LITANY TO THUNDER

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

While many Western composers find Western musical traditions more a responsibility than an inspiration, the embattled cultural identities once swallowed up by the Soviet Union are emerging with a bracing fierceness. Estonian composer Veljo Tormis’ reclamation of suppressed Finnish folk music of the Baltic regions began before Russia unraveled, and as heard here, it seems like a meeting of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir and Arvo Pärt. Elaborate, spontaneously reckless musical constructs are built out of simple, often-repetitive folk melodies and verse, with each of the eight pieces for vocal soloists, choir, and occasional instrumentalists examining a particular musical problem. The disc begins and ends with pieces for two sopranos and piano with text set to repetitive melodies of nursery-rhyme simplicity. The text’s emotional content is conveyed by dramatically effective piano writing. The stylistic range of the other pieces varies from plainchant-style melodies and tangy, quartal harmonies straight out of Machaut to the arresting, 10-minute Curse Upon Iron in which the text is whispered, spoken, and intoned to the driving drum accompaniment of a shamanistic, pre-Christian ritual. Throughout, the music has an urgency to communicate that’s sometimes lacking in Pärt, and an emotional honesty the Bulgarian Women’s Choir misses in its more self-consciously exotic moments. [2/1/2000]



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Recording Details:

Album Title: LITANY TO THUNDER

VELJO TORMIS - How Can I Recognize My Home; Singing Aboard Ship; Curse Upon Iron; The Singer's Childhood; Songs of the Ancient Sea; The Bishop and the Pagan, Litany To Thunder; The Lost Geese


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