Tormis: Laulu palju / Heaps of songs

CARUS CV 83.400

EPCC and Tõnu Kaljuste


Some time ago, I found a copy of the superb ECM recording of Tormis’ large-scale cycle Forgotten Peoples (ECM 1459/60); and from then on, I have been completely hooked. A recent re-issue of an earlier Finlandia disc with some more choral works (APEX 0927 49871-2) consolidated my first impressions, so that I was delighted to be able to listen to the present release offering more hitherto unrecorded works, which all make for some highly enjoyable listening.

Contrary to the other records, this one includes some original works such as the Two Songs after Ernst Enno composed some fifty years apart, in 1948 (the composer was then 18!) and in 1998 respectively. There is little, if any, noteworthy stylistic difference between the two pieces, which says much for the real quality of the earlier setting. The first song is dedicated “to [my] youthful dream” and the second to the composer’s wife after nearly fifty years of happy marriage. The Three Songs from the Estonian epos “Kalevipoeg” were written in memory of the composer’s mother who died while he was studying in Moscow. The first song was completed in 1954 whereas the other songs were added some time later.

With the other works, we are back on more familiar ground. All are based on Estonian folk songs, in turn serious, dreamy, meditative and humorous, as in the delightful Estonian Children Songs. Just listen to the third song Tihane (the tomtit) [track 15] or the sixth song on a text imitating a cat’s purring [track 17]. The remarkable thing about Tormis’ folk song settings is the composer’s imagination in varying the original tunes with much subtlety (and, by so doing, proving Constant Lambert entirely wrong!).

These performances by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir conducted by Kaljuste are all highly idiomatic, superbly sung with much tonal variety. If you know any of the aforementioned recordings, you may safely look for this one and be ready for much musical pleasure. If you do not, then you might start either with this one or with the APEX re-issue, although the ECM recording of Forgotten Peoples is the best possible introduction to Tormis’ music. Now, I hope that Kaljuste will soon record some of Tormis’ large-scale choral-orchestral works still conspicuously absent from his present discography.