Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir: Born out of a dream

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir recently celebrated its 40th birthday with a concert at the Nobel Hall of the Noblessner Foundry. Under the baton of famed conductor Tõnu Kaljuste, Finnish accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen premiered his new composition "Freedom".

On the last day of June, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, one of the prime choirs worldwide, celebrated its anniversary with a  stunning concert at the Noblessner Foundry in Tallinn, ERR's Kultuur portal reports. Under the guidance of the choir's founder and principal conductor, Tõnu Kaljuste, the program blended the distinct traditional and experimental sound worlds of the human voice, the organ, and the accordion's.

Tõnu Kaljuste, Principal Conductor and Artistic Director, has chosen two exceptional compositions for the program.

One of them is "Laudes Organi"—a work for choir and organ written in 1966 by one of Hungary's greatest composers, Zoltán Kodály. It's a fantasia based on a 12th-century Swiss chant that also combines Wagnerian and Lisztian musical themes with the chromatic harmony of early western vocal music traditions.

The musical piece is set to anonymous poet's words on the importance of self-mastery and growth, the power of music, and the importance of God worship. It showcases the magnificence and musical potential of the combination of organ sound with human voice. "Laudes Organi" is performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Choir with organ soloist Kadri Toomoja.

The second piece is "Vabadus" ("Freedom"), which has been composed by Kimmo Pohjonen especially for the choir's 40th anniversary. During the concert, Pohjonen, arguably Finland's most avant-garde contemporary musician, performs virtuoso accordion solos alongside the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir.

"Vabadus" is a three-part composition for mixed choir, accordion, electronics, and piano. Pohjonen says, it is inspired by political currents in Europe, and in particular, by Russia's invasion of Ukraine: "While we take our freedoms and peace for granted, these notions are being tested again."

In "Vabadus" the power of singing together blends ancient sounds and primal rhythms into a strong message conveying the need for peace and liberty.

The program reflects the two poles in the Philharmonic Chamber Choir's repertoire and the opposing directions of the two arrows in its emblem, or logo.

"The church pipe organ is on one side... the tavern whistle accordion is on the other. The text from a 12th-century Swiss monastery... and Kimmo's vocalizations and singular words. The first piece is well-known, beloved and performed all over the world... the second is premiered here today," Kaljuste said on the occasion.

You can listen to Klassikaraadio's broadcast of the concert on their website here, and watch the life recording via this link.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) was born out of a dream.

Tõnu Kaljuste formed the EPCC in 1981 and served as its artistic director and principal conductor for twenty years. The choir developed alongside Estonian contemporary music and has risen to the top of the world's professional performers in recent decades. On this voyage, it has been led by such conductors as Paul Hillier, Daniel Reuss, and Kaspars Putni, with Veljo Tormis, Arvo Part, and other Estonian composers being a great source of inspiration.

The choir's repertoire ranges from Gregorian chant and baroque to music of the 21st century, with an emphasis on the work of Estonian composers.

The EPCC has performed on some of the world's most renowned stages, and its recordings have won a number of prestigious awards.

From the choir's nearly 80 recordings, sixteen have been nominated for Grammy-Awards and two have won this prestigious prize.

The EPCC was recognized by the BBC's Classical Music magazine as one the top ten choirs in the world in 2020.

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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