directly to the listener. The least assertive of brass figures links the sweetly massed sound of the choir and at times adds underpinning from the organ. A motif uncannily like The Westminster Chimes rings out in seraphic confidence. The Dies Irae adopts plainchant in awed tones and features the sturdy baritonal defiance of Matti Turi. He returns in extremely romantic and honeyed Scandinavian tones in the Domine Jesu. The work rises to a congregational grandeur in the Hostias. The Sanctus is launched with Verdian trumpets but soon reverts to quietly pietic supplication. The final Agnus Dei is the longest segment of this eight-movement work and at 13:52 approaches one third of its total span. Kreek's Requiem has a confident and gratifying swing and its sense of well-being and wholeness is not only to do with the return of ‘The Westminster Chimes in the Agnus Dei. There is hardly anything operatic about this Requiem yet for anyone with a taste for Scandinavian choral works it has a beguiling quality that is irresistible.
Musica Sacra is a sequence of orchestral versions of choral settings of the Psalms. Psalm 137: grave and recalling the brass-brooding opening of Rimsky's Russian Easter Festival; 121: a long, dignified string-initiated cantilena; Oh Virgin mother of God:  more unison work for probing and heavenly gleaming strings; Psalm 141: dignified again as in Psalm 137 though lighter and with the dignity carried in the manner of Tchaikovsky in the gloomier musing of his Fifth Symphony; Psalm 104: is light of heart. These are all shortish pieces -  easy to assimilate yet each with a gravitas of their own; Blessed is the Man: uncannily like the long unflamboyant hymns of Alan Hovhaness.
The Requiem is sung in Estonian and the words and translations are given side by side in the booklet.
This is very much a pastoral Requiem of the same stamp as that by Islandsmoens, recently revived on 2L (see review). The Kreek is more enduringly pleasing and has more colour and grasp.
Rob Barnett


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