If I could give this "album" more than five stars, I would. This is a truly special collection of modern Baltic choral music; and by modern, I mean 21st century modern. For those of you who love Baltic choral music, jump on line and buy this right away. Every entry on this disc is excellent; and, other than the lovely but deeply saddening Lacrimosa (1995) by Arturs Maskats, all of this music is new to me. Somehow this music manages to be sweet, dark, innocent, and complicated all at the same time. And, as expected from modern Baltic choral faire, it is chocked with lovely tunes, sublime harmonies, and unending ethereal beauty.
The first nine tracks are recent compositions (2007,2005) by Estonian Tonu Korvits, who has yet even to garner a Wikipedia entry in English (several are available in "Baltic" languages). The title piece, "Kreek's Notebook", consists of eight highly original, choral/orchestral arrangements of various Baltic folk songs collected by the 19th century Estonian, Cyrillus Kreek. The tunes are exceptional - innocent, dark, sweet, and foreboding - while the arrangements are distinctive, atmospheric, fresh, and highly imaginative. I hear hints of several composers in this music: Gorecki, Esenwalds, Gjeilo, Vasks, Whitacre, Part, Copeland, Lauridsen, and others; however, Tonu Korvits always speaks with his own unique and delectable voice. You'll just love these, I promise. Korvit's ninth track, "The Night is Darkening Around Me", sounds just like its title, and is dark, atmospheric, and affecting.
The remainder of the disc offers up several beautiful modern entries by Latvian composers Arturs Maskats and Peteris Plakadis. Distinctive and fitting, all are up to the highest standards of modern Baltic choral music. There's not a dud on this disc - I love them all.
The Choir of Royal Holloway under Rupert Gough is, as always, exceptional, while the orchestral accompaniments of the Britten Sinfonia are perfect - precise, moving, and atmospheric. In fact, during Track 8 of Kreek's Notebook, I believe I perceived a bit of vibrato, rubato, and even sentimentality from The Royal Holloways - an unusual treat to be sure - and highly fitting to this music. By the way, there were several moments in this collection during which I was reminded of the music and singing in the album, Beautiful River, by the BYU Concert Choir and Orchestra. Despite any provincial or cultural biases that may arise, Beautiful River is a beautifully sung, eclectic collection of modern choral works, including a performance of Whitacre's, Five Hebrew Love Songs, in a version I find even more moving and effective than Whitacre's own. Sorry, I often digress.
Anyway, as I said above, I can't recommend Kreek's Notebook enough for those of you who love beautiful, ethereal, accessible, 21st century Baltic choral music at it's best. Highly Recommended!