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Beautifully Performed

Music by
Veljo Tormis,
recommended by

Toccata Classics    TOCC 0073

Veljo Tormis: Works for Men's Voices. © 2008 Toccata Classics

The distinguished Estonian composer of a vast catalogue of choral music, much of it rising from the folklore of his country, will soon be eighty. He is perhaps justifiably best known outside his country for the overwhelming power of his setting of one of the incantations from the Kalevala, the Curse upon Iron which first appeared in 1973 for mixed voices and is recorded here for the first time in its equally frightening version for male voices (which Tormis made in 2001), with the ominous ever present shaman drum played by the composer! It must be among the most fearful minimalist pieces ever written, full of revulsion against the iron ore that has contributed to so much of our human destruction: 'Damn you, bastard! Wretched iron! I know your birth, you purblind fool, I know well your source, you evil!'

Listen -- Curse upon Iron (track 15, 4:01-5:43)
© 2007 Toccata Classics

The only loss in this arrangement for men's voices is the higher pitched screams, and yet there is quite enough brutal and muscular excitement in the divided male voices.

Listen -- Curse upon Iron (track 15, 7:12-8:32)
© 2007 Toccata Classics

Another newly arranged piece is Forging the Sampo, sharing a similar message of the conflict between man and technology. There are moments of strength and lyrical beauty, as in the haunting Our Shadows, the philosophy of the aboriginal people of North America: one day we will reappear.

Listen -- Our Shadows (Once We Will Reappear) (track 5, 3:09-4:29)
© 2007 Toccata Classics

The eight Men's Songs, all with a strong folk base, are recorded complete, together with a range of songs and incantations that present a fine retrospective of this major composer's choral output, all beautifully performed. I can only recommend this disc very highly.

Copyright © 22 May 2008 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Veljo Tormis: Works for Men's Voices

TOCC 0073 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE 67'49" 2007 Svanholm Singers / Toccata Classics

Veljo Tormis, shaman drum, anvil; Stefan Engström, log drums, counter tenor; Emil Johannisson, tenor; Staffan Lindberg, tenor; Johannes Midgren, tenor; Johan Sternby, bass; Martin Stervander, whistling; Erik Emilssohn, bass; Svanholm Singers; Sofia Söderberg Eberhard, conductor

Veljo Tormis (born 1930): An Aboriginal Song; Double Dedication (I'd Like to Sing a Song; Stars); Crosswind; Our Shadows (Once We Will Reappear); Forging the Sampo; The Bishop and the Pagan; Incantation for a Stormy Sea from Men's Songs (Men's Song; Bundling Song; Betrothal Visit Song; Song of the Turkish War; Serf's Song; Dancing Song); Curse upon Iron


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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews