There was an opportunity to hear one of the best choral performers in the world at the concert of the Estonian philharmonic chamber choir. The concert was part of the 10th anniversary celebration of The International Society for Orthodox Church Music – ISOCM.
Since the establishment of the choir has belonged to the elite among choral performers along with great success and merits up to the Grammy rewards.
At the concert there was a celebration of a composer, this time not Sibelius but Estonian Arvo Pärt who has his 80th birthday this year. Thus the concert brought out also Estonian art of composition.
Heavenly! There is no other expression for the sound of this choir. It could be also characterized as controlled but unforced and free at the same time as well.
The Three Sacred Hymns by Alfred Schnittke glowed from the very beginning though its tonal expression sounded surprisingly much like traditional orthodox choral chant. The modernity of this work is in the harmonies of the cadencies. The second chant stuck in mind especially due to its fascinating, archaic and bare chords and parallel intervals. The choir sung and the listener was astonished.
Sergei Rachmaninov choral concerto doesn’t achieve yet the virtuosic level of the All-night Vigil but has anyway vital idea and delicate realization. The vocal range of the choir was spread wide and the bases got their chance to show their best.
If it is obligatory to criticize at least something it might be the balance between sopranos and bases. At least on the bench where I was sitting the bases sounded a little bit fainted compared with the sopranos. Also there weren’t profound Slavonic base tones of in this program. Anyway it was just good.
The music of Arvo Pärt was the pearl (the writer says ‘the steak’) of the concert. The works of the Estonian master, Two Slavonic Psalms, Da Pacem Domine, Kanon Pokajanen (VII ode) and Nunc Dimittis represented widely the stylistic range of the composer. Pärt’s tintinnabuli style could be heard in the beginning where the cantus firmus melody together with a bell-like triads created a noble interpretation in the handling of the choir. Within the Kanon Pokajanen you could only wonder the art of the human voice at the diversity of choral sound —powerful experience.
The glowing and charming Thy Fatherly Embrace, a Bulgarian chant composer by Ivan Moody got the European premier in the concert. Georgy Sviridov’s “Neizrechennoye chudo” brought up the soloist art of the choir.


Original in Finnish