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Contemporary Sacred Music from Estonia
Andres UIBO (b.1956)
Antiphons (2005) [10:43]
Veljo TORMIS (b.1930)
At the Crossroads (1991) [9:27]
Tower Bell in my Village (1978) [14:29]
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
From Canon of Repentance (1996)
Kontakion  [3:32]
Ode VI [10:12]
Prayer after the Canon [14:15]
Orthodox Singers/Valery Petrov
rec. Keila Newand, Apostolic Church, Estonia, March 2007 
Experience Classicsonline

The Orthodox Singers here present a selection of a capella music written by three contemporary Estonian composers of whom Pärt is obviously the best known internationally. Founded in 1989 by its conductor Valery Petrov this is a versatile group, attuned to widely differing stylistic calls from a large range of composers. Its primary focus however has always been early Orthodox chant and it’s natural that it has recently chosen to include contemporary Orthodox works as well. The usual suspects can be cited; Pärt, Tavener but also Valery Kalistratov. The ensemble consists of three sopranos, three altos, two tenors and three basses.
Andres Uibo’s Antiphones was written in 2005 for these forces. Uibo is an organist as well as a composer, and works in Tallinn, where he graduated in 1981. This is a work that has absorbed Old Church chant into its bloodstream and conjures up a subtle use of vocal groupings, pedal notes and opportunities for solo voices to penetrate the texture of the writing.
Though Pärt is the best known of the trio Veljo Tormis is the senior composer and At the Crossroads (1991) demonstrates yet again how masterful are his choral works. This is an excerpt from the epic poem The Three Journeys of Ilja Muromet. It exploits the powerful and sonorous basses of the Singers in a work that is, very much as was the Uibo, deeply saturated in antique sonorities. But striving and full-blooded it offers a powerful contrast with Uibo’s more quiescent work – here drama and flailing energy are the watchwords. Tower Bell in my Village is a much earlier Tormis work, completed in 1978. It uses old rural wedding songs and threnodies as well as bells and a reciter. Written at a time when Estonia was in thrall to the Soviet Union, and when that monolith was still engaged on a policy of cultural repression, Tower Bell in my Village evokes the values of cultural difference through the words of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa – the reciter speaks the words in English by the way. It’s an important piece that builds incrementally to affirmative colour and choral shouts – exceptionally well performed all round.
Pärt’s contribution revolves around his 1996 work Canon of Repentance, from which we hear three movements. This uses an ancient Russian prayer book and its musical embodiment conforms to the sense of visionary simplicity that the composer so richly evokes. Given the stark text of Ode VI one finds that the music is consolatory in the extreme with a beautiful purity in the words of the Theotokion - “O Virgin Mother of God, protect me from evil visible and invisible.” The Prayer after the Canon is also eloquently expressive in Pärt’s finest and most artless way.
There are full texts and a pretty decent booklet. The performances are in every way worthy of the music.
Jonathan Woolf  


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