The seven short movements of Labürindid [Labyrinths], which is essentially a 7-part concerto for cello and string orchestra, are at once strikingly lyrical yet minimalistic. Although I would personally struggle to confine the work to any one particular style or genre, there are elements of harsh repetitiveness reminiscent of John Adams, but this is counterbalanced by real ambience created from beautiful cluster chords. Moments of lyricism, particularly present in Labyrinth VII, effectively utilise cross and bi-tonal techniques to offset any real sense of homogenous tonality, and yet one never feels lost.
Tasase Maa Laul [The Song of The Plainland] which follows on from this is stunningly calm and evokes the listless melodrama of remote European plains. The kannel (an Estonian zither) begins and closes the piece, and is present as an effective backdrop throughout like a mild wind that you’re constantly aware of but never really notice. Layered upon this are swathes of beautiful chords perfectly balanced among the string forces which accompany the ethereal narration of singer Kadri Voorand: ‘Here you were born, on the plains. From here comes your peace and stability‘. It is a fresh take on the pensive idiosyncrasies of traditional Estonian folk music.
By contrast, Seitsme linnu seitse und [Seven Dreams of Seven Birds] is remarkably post-tonal. However, its Schönberg and ‘late’ Stravinsky-esque motifs are cushioned by the warm sound of the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra which creates a very pleasing effect. Viimane laev[The Last Ship] is a powerful work for male voice choir, bass drum and strings which resonates deeply with the history of Estonian folk and is the most imposing work in the collection. In stark contrast, in the last work Anja Lechner, who has been narrating for us so beautifully on the cello throughout, joins the strings in the short piece Laul [song], which hangs over the whole disc like a smoky question mark slowly dispersing above the desolate plains.
Reviewed by: Will Tamblyn