Lux Musicae. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, led by Kaspars Putnins in Siuntio’s church on 16.11.
Brahms, Paert, Schnittke.
Purity and clarity of sound are hallmarks of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.
As Lux Musicae celebrates its 20th festival in the darkness of November with the theme ”Down Memory Lane”, it does so without an artistic director. Pami Karvonen who founded the festival was succeeded by Joonas Ahonen, who in turn was succeeded by Kimmo Hakola. This time it was the festival’s committee who put together the jubilee programme, which was essentially an example of earlier favourites.
And it worked. Isabelle van Keulen and Ronald Brautigam’s recital constituted a stylish opening and on Saturday it was time for the superb concert by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir with a programme which could certainly not be accused of unnecessary light-heartedness.
The first motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben den Mueseligen, from Brahms’ op.74 was perhaps the least spectacular of the evening’s performances even if its intricate polyphonic phrasing was executed with satisfying clarity by the various voices.
In Arvo Paert’s Sieben Magnificat Antiphonen (1988) one naturally felt very much on home ground and for the undersigned, who had several times taken part in a performance of this work, it was an affectionate return visit and a renewed reminder of the music’s deceptive simplicity. The intonation has to be completely smooth and the harmonies perfectly balanced to achieve the full potential of the piece.
Purity and clarity
If there is anything that is essential here it is purity and clarity of tone. Qualities which were not lacking either in Alfred Schnittke’s equally formidable as enigmatic 40 minutes-long work entitled Concert for choir (1985) to the text of the 9th century Armenian mystic, monk, theologian and poet, Gregor of Narek.
The music is strongly influenced by the orthodox tradition and relatively untypical of the poly-stylist Schnittke. Its tight harmonic textures make huge demands of the singers who not only have to hit the right notes but must also project them rounded and melodiously.
All this was achieved, seemingly with playful ease under conductor Kaspars Putnin’s meticulously exact and clear leadership.
All his movements were to the point and meaningful. Communication between choir and conductor at times seemed almost telepathic and, even in this relatively controlled performance, the emotional content was expressed generously enough.
It remains to be seen which road to the light the festival will choose in future. It would be good to find an artistic leader with a clear vision as to further development. Also more could be made of the programme leaflet. The way the works were presented this time was perhaps admirably plain but with useful texts explaining the evening’s pieces.
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