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Vox Clamantis - Cyrillus Kreek: 'Suspended Harp of Babel' is highly responsive to the music of the Estonian language / Planet Hugill

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To listen to the choral pieces on this disc is to hear music which is somehow familiar. The name of the composer Cyrillus Kreek may well be unfamiliar, but his use of Estonian folk-song as material and his way of treating it musically has had great influence in Estonia. To listen to this music is to hear an essential component of the DNA of much 20th century and contemporary Estonian music. The Suspended Harp of Babel from ECM Records features Vox Clamantis and Jaan-Eik Tulve (conductor), Marco Ambrosini and Angela Ambrosini (nyckleharpa), Anna-Liisa Eller (kannel) in four of Kreek's psalm settings, a selection of his arrangements of Estonia folk-hymns, and settings of verses from the Orthodox liturgy.

On this disc, the 14-voice Estonian choir Vox Clamantis and its conductor Jaan-Eik Tulve perform four of Cyrillus Kreek's psalm settings, Psalms 104, 123 and 141 from 1923 and Psalm 137 from 1938, which set Estonian texts from the country's Lutheran tradition. Kreek's music is highly responsive to the music of the Estonian language (it is a shame that the booklet includes translations but not the original texts), and you feel that it is the treatment of the language which is a major feature of this music. These were not liturgical pieces, Kreek abbreviates the longer psalms, but music intended for the concert hall. And these are not just folk pastiches, Kreek has a sophisticated ear for colour, with an imaginative use of texture, all of which is beautifully captured by the singers [I was lucky enough to hear them live in some of Kreek's music at the 2017 Estonian Music Days, see my review].

READ THE FULL Planet Hugill REVIEW