Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

alternatively
CD: Crotchet AmazonUK AmazonUS

 

Veljo TORMIS (b. 1930)
Two Songs to words by Ernst Enno (1948, 1998) [7.56]
Three Estonian game songs (1973) [7.17]
Three songs from the epic ĎKalevís Soní (1954, 1960) [10.43]
Livonian Heritage (1970) [16.48]
Singing aboard ship (1983) [5.00]
Autumn Landscapes (1964) [9.03]
Four Estonian Lullabies (1989) [6.59]
Childhood memory (Herding Calls) (1982) [8.02]
Holst Singers/Stephen Layton
rec. All Hallows Church, Gospel Oak, London, 13-16 July 2007
HYPERION CDA67601 [71.50]
Experience Classicsonline

If you visit the open air museum just west of the Estonian capital, Tallinn, it might come as some surprise that the complex was troubled by arson - something particularly damaging to traditional wooden buildings. This was because the concept of an open air museum, with its examples of buildings from different local cultures, ran contrary to the unifying Russification which the occupying Soviet authorities were keen on. A similar view can be taken of folk-song, which helped inculcate a sense of Nationalism. To us, the use of folk-song may be cosily redolent of the past and scarcely political at all. To a composer of Veljo Tormis's generation, living in Soviet-occupied Estonia, folk-songs could become very dangerous.
 
Tormis was 14 when the Estonia Soviet Republic was created in 1944 - the country having been occupied by the Russians or the Germans since 1940. As a composer, he was Russian-trained but he managed to walk the tightrope between official censure and writing self-serving pieces. He carefully negotiated the pitfalls, learning from his organ teacher Edgar Arro, that certain types of folk-song were acceptable to Moscow. The anti-formalist Soviet authorities needed composers who could write the right type of music. Tormis must have been aware of the balancing act. After all he was present at Prokofievís funeral in 1953 and Shostakovich was the chairman of the jury at his graduation in 1956.
 
Initially his output included music of all forms, including that particularly Soviet form, the epic cantata. But a rare visit beyond Estoniaís borders, to Hungary, in 1962 gave him the opportunity to buy scores by Bartůk and KodŠly. From then on his output was almost exclusively folk-influenced choral music.
 
This new recorded selection of his music, from Stephen Layton and the Holst Singers, spans almost the entirety of Tormisís career. The first of two songs to works by Ernst Enno dates from when Tormis was 18 and the second dates from 1998. These are original material, without any embedded folk references. Similarly the three settings of poems from the poetic epic Kalevís Song and Autumn Landscapes are without any folk material, but all the remaining pieces on the disc use folk material as their basis.
 
What is fascinating is how the one blends into the other, that Tormisís discovery of how to use folk material in his art made a great deal of sense in terms of how he wrote and the sound-world of his music. Tormis had in fact flirted in his early days with serialism, but in a rather unenthusiastic way and it would be difficult to label him a true serialist at any point in his career.
 
The settings of the poems from Kalevís Son are inevitably folk-influenced, even if the musical material is original. The text comes from a national epic which is embedded in Estonian folk history. Similarly Autumn Landscapes, which sets seven poems by Viivi Luik, was written in the light of his first visit to Hungary and the influence of KodŠly can be detected.
 
Tormisís first major folk work was Calendar Songs, a cycle of 29 songs. This was followed by the fruits of a trip to north-western Latvia, which triggered Tormisís fascination with the Finno-Ugric people of that region. The result is a group of 51 songs of which Livonian Heritage is the first part. This is more than a simple musical ethnographic exercise, Tormis does far more than preserve the songs. Instead he weaves them into his own imaginative world, giving us a distinctive evocation of Livonia.
 
Often the basic melodies are limited in range, but out of them Tormis creates something hypnotic. This is true of the Three Estonian Game Songs, where Tormis uses simple means to create a rich scope. The Four Estonian Lullabies present the material in a rather less complex way, leaving these lovely melodies relatively unadorned. For me, the most haunting piece on the disc is Childhood Melody which uses herding calls remembered from his childhood.
 
There is nothing strictly minimal about this music, though Tormis uses material which is relatively simple and employs repetition and other elements of minimalism. The results are rich and complex.
 
Tormisís music occupies a very distinctive world and it can take some time to become accustomed to it. On first listening his personal harmonic take on the music stands out and gives a rather uniform feel to the disc. With greater familiarity, comes appreciation of the subtleties of Tormisís art.
 
I have nothing but praise for Stephen Layton and the Holst Singers. Their performances are spot-on throughout the disc. You could imagine different interpretations perhaps, but within their own parameters they give us finely honed, musical accounts. The choir also provide some attractive, uncredited solo voices in some of the songs.
 
Perhaps an Estonian group might have given us a rougher, less sophisticated performance in places, responding to the dramatic context of the folk melodies in a way that non-Estonian choirs might not. This is a matter of interpretation and Tormisís publication of these pieces means that he is able to countenance their performance by choirs from other backgrounds.
 
Having sung some of this repertoire myself I have come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to have some of it sung in translation, so that we could appreciate rather more vividly the interplay of music and text. The choirís Estonian sounds convincing, but I would have loved to have heard them sing some items in English, with its gains of vividness and immediacy Ė at least for English speakers.
 
The Estonian Chamber Choir has recorded much of this repertory. They have recorded the whole of the Forgotten Peoples set from which Livonian Heritage comes. But this new disc is an excellent introduction to Tormisís art.
 
Robert Hugill
 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prťalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallť
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.