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Svanholm Singers
Veljo Tormis: Works for Men's Voices

An Aboriginal Song
I'd Like to Sing a Song
Our Shadows (Once We Will Reappear)
Forging the Sampo
The Bishop and the Pagan
Incantation for a Stormy Sea
Men's Song
Bundling Song
Betrothal Visit Song
Song of the Turkish War
Serf's Song
Dancing Song
Curse Upon Iron


Although Veljo Tormis is the second-most-famous modern Estonian composer (the most famous being Arvo Part), his music remains scarcely known in the west. Unlike Part, Tormis' work hasn't undergone a major stylistic shift; he has remained committed to using Estonian folk song as a basis for his music from the beginning of his career. He's not simply an arranger or transcriber, though. The folk influence may be overt, or principles of its structure and distinctive characteristics may be submerged in a thoroughly contemporary soundworld. Even the most clearly modern pieces have a sense of emotional gravity and primal power that set them apart as the work of an individual musical thinker. Choral music has always been Tormis' preferred medium, and he has written over 500 choral works. This small sampling of works for (or arranged for) men's voices demonstrates the power and originality of his imagination. There is a sense in which his work seems a-historical, the product of a real maverick; it's hard to pinpoint any classical tradition or earlier composers from which his sound might have been derived. Composers since have made some of Tormis' qualities sound commonplace, but he has been writing like this throughout his long career. Central to his distinctiveness is his use of texture and rhythm, as elements more prominent than melody or harmony; the melodies may not stay with you, but the power of the driving pulse and eccentric textures is unforgettable. Many of the works include what would technically be considered extended vocal techniques, but in this context sound more primal than modern -- panting, shouting, chanting, whispering, and whistling. Tormis also uses a hugely resonant shamanic drum in several pieces, and it contributes to the ritualistic, primitive atmosphere that some of his work creates. One of the most effective pieces recorded here is also his most famous, Raua needmine (Curse Upon Iron), which has a profound monumentality and a sense that a mysterious rite is being enacted. Svanholm Singers, directed by Sofia Soderberg Eberhard, performs this music as if it had it in its blood. The group shows remarkable assurance in singing not only with obvious discipline, but with the wildness the music requires. The sound is full, present, and immediate. Fans of modern choral music who aren't familiar with Tormis' music owe it to themselves to explore it, and this collection makes a terrific place to start.

Item code: 6097C | 1 CD | $18.95 add item to cart
Choral | A Cappella | Male | Sweden Estonia

Related: Estonian Choral Music

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