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(born 1949)

Venezianisches Déjà-vu (2001)a
Te Deum (1988)b
Cyrillus KREEK (1889 Ė 1962)

Davidís Psalms (1923)c
Knut NYSTEDT (born 1915)

Immortal Bach (1988)d
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 Ė 1750)

Toccata, Adagio and Fugue BWV 654e
Chorvorspiel BWV 641e
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choirbcd; Franz Hauk (organ)be; Ensemble Art of Brass, Viennaab; Paul Engel
Recorded: Dom St Jakob, Innsbruck, October and November 2001
GUILD GMCD 7245 [69:52]


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This release is a rather mixed affair in which the excellent Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the composer Paul Engel have the lionís share. Moreover, it includes some unfamiliar works such as the pieces by Engel and Kreekís Davidís Psalms and the short choral work Immortal Bach by the prolific Knut Nystedt.

Engelís imposing Te Deum for chorus, brass, organ and percussion, an Ingolstadt commission by the way, completed in 1988, is a quite substantial work in a highly accessible idiom. The opening of the first section (brass repeated notes followed by a nervous organ gesture) curiously reminds me of the opening of Kutavičiusís oratorio Last Pagan Rites, and probably quite by accident, I must say, though both works evoke some archaic belief. Engelís setting is fairly straightforward and unfolds majestically, not without grandeur expressed in simple terms.

Venezianisches Déjà-vu for brass ensemble is a quite recent work, though it has many common characteristics with the brass writing in the earlier Te Deum. This is a free fantasy paying homage to the Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli on whose motet Jubilate Deo and Sonata XIII it is based. The whole, however, never sounds either as pastiche or parody, but rather as a re-creation in 20th Century manner. Admittedly a virtuoso piece that calls for some considerable prowess and assurance on the playersí part. Its many demands are superbly met by the excellent Art of Brass that delivers a wonderful reading of this most attractive work.

Kreekís Davidís Psalms for unaccompanied chorus are very fine in spite of their comparative austerity. They are new to me as is this Estonian-born composerís music who, incidentally, composed an Estonian Requiem in 1927, reportedly his major work, that still awaits its first recording.

Knut Nystedt is a prolific composer with a considerable amount of choral music, mostly on religious texts (though he repeatedly made choral arrangements of Norwegian folk songs), on large as well as small scale. His Immortal Bach (based on Komm Süsser Tod) is a clear example of his many short choral works.

Franz Hauk is his customary self again and gives very fine readings of the Bach works, and particularly of the impressive Toccata, Adagio and Fugue BWV 654.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is a virtuoso ensemble whose undoubted mastery and constant dedication have already been demonstrated in many other records (such as their remarkable rendering of Veljo Tormisís large-scale cycle Forgotten Peoples on ECM). Franz Hauk is well-known and widely appreciated for his committed advocacy of great organ works, past and present. As already mentioned, Art of the Brass is another virtuoso ensemble that clearly steals the show with their superb performance of Engelís brass piece. So, bringing them all together can but result in music-making of the highest order. The present release, though still a mixed affair (I would have welcomed an all-20th Century programme), should nevertheless appeal to all interested in well-made, accessible and communicative choral music. Well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot


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