Episode #2869

New Music from Estonia

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A small Baltic country with a big impact on the world of new music, Estonia has become a hot spot for choral music especially. We'll hear works by Arvo Pärt, Veljo Tormis, Toivo Tulev, Erkki-Sven Tüür, and more.  Estonian composer Arvo Pärt has immersed himself in the tradition of religious music of the Russian Orthodox Church, and for this New Sounds, we’ll hear some of his Stabat Mater. 

After Arvo Part, Veljo Tormis is probably Estonia's most important living composer.  He writes a lot of pieces based on traditional Estonian folklore, integrating this rich cultural inheritance by combining original choral passages and with ancient folk tunes.  Listen for something from Tormis, along with a work from Erkki-Sven Tüür.   Tüür describes his compositional process as being open to both minimalism and more dissonant modernist techniques, while playing with relational amounts of emotional and intellectual energy.  Plus, we’ll hear mesmerizingly atmospheric work from Toivo Tulev, another composer who works with a liturgically based, “holy minimalist” approach, and more.

PROGRAM # 2869, New Music From Estonia (First aired on Mon., 11/17/08)





Veljo Tormis

Casting a Spell

Kiigelaulud (Swing Songs), excerpt [1:30]

Virgin #45185
Out of print, but try*

Arvo Pärt


Stabat Mater, excerpt [13:00]

ECM 1325

Veljo Tormis / Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Litany to Thunder

Curse Upon Iron [10:00]

ECM 1687

Absolute Ensemble


Erkki-Sven Tüür: Architectonics, III “Postmetaminimal Dream” [10:00]

CCn’C Records 01812

Toivo Tulev / Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir


Leave, alas, this tormenting [10:30]

Harmonia Mundi 807452

Comments [1]

Mimi S. Daitz from New York, NY

Always delighted when you play Estonian music. Am curious to know your source of info re men showing off on swings. My understanding is that these large wooden playforms suspended from high horizontal bars were used as a meeting place by courting couples. But they were also frequented by groups of girls, hence the many "Swing Songs" for women's voices.
To set the record straight: Paul Hillier was the conductor on several of the CDs performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, but he left the EPCC and in Sept. 2008 the Latvian conductor Daniel Reuss became their principal director. Meanwhile, their founder, Estonian conductor Tonu Kaljuste, has been directing the Latvian National Chorus. Sort of musical chairs!
The Latvian chorus was acclaimed for their two performaces during Lincoln Center's recent White Light Festival. During the first of these (Nov. 12) they sang the piece by Veljo Tormis that John played in program #2869, "Curse Upon Iron." It was a first for Tormis at Lincoln Center and also a first for his work to be reviewed in the NY Times--despite the fact that this composition was written in 1972, first performed in the U.S. in 1979--in Sonoma and Berkeley--and has been heard all over the world!

Dec. 13 2010 02:28 PM

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