Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier - Baltic Voices

Published Wednesday 14th February 2018
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier - Baltic Voices
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier  - Baltic Voices

STYLE: Choral
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMX 2908793.95

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

I confess that I can sometimes find triple CDs overwhelming and have to work my way through them, like a man eating an elephant, one bite at a time. Not here. The three hours and 40 minutes flew past and while I had to play the CDs over three evenings I wish I could have spared the time to hear them all in one go. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir is one of the world's finest and here, under Paul Hillier, they are on top form across all three CDs. A quick word to the wise, this set is a reissue of the three volumes series first released between 2002 and 2005 contained within a card slip case. The actual CDs and accompanying booklets are unchanged so if you have the three originals all you get that is new is an atmospheric cover picture but if you did not complete your set when it was first issued the box is an economical way to fill your gaps. We do not buy CDs for their covers; it is the music we want. As I have said, the singing - often unaccompanied - is uniformly excellent and those who appreciate contemporary choral music will be glad to hear all of the pieces. This is a wide-ranging collection reflecting the many and varied nationalities and traditions that can be found around the Baltic Sea. While not exclusively a collection of contemporary Christian choral music there is certainly enough to justify a review in Cross Rhythms. Volume Two has most emphasis on sacred music with representatives from the three branches of Christianity practiced in the region: Orthodox with Galina Grigorjeva's "On Leaving" and Alfred Schnittke's "Three Sacred Hymns"; Catholic represented by Tolvo Tulev's "And Then In Silence There With Me Be Only You" and extracts from Urmas Sisask's "Gloria Patri" that left me wanting to hear the whole work. The Protestant is Per Norgard with "Winter Hymn". There are other compositions from a Christian perspective on the other two discs. For example, Volume One opens with Cyrillus Kreek's "Psalms Of David" from 1923 and closes with a world premiere of Peteris Vasks' "Dona Nobis Pacem" and also includes Arvo Part's "Which Was The Son Of", also a world premiere. Volume Three is mainly secular but I defy any listener to hear "The stomping bride" by Vaclovas Augustinas without smiling. There is much to enjoy here, all sung and recorded to the highest standards and now at a most affordable price and while I could say more I fear my spell checker will explode if I type many more obscure names.
Steven Whitehead

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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