The works in Baltic Voices 3 mark the final instalment in a series that has exposed listeners to some of the wonderful choral music hailing from the circle of countries around the Baltic Sea.
It would be difficult to imagine a finer ensemble than the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir to handle the singing, while the skill of conductor Paul Hillier, in a wide range of music, ensures all the performances are breathtaking.
Farewelling a cherished project, Hillier’s booklet essay ends with a poignant image from a Tove Jansson book as two of her Moomin characters argue about the right time to light the lamps as winter approaches.
On the disc, choral singing yet again proves it is one of the most approachable, involving and zesty genres for contemporary music.
In The Stomping Bride, by the Lithuanian Vaclovas Augustinas, a character multi-tasks in the best peasant tradition, working her flax while dancing to a joyous melee of recorders, viola da gamba, harpsichord and percussion.
I defy you not to be mesmerised by Rytis Mazulis’ The dazzled eye lost its speech, spiralling around until the Lithuanian seems to have woven his own soundworld from the inside out. Then there’s the boisterous quartet of Galgenlieder by the Finn Erik Bergman.
Individual titles such as Wallpaper flower and Hedgehog and Hadgehog betray their whimsical humour – the choir, speaking rather than singing, whisper, cajole, swoop and shout their way to our hearts.
Among the major works, many receiving a CD premiere, is Nuits, adieux by the Finnish Kaija Saariaho. Here, this leading composer explores the elusive boundary between sound and song.
While Gorecki’s lyrical Five Kurpian Songs allow us to catch up with the man who caught the imagination of so many in the 1970s with his Symphony of Sorrows, Erkki-Sven Tuur’s Meditatio brings in the Rascher Saxophone Quartet to create a score of great spiritual fervour.
This Baltic Voices series could well have continued, as its three CDs are obviously only the tip of a rich choral culture. But hopefully it will encourage some to undertake their own personal explorations of the territory.
* Baltic Voices 3 (Harmonia Mundi HMU 907391, through Ode Records)