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Estonia’s geographical position, on the fringes of half a dozen ‘spheres of influence’, ancient and modern, has bequeathed a fantastically rich music tradition, and like many of the countries of the north, far from Rome, a church music tradition that draws as much on vernacular sources as on more canonical forms. Thanks to the researches of Cyrillus Kreek, who died 50 years ago, many of the old songs have survived. Margo Kölar’s arrangements aren’t just ethnomusicological curation but exercises in a living music, and the ensemble manages to impart a timeless quality to religious and secular songs alike. The co-presence here of hymns and regilaul (runic songs), with their aura of the old religion, is neither strained nor self-consciously ‘eclectic’. It’s a seamless and very beautiful performance.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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