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Estonian contemporary classical music – best of new works from 2023

In a classroom of Heino Eller Music College.
In a classroom of Heino Eller Music College. Source: Age Veeroos

While balancing gender in composer selection becomes increasingly important, in the case of Estonia, with many prominent and active female composers, it is practically unthinkable to plan a contemporary classical program without including a work by a female composer. See a selection of the most memorable world premieres from 2023!

Age Veeroos – 'Outlines of the Night' for flute/bassflute, clarinet, violin, viola, double bass

Veeroos, one of the most uncompromising modernizers of chamber music in Estonia, has devoted decades to the study of sound-based composition – a technique for composing music using sounds rather than traditional notes and intervals. "Her music creates a sensitive, enigmatic sound space where there is no room for simplification or idle talk. The personal poetic expression is supported by an important layer of electronics," composer Helena Tulve said.

While there are no electronics in "Outlines of the Night," here, too, a crystal-clear structure emerges from seemingly random fragments, the integrity of which is difficult to explain. British composer Simon Cummings wrote in the review of the first performance that the new composition is an "intoxicating" world of sound, which has "reduced the music to mere slivers of moonlight and shades of black." It is even hard to tell "whether the players are acting as an ensemble or a group of separate individuals."

Age Veeroos. Source: ERR

Veeroos studied composition in Tallinn with Eino Tamberg and Helena Tulve, and in Karlsruhe with Wolfgang Rihm. She was awarded the Lepo Sumera Composition Prize in 2023 for her lifetime achievement and is currently pursuing a doctorate on the role of the sul ponticello in musical sound processes on bowed instruments.

The technique of playing near the bridge, known as "sul ponticello," produces a sound that is distinctly metallic or glassy. According to Veeroos, this change in the timbre of bowed instruments, especially during a longer musical phraze and when played quietly, is very interesting. She has been researching how composers have used this effect since the late 1990s. It can be also heard, for example, in the double bass part of her "Outlines of the Night," she said.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast of the premiere by the Ensemble for New Music Tallinn under the direction of Arash Yazdani in the link below.

· Toivo Tulev – "Six Last Words of Henry David Thoreau" (2016)
· Sander Saarmets – "And the sky turned yellow" (2022, Estonian premiere)
· Arash Yazdani – "Stromateis: Lessness" (2017, premiere)
· Age Veeroos – "Outlines of the Night" (2023, premiere – 00:54:20)
· Dror Feiler – "Excarnation" (2023, premiere)

Alisson Kruusmaa – 'Ali' 19" | concerto for cello and symphony orchestra

Kruusmaa is the youngest composer on the list (born in 1992). Her work has been described as ethereal, fragile, and spacious, featuring a delicate and sparse orchestration.

In 2023, she joined the Austrian music publisher Universal Edition, a landmark library that features the music of Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg and Arvo Pärt.

Some of her most notable highlights in 2023 were the premiere of her cello concerto "Ali" with the Finnish cellist Martti Rousi and the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra (conductor Robertas Šervenikas), her debut at the Konzerthaus Berlin with the Symphony Orchestra of Estonian Academy of Music and Theater (conductor Toomas Vavilov), and the premiere of "So Set Its Sun in Thee" performed by the Estonian National Male Chorus and the Raschér Saxophone Quartet (conductor Mikk Üleoja).

Kruusmaa received her master's degree in composition under supervision of Helena Tulve in Tallinn, studied in Milan, and is now pursuing a doctorate in composition for ballet.

In March 2023, she began a year-long residency at the Dutch National Opera and Ballet, where she is focusing on composing stage music. In 2024, her new ballet for the Estonian National Opera will premiere in Estonia as well as her new chamber opera in The Netherlands. 

The title "Ali" ("wings" in Italian) was inspired by the instrument and the soloist, as well as the creative process itself, Kruusmaa said. "This piece reflects freedom and movement, higher spheres and lower registers, and the ability to soar and reach heights," she said.

Listen to the LRT Klasika concert broadcast from the Klaipėda Concert Hall in the link below. Kruusmaa's "Ali" starts at 00:18:30.

Pärt Uusberg – 'Regiväli' 55' | for mixed choir and string orchestra, folklore text

Uusberg transformed the beloved traditional Estonian "regilaul," also called runosong or Kalevala-metric song, into a grand composition in eight movements, 50 minutes long, for mixed choir and string orchestra. The music is set to folk texts and melodies, with a recruit as the main protagonist of the story.

It is "a journey in the footsteps of our ancestors, one that also gives the listener the opportunity to enjoy a multi-layered narrative. While war is once again a relevant theme for us, a recruit is also, in a broader sense, a person confronted with temporality, the inevitability of mortality – the fate of each and every one of us," Margus Mikomägi wrote in Delfi review.

"Regiväli" has been four years in the making. It has finally found its way to paper and on stage, Uusberg said.

Väli I
Metsaligled, metsalagled
Miks see ilmake udune?

Väli II
Mis maksab muretsemine/ Piis pikka pilliroho marja
Taevane kiik
Mari kulda

Väli III

Pärt Uusberg, XIII Youth Song and Dance Festival. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Pärt Uusberg directed the 13th Youth Song and Dance Celebration "Holy is the Land" in 2023. His post-pandemic festival program, inspired by Hando Runnel's poem "Let There Be Light!," moved the entire nation and was a highlight for both participants and spectators, reaching hundreds of thousands of people through radio and television broadcasts.

Uusberg's music speaks of tender moments, the values of life, the wonder of music and dreams that help us through time. Most of Uusberg's compositions are choral songs. His list of works also includes large-scale forms, film music and instrumental pieces.

He studied choral conducting under Heli Jürgenson and composition under Alo Põldmäe and Galina Grigorjeva. Pärt Uusberg put together the successful chamber choir "Good Night, Brother" for his brother Uku Uusberg's graduation performance. (Estonian: "Head Ööd, Vend")

"Regiväli" was premiered by chamber choir Head Ööd, Vend, and string orchestra Collegium Consonante, conductor Pärt Uusberg, at Rapla St. Mary Magdalene's Church.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast of the concert from St. John's Church in Viljandi.

Maria Rostovtseva – 'Calcium Cooke 1959' 4' | for symphony orchestra

Writing a month after the concert, composer Simon Cummings, said: "I cannot recall another occasion when I have been as simultaneously riveted and wrenched by a composition as I was with Maria Rostovtseva's 'Calcium Cooke 1959.'"

The composition is based on the description of an uncomfortable mental state caused by calcium deficiency. Rostovtseva first composed the structure of the work in descriptive language before transforming it into musical intervals. Deryck Cooke is a music theorist who proposed in his seminal 1959 study that each musical interval has a distinct quality.

"Premiered by the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Normunds Šne, the fact that it was some of the most arresting music I have heard in a long time only made it even more outrageous when, after less than four minutes, the piece was over," he wrote. "Everything about it was encapsulated in its opening few seconds: a wonderfully huge smear answered by a delicate harp arpeggio; crudeness and elegance rudely thrust together."

"Its unexpectedly short duration only increased its power, both at the time and in retrospect. It's music that I have been unable to stop thinking about, and I only hope that Rostovtseva is given the opportunity to write something a lot longer for the orchestra next time," Cummings wrote in his detailed review of the 2023 Estonian Music Days.

Maria Rostovtseva Source: Kart Petser

Rostovtseva began her composition studies in Tallinn under Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes and continued in the Hague. She has mainly composed chamber music.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert broadcast from Estonian Concert Hall in the link below (under Evelin Seppar).

Evelin Seppar – 'Kraft' 4 movements | 28' | for clarinet, symphony orchestra

"Kraft" takes its title and inspiration from Bach's motet "Komm, Jesu, komm."

"I have sung all of Bach's motets myself and it was a fragment of one of them that I heard in the spring of 2022 – 'My strength is fading more and more,' – that struck me," Seppar told Klassikaraadio. "I knew immediately the title of my new concerto would be 'Kraft,' which means 'strength' or 'power' in German. I thought a lot about these words and what they mean to me and role they could play in an instrumental concerto."

"The first performance of 'Kraft' was so thoroughly absorbing and full of details that my thoughts kept revolving around it for a long time," Liis Rull wrote after the premiere in the culture magazine Sirp.

"The solo part of the work was the most meaningful – you could feel it already in the shadows of the opening blur, and after recovering from the shock wave that followed the peak of tension, again towards the end, when it began to seek balance," she said.

Helilooja Evelin Seppar Autor/allikas: evelinseppar.com / Tiina Talts

Seppar wrote "Kraft" specifically for Soo-Young Lee, the concertmaster of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra's clarinet section.

"'Kraft' has a clear form, an expressive and versatile solo part, and a masterful orchestral treatment," musicologist Meeta Morozov said.

The soloist's performance was truly absorbing – touchingly fragile, powerful and stunning – she embodied a leader who is always moving in a certain direction.

"Kraft" was premiered by Soo-Young Lee (clarinet), Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, and conductor Normunds Šne.

Listen to the first performance from Estonia Concert Hall in the link below.

· Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes – "Dark Wings" (2022, premiere – 00:01:30)
· Evelin Seppar –"Kraft" (2023, premiere – 00:32:00)
· Maria Rostovtseva – "Calcium Cooke 1959" (2023, premiere – 00:14:00)
· Lepo Sumera – Symphany nr 6 (2000)
· Santa Ratniece – "Oreool" (2018)

Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes – 'Dark Wings' 13' | percussion, symphony orchestra

Kozlova-Johannes continues to prove herself as one of Estonia's most fearlessly radical composers. The essence of her music is "avant-lyricism in the midst of turbulence," British composer and a frequent reviewer of Estonian contemporary classical music, Simon Cummings, wrote.

The composition is inspired by a Wendell Berry's poem "To know the dark."

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight, and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

Although it featured solo percussion, it is in no way a concerto, according to Cummings. Rather, the percussion, consisting of just metallic percussion such as suspended cymbals, gongs, glockenspiel, and tubular bells, seemed to act as a catalyst for and embellishment of the orchestra's material, Cummings went on to explain.

"They were initially hazy, more the idea of a presence rather than an actual one, but slowly formed into a distinct lyrical entity. The song that materialized was strange and shadowy, highly beautiful but also heavy and tragic. /.../ Without anything resembling a conventional melody, 'Dark Wings' nonetheless sang, sometimes as overlapping roiling waves, later as soft suspensions while gongs rang out above. As with all of Kozlova-Johannes' music, though solemn and serious in tone, at its core it was deeply heartfelt, passionate and immediate," Cummings said.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert broadcast featuring "Dark Wings" in the link above (under evelin Seppar).

Tatjana Kozlova-Johanne. Source: Estonian Music Days

Liisa Hirsch – 'Earth Veins' 3 movements | 12' | 6 bagpipes

One of Estonia's most daring younger generation composers, Liisa Hirsch, managed to transform a group of traditional Estonian bagpipes into an experimental soundscape of slowly rising sequence of glissando's.

The bagpipe is a highly sensitive and capricious instrument with a mighty reverberating sound, but little range and no dynamics.

How can you articulate a musical phrase when "the piercing sound of the instrument emanates in a constant roar and its bass thunders with an incessant rumble?" composer Margo Kõlar said, introducing the concert, where two new compositions for a bagpipe ensemble were premiered.

Hirsch said she had set her mind to echo the catastrophic events of last February in southern Turkey and western Syria, where "the Earth once again showed its destructive power."

She said her "veins" are vital pathways with vibrating and resonant intersections.

Composing music for a bagpipe ensemble must also take into account its many "uncontrollable" characteristics, she said. "So the harmonies' are hidden in the glissando's of the bagpipe, in the micro-tonal distances and oscillations," she said, explaining that in the glides from one pitch to another the overtones "are a little different each time."

Liisa Hirsch. Source: Marije van den Berg.

Cummings writing about the performance said that the result was astonishing: "The combined effect gradually assumed the appearance of a wild, intense, never-ending, ever-expanding combination of crying, wailing, howling, and keening, perhaps (considering the title) coming from the Earth itself. Though the nature of this cry was kept distant – pain? anger? despair? hope? – its effect was immediate: everything about it sounded necessary and utterly urgent."

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert recording from Tallinn Swedish St. Michael's Church in the link below.

The bagpipe ensemble consist of Katariin Raska, Ulvi Võsa, Karolin Vetevoog, Kaisa Kuslapuu, Mari Meentalo, Kerli Kislõi (conductor Margo Kõlar).

· Liisa Hirsch – "Earth Veins" (2023, premiere – 00:12:20)
· Margo Kõlar – "Patterns of Light" (2023, premiere – 00:33:55)

Tauno Aints – 'Wind Always Wins' 22' | mixed choir, string orchestra, text by Helo Illipe

"I discovered Heli Illipe's lyrics while working on the concert performance 'Last Angel' with Indrek Hargla. These highly symbolic poems about the human condition inspired me to create this series. I decided to follow the path of development in a suggestive and figurative way and chose lyrics that are close to my heart, about relationships and how we relate to the world," Aints said about his new work.

"The composition was melodious and watercolor-like, delicate, poetic and deeply felt, in keeping with the beautifully simple lyrics," Meeta Morozov said in her review of Estonian Music Days concerts.

Premiered by soloists Laura Štoma, Cätly Talvik, Toomas Tohert, Kristjan-Jaanek Mölder, Rainer Vilu and Geir Luht and Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste at the University of Tartu Assembly Hall.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast in the link below.

· Tauno Aints – "Wind Always Wins" (2023, premiere – 00:03:45)
· Arvo Pärt – "L'abbe Agathon" (2004/2008)
· Erkki-Sven Tüür – "Deep Dark Shine" (2023, Estonian premiere – 00:44:54)
· Lepo Sumera – "Concerto per voci e strumenti" (text Doris Kareva, 1997)

Erkki-Sven Tüür – 'Deep Dark Shine' 12' | string orchestra

"I remember my state of mind a little over two years ago: there was an underlying anxiety about something coming up that would bring many changes. Indeed, the planned premiere was cancelled because of the pandemic. But the forces of darkness that the world is once again facing were undoubtedly beyond the imagination of most people. Including mine. Today, this music sounds to my ears like a scream from the depths. In the hope that, even in the darkest hour of darkness, there is still a glimmer of light," Tüür explained his work.

"Deep Dark Shine" is a 12-minute work for string orchestra. The musical structure of this piece is based on constantly evolving chords, with the violas playing a melody that slowly develops from the central pitch. The chords are based on a dark layer built up by double basses and cellos, over which a layer of violins flickers like a glowing cloud.

The composition was first performed in 2022 by the Scottish Ensemble in Glasgow, and premiered in Estonia by Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, conductor Tõnu Kaljuste in 2023.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast from the University of Tartu Assembly Hall in the link above.

In 2023 Tüür also premiered "Epitaph (Hommage à Anton Bruckner)" for symphony orchestra with Bruckner Orchester Linz (conductor Markus Poschner) in Basilica of the Monastery St. Florian in Austria, and "Talks with the Unknown," a 35-minute piece for solo violin and symphony orchestra premiered by Vadim Gluzman and Oregon Symphony (conductor David Danzmayr) in the U.S..

63-year-old Erkki-Sven Tüür, one of the most recognized living Estonian composers, began his musical journey playing in a rock band. Over the course of his career, he composed choral pieces, solo instrumental pieces, 10 symphonies, numerous concertos, chamber music compositions, and the opera Wallenberg.

Erkki-Sven Tüür. Source: Talis Taim

Viktoria Grahv – 'If You Take Away Your Black There Will Not Be My White' 9' | sinfonietta

Viktoria Grahv's orchestral piece was premiered at the concert of student compositions by the EAMT Sinfonietta and conducted by Toomas Vavilov.

"The highlight of the concert was 'If You Take Away Your Black There Will Not Be My White' by Viktoria Grahv, who clearly has a strange and fascinating, highly individual compositional voice, skirting around conventions and expectations. A burst of turmoil, a moment of elegance, a sequence of vaguely forlorn tremors, yet garnished with glitter – nothing about the piece was easy to pin down, which only made it more compelling," Cummings wrote in his extensive review of the Estonian Music Days program.

If you take away your black there will not be my white

It's so pleasant to feel your touch
through the branch of dead wood
and cold metal
Rise and fall, black and white, far and near
are moving too close together
If I take away my fall neither will you rise
If you take away your black there will not be my white
So let us helplessly gaze
how the far and the near slowly reach each other
through the branch of dead wood
and cold metal.

– Viktoria Grahv.
Viktoria Grahv. Source: Estonian Music Days

As a composer, Grahv has an unusual background: she studied music in Kiviõli, an industrial oil shale mining town in Ida-Viru County, and then earned a degree in business administration from the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences and a postgraduate degree in political science and governance from the University of Tallinn before studying composition with Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes and now with Helena Tulve. Grahv has written music for piano, choirs, solo voices and children, as well as for various instrumental ensembles.

Listen to the composition here (Youtube link), or here (Soundcloud).

Tõnu Kõrvits and Doris Kareva – 'Songs from the Spring of Pain' 9 movements | 45' | for mezzo-soprano, mandolin, string quartet

Composer Tõnu Kõrvits and poet Doris Kareva have teamed up again for a joint project "Songs from the Spring of Pain."

"The idea started after one of my many trips to Mississippi, I noticed a poster on the wall that said, 'Because there's nothing more powerful than a woman singing the blues!' I took a picture of it and the phrase has haunted me ever since," Kõrvits said.

"Doris and I had been thinking about a new [contemporary classical/poetry] cycle for a while, something intimate, like chamber music of a broken heart, a breakup, hope, and love," he said. "She wrote a beautiful text that immediately began to sing, and I just had to pen it down."

The composition was performed for the first time by the string quartet M4GNET, Maria Valdmaa, soprano, and Jacob van Reuven, mandolin.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert broadcast from Estonia Concert Hall in the link below (starts at 00:02:50).

Rasmus Puur - 'Trickster' 11' | symphony orchestra

Puur's "Trickster" premiered at the Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra's end-of-season concerts. Kõrvits' "Rain Songs to the Rainbow" linked Puur's new work with Rachmaninov's famous dances.

Conductor Risto Joost said that Puur's composition is "demanding for the orchestra to play and playful for the audience to listen to."

"Like the Symphonic Dances by Sergei Rachmaninov, which conclude the concert, it was written for a large orchestra. In this way, the two works form a bridge," he said.

Puur said that he drew inspiration from the folk figure Trickster, who also appears in various forms in Estonian mythology, e.g., Vanapagan, Rehepapp, or Kaval-Ants.

Rasmus Puur. Source: Siim Vahur

"There is something about this character that is terribly captivating, compelling, and alluring; it grabs you and pulls you in. It can also bring freshness, excitement, and zest to our lives. But this type can change shape, transform, or morph. It can also become very dangerous and turn against you. It is this temptation, the binary of danger and tension, that inspired me to make this work," the composer told Tartu Postimees.

The second work in the concert was "Rain Songs for Rainbow," written in 2022 for Martin Kuuskmann, a two-time Grammy nominee, who played solo bassoon.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert broadcast from Vanemuine Concert Hall in the link below.

• Rasmus Puur – "Trickster" (2023, premiere – 00:05:00)
• Tõnu Kõrvits – "Rain Songs for Rainbow" (2022)
• Sergei Rahmaninov – Symphonic Dances

Märt-Matis Lill – 'A sweet breath of air... a gentle wind' 11' | clavichord, Estonian chromatic kannel

"Un'aura dolce... soave vento" ("A sweet breath of air... a gentle wind") is a passage from "The Purgatorio" of Dante's "Divine Comedy," in which Dante has just arrived in the Garden of Eden and feels the soft warmth of the air on his face.

A softly-breathing air, that no mutation
Had in itself, upon the forehead smote me
No heavier blow than of a gentle wind, (Canto XXVIII)

"This is one of the most beautiful and idyllic passages in 'The Purgatory,' which is filled with a special feeling of freedom and tenderness. This notion of a mild, smooth and softly flowing breeze was a starting point for me," Lill said.

Äli-Ann Klooren wrote in her column in Sirp that the composition was the most memorable of Estonian works in the concert. "It is a very figurative work: the tremolos of the kannel and the punctuated sounds of both instruments [kannel and clavichord] evoke images of air currents and gentle gusts of wind," she said.

"A sweet breath of air... a gentle wind" was premiered by Anna-Liisa Eller on kannel and Taavi Kerikmäe on clavichord.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast from the House of the Blackheads in the link below.

• Märt-Matis Lill – "Un'aura dolce... soave vento" (2023, premiere - 00:09:12)
• Helena Tulve – "Guard" (2002/2023, premiere - 00:24:50)

Ülo Krigul – 'House of Veils' 7 movements, 22' | for mezzo soprano, percussion, electronics

Krigul won Estonia's Au-tasu new composition prize in 2023 with his "Synthesizer Concerto." His next work,"House of Veils," is an adaptation of Anaïs Nin's "House of Incest." The composition premiered at the Arvo Pärt Center featuring soprano Iris Oja, percussionists Vambola Krigul and Lauri Metsvahi and Tammo Sumera on electronics.

Simon Cummings in the review of the concert said that Krigul's new work stood out as the "most complex" at the concert. "Beginning in a world of fragmented and garbled speech, the piece blurred perceptions of acoustic and electronic," he wrote.

"The result was an all-enveloping soundscape where we were forced to navigate for ourselves. I can't help feeling that subsequent listens to this piece will result in entirely new trajectories and discoveries."

Ülo Krigul Autor/allikas: Rene Jakobson

The text from Nin's poems was compiled by Hedi Rosma and Ülo Krigul himself.

the morning I got up...
the morning I got up to begin...
the morning I got to begin
I got to begin
I got to begin this book
this book I coughed
I coughed something
something was coming
coming out of my throat
my throat was strangling me

I Wailing of the Unborn
I broke the thread
moving into the body
cathedrals wavering
feeling their own weight
and my eyes
and my bones move
far beneath the level of storms
I spat out my endless bottoms of peace        

II Moving into
perfumes suspended in darkness
lemons hang like lanterns
as I am drinking her pollen and honey
two shells of an oyster
unglued from its frame
soldered together
her eyes reflect water
white flame of her breath
the brown crust of earth
the soft secret yielding

III Wailing of the Universe
IV The most tired woman
I am the most tired woman of the world
life requires an effort which I can not make
don't say anything
because I see that you understand me
and I am afraid of your understanding
I have such a fear of finding another like myself
and such a desire to find one
when I sit before my mirror I laugh at myself
I can not tell how these separate pieces can be me
I do not exist   
V The House
Lies create solitude 

VI The Window
blood spilled out of my ears
painted eyes weep
my feet under the pillows always
burn down the walls of our secret house

VII The Dance
without arms
needles me
swelling skin
curtains away

Listen to the Klassikaraadio broadcast from the Arvo Pärt Center in Laulasmaa in the link below.

• Tatjana Kozlova-Johannes – "Fountain 2" (2011)
• Liina Sumera – "La fontana malata" (2023, premiere – starts at 00:17:50)
• Helena Tulve – "Salt" (2011)
• Ülo Krigul – "House of Veils" (2023, premiere – starts at 00:51:55)

Liina Sumera – 'La Fontana Malata' for mezzo-soprano, percussion, electronics

Meete Morozov, a musicologist, described the concert as a spectacle in its own right, with the stage full of various percussion instruments as if it were some kind of laboratory where great art is synthesized. "La fontana malata" by Liina Sumera, she said, left the most distinctive and original impression.

The composition for voice, two percussionists, and electronics is based on the Italian poem (1909) in which a narrator hears "heartbreaking" sounds emanating from a malfunctioning fountain, as if the fountain were a seriously ill person coughing. Palazzeschi's poem personifies the fountain, emphasizing its morbidity while comparing it to (and laughing at) the "malfunctioning" efforts of his contemporary poets.

In an article analyzing Sumera's composition, music critic Saale Kareda described the music as remarkably fresh, colorful, and replete with bright imagery – an unorthodox interpretation of the famous poem, she said. Kareda recalled that the same poet, Aldo Palazzeschi, said years later, in 1914: "We must make fun of everything that would normally make us cry. You can only take someone seriously when they laugh." Kareda said that understanding "La Fontana Malata" in this light also makes Sumera's interpretation of the sickly fountain more intuitive.

Sumara's composition was written for Iris Oja's powerful, expressive voice and character, "unfolding operatically, incendiary, and passionately," Kareda said. "In addition to the soloist, the composition allows the percussionists to shine vitriolically as well," and in its character the work "is a spirited gem in an otherwise predominantly contemplative landscape of Estonian new music."

"The dramatic effect is brilliant and witty, a spark of the tragicomedy that is human existence," she said.

Liina Sumera Autor/allikas: ERR

"An enormously engaging work, it reached levels of intensity that seemed almost implausible, positively radiating power and losing none of it as it ended in a soft reverberation, as if gently electrified," Cummings said.

"In terms of both its volatile drama and sonic imagination the piece brought to mind the tonal explorative, highly-charged music of George Crumb. It's extremely fortunate that the festival's concerts are available to listen to again," he said.

See above for the link to the Klassikaraadio broadcast from the concert (under Ülo Krigul).

Helena Tulve – 'Gloria' 8' | mixed choir, liturgical text in Latin

"I was hesitant to write music for the Mass as there is such a strong tradition before me, but I feel like I have lived with the text long enough and feel it running through me, or maybe I have developed a kind of imagination, my own connection to it," the composer told Klassikaraadio.

The theme of imagination is also central to her "Visiones," commissioned by the Venice Biennale and composed for a one-time performance for the acoustics of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice in 2022.

You can listen to Helena Tulve's "Visiones" in the link above, the concert starts at 31:20:00 and lasts 90 minutes.

Tulve said that her new work "Gloria" is a consolidated attempt to "pour into a simpler and clearer form" what she has learned while working on "Visiones," delving into ancient manuscripts found in Santa Maria della Fava and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene from the "Papyrus Berolinensis."

In her own words, her music is a search for a world between reason and empirical perception. "In this time of violence and aggression, I feel more than ever the need to honor the imaginal, not the imaginary 'utopian,' but the true realm of the soul," she said.

The old manuscripts "are like an ancient runway we could follow," she said. "These [musical] representations and texts are not historical artifacts separate from us, they are part of us if we dare to open up to them."

Tulve said that the most profound influence on her musical thinking was the Gregorian chant she learned and sang. "It has always been there for me, and it has been important, influencing me in a quiet way, but I have never written works directly based on it."

Helena Tulve. Source: Press materials.

Tulve said she does not use liturgical texts and music directly as they are contained in the manuscripts, but has an intuitive and personal approach to them, which she described as ascetic and Platonist.

In a liturgical work, the text flows uninterrupted from beginning to end, while Tulve scored many repetitions of certain passages where she felt they were most needed. "So the work it has an emotional connection to me personally."

"It is almost about how the words taste in the mouth," she said. The Latin language is used very simply in the liturgical works, she explained, it flows with the text and fits, as it were, into the body and the mouth.

While adhering to a natural rhyme, there are places in "Gloria" where the voice is not rhythmically fixed at all. "There are moments when the structure disappears and the singers recite the text at their own pace," she said.

Listen to the Klassikaraadio concert broadcast from St. Mary's Cathedral (Toomkirik) in Tallinn in the link below.

Helena Tulve's new work "Gloria" performed by Vox Clamantis begins at 00:51:38.

Helena Tulve studied in Tallinn under Erkki-Sven Tüür and later in Paris, where she also mastered Gregorian chant and traditional music.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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