Baltic Runes (2010)

Tormis, Kreek, Sibelius, Bergman

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Paul Hillier

What is a rune?  A strange kind of Nordic lettering with magical properties? An outmoded word for a verse of poetry? An incantation? Something belonging to the world of Tolkien’s hobbits perhaps, but of only archaic significance today? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means these and other things as well. The first meaning is: ‘A letter or character of the earliest Teutonic alphabet, which was most extensively used by the Scandinavians and Anglo-Saxons.’ There is also an extended sense of ‘a similar character or mark having mysterious or magical powers attached to it’, and an obsolete or rare sense of ‘incantation or charm denoted by magic songs’. And finally there is a more technical sense, ‘A Finnish poem, or division of poem, especially one of the separate songs of the Kalevala’, whence derives the general ‘Any song, poem, or verse’. 
It is the last two meanings that are most relevant here, the notion above all of enchanted song, comprising on the one hand the individual singer with shamanistic power (evoked in Bergman’s Lapponia), and on the other a more widespread tradition of collective singing. And the geographical focus is important too, consolidated in the eastern Baltic lands of Finland and Estonia with their shared linguistic heritage and cultural traditions. 
In that area the word ‘rune’ is primarily associated with a special kind of poem or section within a poem in the Balto-Finnic folksong tradition, and by extension came to be used to describe the singers of such poems and the manner of singing them. This manner is described by Henrik Gabriel Porthan in his Dissertatio de Poesi Fennica pt. IV (Turku: 1778) as follows (I have condensed somewhat): 
‘Our peasant singers, when singing their songs, employ a quite special manner inherited from their ancestors. They sing always in pairs, and in a ceremonious way surrounded by a circle of listeners who stand there attentively. The main singer . . . associates himself with a supporting singer, in such a way that after the main singer has brought a verse to about the third syllable from the end, or to the last measure, the supporting singer comes in with his voice. After that, the supporting singer repeats the verse alone in a slightly varied tone. Meanwhile the main singer remains silent until the supporting singer again reaches the final measure, which both utter in unison. Then the main singer alone adds the next, similarly to be repeated by the supporting singer, and so on to the end of the song . . . The melody which the main singer employs is always one and the same, with scarcely no variation; it is very simple and strongly suggests a very ancient origin . . . The singers sit either side by side or facing one another, close enough to bring in contact their right hands and also their knees (the right knee, of course, of one, and the left of the other), on which they prop their clasped hands. While singing they move their bodies gently as if wanting to touch heads, and they assume a reflective and serious expression . . . Whenever our fellow-countrymen entertain themselves with ceremonial singing, they most usually do it to the music of a kantele. If a competent player is available, he accompanies the singers on a harp. If only one person is singing, then the harp player assumes the function of a supporting singer and repeats on the harp the melody which ordinarily is the charge of the supporting singer, the main singer meanwhile keeping silent . . 

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Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Tõnu Kaljuste founded the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir in 1981 as a professional successor to his father Heino Kaljuste's amateur chamber choir Ellerhein. The younger Kaljuste nurtured the ensemble as its principal conductor and artistic director for 20 years, focusing the group's programs and recordings on music by Estonian composers, primarily Arvo Pärt and Veljo Tormis, although its full repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant and gems of the Baroque and Classical periods to contemporary compositions. The EPCC won the top prize at the 1991 Takarazuka Chamber Choir Competition in Japan and received its first Grammy nomination two years later for Te Deum. Under Paul Hillier (2001-2007), the ensemble's reputation grew more widely, even as he expanded its repertoire. Under his direction, it produced a highly praised series of recordings entitled Baltic Voices and won a Grammy in 2006 for Da Pacem. It performs and records with the world's leading conductors and orchestras and has enjoyed a long and mutually beneficial collaboration with the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra. In 2008, Daniel Reuss became the EPCC's chief conductor and artistic director. Their first recording together was of Frank Martin's oratorio Golgotha, released in 2010.

Paul Hillier

His musical interests range from medieval to contemporary music and include singing, conducting, and writing. In 1990, after many years as Music Director of the Hilliard Ensemble, he founded the Theatre of Voices and began his series of acclaimed recordings for harmonia mundi usa. From 1996 to 2003, Hillier was Director

of the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, Bloomington. In September, 2001 he was named Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, with which he launched
a cycle of recordings exploring the choral tradition of the Baltic Sea countries. Baltic Voices 1 and Baltic Voices 2 met with unanimous praise and each won Hillier a Grammy® nomination.The Powers of Heaven, a much-admired pro- gram of Russian Orthodox sacred music, was followed by Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, Op. 37 and, most recently, by Baltic Voices 3. In 2004 Paul Hillier was awarded the Estonian Cultural Prize.

In 2002 he was made Honorary Professor in Music
at the University of Copenhagen, and in 2003 accepted the post of Chief Conductor of Vocal Group Ars Nova (Copenhagen). Hillier is the author of a monograph “Arvo Pa?rt” (1997) and editor of “The Collected Writings of Steve Reich” (2002), both published by Oxford University Press. His latest project is a book about consort singing.

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Baltic Runes (2010)

Tormis, Kreek, Sibelius, Bergman

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Mastering Engineer: Brad Michel
Producer: Robina G. Young
Recording Engineer: Brad Michel
Recording location: Tallinn Methodist Church, Tallinn, Estonia
Recording Software: Pyramix
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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807485DI: Baltic Runes
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Tracks.
1.
Laulusild: Bridge of Song
Tormis
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2.
Rakastava: The Lover
Sibelius
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3.
Three Folksongs - I. Sirisege, sirbikesed!
Kreek
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4.
Three Folksongs - II. Maga, maga Matsikene
Kreek
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5.
Three Folksongs - III. Mis sa sirised, sirtsukene?
Kreek
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6.
Piispa ja pakana: The Bishop and the Pagan
Tormis
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7.
Lapponia - I. Südatalv
Bergman
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Lapponia - II. Joig
Bergman
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Lapponia - III. Jaaniöö
Bergman
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10.
Lapponia - IV. Torm mägedes
Bergman
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11.
Jaanilaulud - I. Kutse jaanitulele I
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - II. Kutse jaanitulele II
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - III. Ei ole p?ssil p??tav
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - IV. Miks Jaani oodatakse
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - V. Jaani hobu
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - VI. Tules?nad
Tormis
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Jaanilaulud - VII. Jaanilaul
Tormis
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