A wonderful collection of Galina Grigorjeva’s choral works expertly performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Theatre of Voices conducted by Paul Hillier with the YXUS Quartet and recorder player Conrad Steinmann on a new release from Ondine

Galina Grigorjeva (b.1962) www.edition-s.dk/composer/galina-grigorjeva www.emic.ee/galina-grigorjeva was born in Crimea, Ukraine and studied at the Simferopol Music School and Odessa Conservatoire. In 1991, she graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire under Professor Yuri Falik later undertaking postgraduate studies with Lepo Sumera at the Estonian Academy of Music. She has remained in Estonia where she now works as a freelance composer.

The music of Galina Grigorjeva has been performed in Ukraine, Russia, Poland, Germany, France and the USA. Her works have been performed by Hortus Musicus, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, the Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Kremerata Baltica, the Moscow Patriarchate Choir, the State Choir Latvija, percussion ensemble Kroumata, the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, recorder player Conrad Steinmann and clarinettist Michel Lethiec. Her music has been performed at several festivals including From Avant-Garde to the Present Day (St. Petersburg, 1996), Two Days and Two Nights (Ukraine, 2001 and 2003), December Nights (Moscow, 2002), the Naantali Music Festival (Finland), the Lockenhaus Festival (Austria, 2003) and the Festival Pablo Casals in Prades (France, 2004).

The Estonian Radio has twice chosen Grigorjeva’s work to represent Estonia at the International Rostrum of Composers. She was awarded the Heino Eller Music Prize in 2003 and the Annual Prize of the Endowment for Music of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia in 2004 and 2013. In 2014, Grigorjeva was ascribed the the Order of the White Star Fourth Class. Her first CD In Paradisum was awarded the Estonian Music Prize in the category of Classical album in 2015.


Svjatki for mixed choir (1997/2014) refers in the Russian folk calendar to the winter holidays from Christmas to Epiphany. First is Slava! (Glory!) that brings a repeated rising motif, a resounding cry of Slava! with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir filling the ample acoustic of Niguliste Church, Tallinn, Estonia wonderfully.

The male and female voices of the choir alternate in the fast moving Svatyy Vecher (Holy Evening) with some finely written part writing expertly handled.

An alto voice opens Podblyudnaya (Guessing Song) before the female voices of the choir join in a most lovely theme. Soloist and choir alternate as the music slowly flows forward. Later a soprano joins to suddenly rise up before the alto and choir gently lead ahead to a whispered section before the choir find the hushed coda.

Oy Kalyudka! (O, Kalyudka!) opens with the choir providing a kind of fast chant over which voices rise including whooping phrases from the soprano. The music slowly gains in strength, the male voices adding a depth to the chanting line. A bass rises over the choir who find some terrific textures as they rise in power to a climatic coda where the echo of the choir is allowed to decay. Absolutely terrific.

Chto Nastanet Vesna (Spring Is Coming) finds a solo soprano singing over a gentle vocalising choir, creating a quiet magical sound. Grigorjeva subtly adds to the textures produced by the choir with a fine weaving of musical lines in this simple theme that is made to sound quite beautiful before concluding on a high pure soprano note.

A tenor opens the fast moving contrapuntal Khristu Rozdjënnomu (To the Newborn Christ) soon joined by the choir, rising in passion. They bring an insistent, very orthodox style chant before a declamatory coda.

This is an impressive work, all the more so given that it is an early piece.

Salve Regina for vocal quartet and string quartet (2013) was commissioned for the Theatre of Voices and the YXUS Ensemble who are the performers here.

Soprano, Else Torp rises up high in a pure toned theme, taken by the string quartet in this slow, beautiful melody. Tenor Christopher Watson joins before the vocal Quartet blend with the String Quartet in the most lovely sound. The soprano again rises high above the string quartet before male voices weave the music with Grigorjeva showing her fine ear for vocal and instrumental textures and harmonies as the music is shifted around the voices, blending into the string textures. They rise in intense passion in repeated phrases before the strings take the music to a gentler passage to which the alto Iris Oja brings a lovely tone. Bass Jakob Bloch Jespersen brings an equally lovely passage over which strings provide strange high murmurings before a hushed, quite lovely coda.

As you may have gathered by now this is a particularly lovely work, the kind of piece that could become extremely popular.

The male voices of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir return for Diptych for male choir (2011), a work based on a text from the Gospel of St. Luke and a text by Cosmos, Bishop of Jerusalem in the 8th century.Nyne otpushtshajeshi (Lord, Now Let Your Servant Depart) opens with a lovely descending hushed motif that gently and slowly rises a little as the male voices move ahead with some fine basses underpinning the choir. Grigorjeva’s harmonies and textures are wonderful as she weaves some lovely overlaid lines, always finding the most exquisite harmonies in this mesmerising section, rising toward the coda only to find a gentle conclusion.

Ne Rydai Mene, Mati (Do Not Lament Me, O Mother) brings a high alto voice over a static choir. The choir then take the lovely theme forward adding richer harmonies. The music has a beautifully gentle calm before these singers weave some rather more passionate passages as the music develops, finding rich textures. They rise to a peak only to suddenly regain their earlier poised calm for a gloriously hushed coda.

Lament for recorder (2000) was commissioned by the International David Oistrakh Festival and premiered by the soloist here, Conrad Steinmann. The recorder rises in a slurred upward arch before developing the theme through some very fine passages where the acoustic of the venue adds much to the atmosphere of this solitary piece. The music achieves some quite hauntingly atmospheric moments. Conrad Steinmann brings some terrific fast tongued passages before finding the calm of the opening and leading to a final flourish.

This is a remarkable work, quite wonderfully engaging with a definite Slavic quality.

Nature Morte for mixed choir (2008) is based on poems by Joseph Brodsky and was commissioned by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir who return to perform it here. It is this choir’s fine basses that openNature morte with a hushed sound over which chattering voices emerge building to a frenzied climax only to fall away.  There are further surges from the choir as male and female sections take the text, moving through some remarkable, fast passages before falling again to hushed male voices chattering, over which the choir take the text. There are some stunning passages for female voices interspersed by the most lovely quieter moments.

In The Butterfly the female voices bring a gentle mellifluous calm to which male voices join. This is a beautifully paced piece that rises in passion centrally, this choir finding so many subtleties in this quite wonderful setting.

The female voices of the choir open Who Are You?; beautifully overlaid as the textures and harmonies emerge. It is quite brilliantly sung as the male voices add richness before tailing off with a lovely moment for the female voices and a hushed coda.

In paradisum for mixed choir (2012) was commissioned by the international choir festival Tallinn 2013. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir shape the music wonderfully as they allow it to slowly reveal its textures, rising through some fine passages effused with Orthodox influences. The control that this choir brings is remarkable – right to the hushed coda.


This is a wonderful collection of this composer’s works that I wouldn’t want to be without. The very fine recording captures the acoustic of Niguliste Church to great effect. There are useful booklet notes with full texts and English translations.