Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Tõnu Kaljuste / Tallinn Chamber Orchestra

(Digital Download - ECM / ECM New Series #)

Review by Blair Sanderson

The eccentricities of Carlo Gesualdo's choral music have endeared him to modern composers who share a similar predilection for using unexpected chromatic harmonies and striking dissonances for poignant effect. This ECM New Series release offers string orchestra arrangements of Gesualdo's madrigal Moro lasso and his motet O crux benedicta, along with original works by Brett Dean and Erkki-Sven Tüür, which illustrate the influence of Gesualdo's mannerist expressions on composers of today. Dean's Carlo for choir and string orchestra (performed here by live voices instead of taped), stands out because of its odd mixture of quotations from Gesualdo and extended techniques in the dramatically conflicting orchestration. The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir joins conductor Tõnu Kaljuste and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra in this surreal collage of old and new, and the music is highly challenging for musicians and listeners alike. Another piece that shows an unusual approach to the subject is Tüür's Psalmody, which interestingly evokes Igor Stravinsky (a major proponent of the Gesualdo revival), particularly in its neoclassical harmonies and its sonic palette dominated by winds. The string orchestra arrangements of Moro lasso by Kaljuste and O crux benedicta by Tüür are closer to Gesualdo's own sound world, and give the listener a taste of the expressive counterpoint and startling changes in the original choral works.

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