Vox Clamantis, Jaan-Eik Tulve – Cyrillus Kreek – The Suspended Harp of Babel (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:09:41 minutes | 1,2 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © ECM New Series
Vox Clamantis, under the direction of Jaan-Eik Tulve, has established itself as Estonia’s foremost small vocal ensemble, at home in the worlds of both old and new music. Their ECM New Series discography, accordingly, has ranged from Gregorian chant and Perotin (as on “Filia Sion”) to present-day composers including Arvo Pärt (“The Deer’s Cry”), Erkki-Sven Tüür (“Oxymoron”) and Helena Tulve (“Arboles lloran por lluvia”). On “The Suspended Harp of Babel” Vox Clamantis turns its attention to Cyrillus Kreek (1889-1962), whose work also took nourishment from ancient sources as well as from contemporaneous musical currents.
One of the innovators of choral music in Estonia, Kreek drew extensively upon folk music and was a pioneer in the documentation of it, recording, transcribing and preserving for posterity hundreds of songs, both sacred and secular. His arrangements of these folk songs and folk hymns, as well as his settings of psalms, provided a bedrock for choirs in an idiom of his own, described by Paul Griffiths in the liner notes here as “restrained and yet glowing”. Cyrillus Kreek, born in the village of Saanika, was a contemporary of Arvo Pärt’s teacher Heino Eller, and both studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in the years before the First World War. Kreek’s music, emphasizing simplicity, clarity, and the natural quality of the human voice, influenced many composers in Estonia including Veljo Tormis (who also creatively deployed folk song in choral contexts) and Tõnu Kõrvits. The quietly radiant aura of his work is enhanced on the present recording by the contributions of Marco and Angela Ambrosini playing nyckelharpa and by Anna-Liisa Eller on kannel, the Estonian zither.
Marco Ambrosini’s preludes and interludes imaginatively extend the spirit of Kreek’s pieces and in the case of Kui suur on meie vaesus (“Whilst great is our poverty”), call the music forth, the nyckelharpa drone summoning the kannel to pick out the melody of the folk hymn, preparing the way for the entrance of the singers. Throughout the album the purity of the voices is striking – the liner notes speak of “voices with the transparency of spring water”.
Kreek’s music is celebrated in Estonia with a yearly festival, and there is a museum dedicated to the composer in Haapsalu. Documentation of his work outside his homeland has, however, been scant to date. “The Suspended Harp of Babel” – valuable both as entry point into Cyrillus Kreek’s sound-world and for its pre-echoes of Estonian music to come – is likely to trigger overdue recognition for a unique composer and researcher.
This recording was made in April 2018 in Tallinn’s Transfiguration Church.
1. Vox Clamantis – The Sun Shall Not Smite Thee
2. Vox Clamantis – Whilst Great Is Our Poverty
3. Vox Clamantis – Jacob’s Dream / Orthodox Vespers: Proemial Psalm
4. Vox Clamantis – From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
5. Vox Clamantis – Bless the Lord, My Soul
6. Vox Clamantis – Awake, My Heart
7. Vox Clamantis – Cyrillus Kreek: Orthodox Vespers: Praise the Name of the Lord
8. Vox Clamantis – Do the Birds Worry?
9. Vox Clamantis – Lord, I Cry unto Thee
10. Vox Clamantis – He, Who Lets God Prevail
11. Vox Clamantis – By the Rivers of Babylon
12. Vox Clamantis – The Last Dance
13. Vox Clamantis – O Jesus, Thy Pain / Dame, vostre doulz viaire (Arr. M. Ambrosini and Eller)