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Baltic Exchange - The Arts Desk

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A fascinating anthology of contemporary a capella vocal works from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the music is mercifully free of the saccharine blandness that afflicts some modern choral composition, while remaining accessible and vividly communicative. The birth dates of the composers on this disc range from 1939 to 1957. All developed up under Soviet influence, isolated from the more avant-garde styles being explored in Western Europe, and this gives much of their music a distinct, unusual flavour – what the sleeve note describes as “a lucidity of texture, a pragmatic use of avant garde effects…diatonically saturated harmony and the frequent use of ostinatos”. There are ear-tickling touches – the spoken chants during Uģis Prauliņš’s dance-filled Missa Regenis are striking and effective. Maija Einfelde’s Cikls ar Friča Bärdas dzeju is a contrastingly introverted setting of words by a Latvian poet. Urmas Sisak’s brief Benedictio captivates with its nagging ostinato figures and hypnotic repetition. Vytautas Miškinis’s tender three-minute Angelis suis Deus was composed as a gift for the conductor Stephen Layton. The disc closes with Miškinis’s mesmeric Pater Noster with its minimalist opening figure soon adorned with solo soprano. Beautifully recorded in Ely Cathedral, the sound has a luminous glow, but the texts always remain audible. Informative, interesting booklet notes too.

Baltic Exchange
Hyperion Records CDA67747