Daniel Reuss / Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Sinfonietta Riga

Erkki-Sven Tüür: Ärkamine (Awakening)

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For a country of its modest size, Estonia seems disproportionately packed with top-notch composers, Arvo Pärt being the most recognized internationally, but he is only one among many who are loaded with talent and have plenty so say. Erkki-Sven Tüür, born in 1959, started his career as a rock musician, but by his early thirties he had established himself as one of the country's brightest voices in composition. Like many of the Scandinavian and Baltic composers of the late 20th and 21st century, Tüür's music is characterized by a generous expansiveness, an eclectic harmonic language that draws willing listeners in, and an organic structure that's suggestive and evocative of natural processes. Like the work of Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, which it resembles in some ways, it is smart, appealing music that should engage listeners open to new sounds. Ärkamine (Awakening), written in 2011, is the most substantial work on the album, a 36-minute piece for mixed choir and chamber orchestra. Using Latin texts related to Easter interspersed with Estonian poetry that deals with the human yearning for higher spiritual awareness experienced through immersion in the natural world, it weaves together idiomatic choral writing with radiant contemporary orchestral colors. The Wanderer's Evening Song, an unaccompanied choral work, takes its texts from an assortment of poems by Estonian writer Ernst Enno that also address the interconnectedness of nature and spirituality. Its beginning reflects the meditative atmosphere of twilight using imagery of a northern forest, but it progresses toward a surging ecstasy of a soul's awakening, expressed in music of tremendous excitement, that recalls the powerful choral pulsing in Reich's The Desert Music. Daniel Reuss draws gorgeous performances from the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Sinfonietta Riga, who sing and play with sumptuous tone and spacious expressiveness. Ondine's sound is full, warmly detailed, and realistically present. Highly recommended for fans of new orchestral and choral music.

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