KÕRVITS Moreland Elegies Risto Joost, cond; Jaanika Kilgi (s); Marianne Pärna (a); Estonian P Chamber O & Ch ONDINE 13062 (54:00 &)
In Fanfare 40:1 Raymond Tuttle reviewed with unmitigated enthusiasm an ECM recording devoted to the music of Tõnu Kõrvits. Kõrvits is an Estonian composer born in 1969, and Tuttle’s review motivated me to explore other recordings of his work. By the time I was assigned this new release I had already become an enthusiast. Moreland Elegies only reinforces that enthusiasm.
A major orchestral choral work with two soloists, Moreland Elegies was composed in 2015 and premiered by the forces who perform it here. Kõrvits sets poems of Emily Brontë, and the austere mood evoked by the author of Wuthering Heights is perfect for his quiet, inward-looking musical personality. Certainly one feels the influence of Estonia’s Arvo Pärt on Kõrvits, but this music is by no means a copy, any more than Beethoven is a copy of Mozart or Haydn. Kõrvits has a wider palette of colors and moods than Pärt, and he calls upon the whole range in this exploration of Brontë’s fragile and intimate verse. Some of the pieces reflect utter despair and a harrowing emptiness (The Night is Darkening Around Me, the third movement). Then for contrast there are the contrasting paeans to nature (Fall, Leaves, Fall and The Sun Has Set). The work’s conclusion, a setting of Month After Month, reminds me of Shostakovich—not so much musically as emotionally. Much of Shostakovich’s music ends in ambiguity, and so it is with Kõrvits here. The final poem goes,
Month after month, year after year,
My harp has poured a dreary strain;
At length a livelier note shall cheer
And pleasure tune its chords again
What thought the stars and fair moonlight
Are quenched in morning dull and grey?
They were but tokens of the night,
And this, my soul, is day
The music lingers on the word “soul,” and we think that there is a glimmer of optimism and positivity to the music’s resolution, but we also wonder if that is our own desire forcing an interpretation on the score.
The settings are in Brontë’s English, not in Estonian, and Ondine helpfully provides the texts. There are excellent notes about both the composer and the work. The recorded sound is spacious and reverberant, which feels appropriate for the music. Although one has no point of comparison, the performances feel ideal. This is a very, very beautiful disc.