Released by BIS Records
EPCC, conductor Kaspars Putninš

Conductor’s comment:

Psalms of Repentance (or rather Verses of Repentance) where composed by Alfred Schnittke to mark the 1000 years since christianizing of Russia. The piece reflects composer’s complicated relationship to his country, it’s history, people, and his own life and spiritual aspirations. Being of Jewish and German descent he was mostly influenced by Western musical trends of different historical periods. His musical language is full of eclectic gestures that derive from different musical styles and was forged while composing a number of film and theatre scores, yet there is something undoubtedly “Schnittkean” and “Russian” in any of those gestures, something that gives strong sense of identity. Schnittke is able to achieve these unique qualities because his skills are always used to convey messages that are of huge and urgent importance for himself. He creates a narrative so dense and honest that I have often felt being drown into most intense, cordial and intimate conversation on the topics of major importance – life and death, love and hatred, beliefs and doubts, divine and evil. Schnittke is not afraid of becoming increasingly personal and vulnerable in his narrative, he reveals deep and dark corners of his intimate thoughts and feelings.


While Alfred Schnittke’s Psalms brings us into the depths and secrets of the underworld of a human soul, Arvo Pärt’s music belongs to the crystalline hights of the realm of pure Spirit. I believe that the connection and balance between the two worlds is very important, hence the programme of this album.


Psalms of Repentance is a very text-based music. Phrasing and flow of Schnittke’s music organically derives from the flow of the text. The characters and situations are often so precisely expressed in musical terms that the writing obtains madrigalistic qualities. Harmonies and timbres are closely related to the phonetic qualities of the language. It is therefore essential for the performer not only to be intimate with every word, every hint of the text but also to feel at home with the language itself, to be flexible with pronunciation and coloring of the text. 


I am very privileged that the wonderful singers of Estonian Philharmonic Choir have unique combination of experiences – most of them are fluent in Russian and familiar with the Russian culture, and for years they have been closely related to our most honorable maestro Arvo Pärt who’s music and personality has left a very significant impact on the very identity of our choir.

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