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Cantus Angelicus
For track-listing see end of review
Heldur Harry Põlda (boy soprano)
Tallinn Sinfonietta/Risto Joost
rec. 14-16 October 2011, St Jacob’s Church, Viimsi, Estonia
ESTONIAN RECORD PRODUCTIONS ERP 5312 [51:02]

The ERP label has released numerous fine discs over the years; the last one I happened to review being a surprising and highly refined Bach recording by Vardo Rumessen (see review). With Cantus Angelicus we move from one of the grand old figures of Estonian music to a brand new name who has been taking the music world by storm.
 
Heldur Harry Põlda (b.1996) may be young, but he can be heard as singer in the boys choir of the Estonian National Opera and soloist in projects such as Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, and Roxanna Panufnik’s Westminster Mass. I happened to hear his remarkable solo in Lera Auerbach’s Russian Requiem at the inaugural concert at the Noblessner Foundry in Tallinn, a massive hall used for submarine manufacture. It is now the venue for performances just as it was left behind by the Russians, full of muck and bits of metal, but with a superb acoustic. As a member of the Netherlands Flute Orchestra I performed there with the Nargen Festival Choir in 2011. One of the other venues we played at was St Jacob’s Church just up the road in the Viimsi district, the location used for this CD - so you can imagine, I was more than happy to have a listen to this recording.
 
This is very much Põlda’s showcase, all but one of the numbers arranged by Valdo Preema, giving the programme a consistent quality. Põlda’s voice has that pure quality which British listeners will know from Howard Blake’s ‘Walking in the Air’, either from the sadly neglected but original Peter Auty, or the starry but subsequent Aled Jones. Unlike the straight English sound of the aforementioned, Põlda is not averse to using some restrained vibrato, though this seems to heighten the perceived vulnerability in his young voice, rather than propel him into mini-tenor territory.
 
What we have here is a very pleasant selection of highly popular classical ‘hits’, given lush but not overly drippy accompaniment from a decent sounding orchestra. The recording reflects the airy acoustic of the church nicely, the orchestral sound perhaps a little distant but creating a lovely atmosphere. The Bach Aria from the Suite No. 3 in D major BWV 1068 provides an instrumental break from the singing. The only mildly suspect aspect of the arrangement is the almost entirely ubiquitous inclusion of harpsichord continuo, which creates harmonic support and sparkle to the baroque arias. It becomes a little bizarre in numbers such as Fauré’s Pie Jesu, though it is thankfully abandoned for the songs from the musicals, which are sung in Estonian. One of the highlights is actually the final song, Caruso, which shows Põlda’s convincing ability to emote as a singer. Song texts are not given in the booklet, though the notes are in English as well as Estonian.
 
Dominy Clements  
 
Track-Listing 
Ch.W. GLUCK Amor’s aria (from Orfeo ed Euridice, Act I) [2:50]
G. CACCINI Ave Maria [4:41]
J.S. BACH - Ch. GOUNOD Ave Maria [3:58]
G. FAURÉ Pie Jesu (from Requiem) [3:17]
F. CHOPIN Sadness (Etude in E major Op 10 No 3) [3:39]
F. SCHUBERT Ave Maria [6:04]
C. FRANCK Panis Angelicus [3:48]
A-Ch. ADAM O Holy Night! [4:44]
J.S. BACH Aria (from Suite No 3 in D major BWV 1068) [4:59]
L. DENZA Funiculi funicula [2:17]
L. BART Where is Love (from Oliver!) [3:53]
F. LOEWE On the Street Where You Live (from My Fair Lady) [2:41]
L. DALLA Caruso [4:04]