Music by Estonian composers and Vivaldi filled Schaeffer Auditorium on Tuesday night, as the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, led by conductor Tonu Kaljuste, performed as part of the Kutztown University Performing Artists Series.
The 26-member choir has a sound that is pure silver, light and flexible and able to create a shimmering atmosphere perfect for the music of Estonian composer Alvo Part.
Part, who lives in Berlin, has become popular in Western Europe and the United States for his version of minimalism, which he calls “tintinnabuli.” His music has a mystical quality, and demands absolute control from both singers and instrumentalists.
The Tallinn Chamber Orchestra opened the program with Part’s “Orient and Occident,” a somber piece which intersperses sliding phrases and sudden pauses with meditative, repetitive lines.
The orchestra played with clarity and focus, particularly in the still, quiet ending.
The male contingent of the choir joined the orchestra for Part’s “Walfahrtslied” (“Pilgrim’s Song”), sung in German; the text is based on Psalm 121. The chantlike vocal part over tremolo strings melted into an instrumental ending that trailed off like a ghostly waltz.
The women narrated Part’s “L’Abbe Agathon,” an angel-in-disguise story, in French, with a mezzo-soprano singing the part of the Leper and a baritone singing the Abbot’s line. The angelic voices, the light orchestration full of pizzicatos and the dramatic flourishes made this a highlight.
The entire choir and orchestra performed Part’s “Da pacem Domine,” a sublimely calm piece with gradually unfolding harmonies.
Another Estonian composer, Erkki-Sven Tuur, was represented by the orchestral three-part piece, “Action, Passion, Illusion.”
The first movement chugged along like a syncopated train; the second was a long climb from the lowest bass to the highest violin; the third was a demonic, insistent deconstruction of a Baroque motif.
They ended with Vivaldi’s “Beatus vir,” for two choirs and two orchestras, and four wonderful soloists. The tenor, in “Peccator videbit,” gave an impressive demonstration of speed and suppleness in the passage work.
While this concert was not for every taste — it could be argued that it lacked variety — the artistry of these two groups was impeccable.