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The most important Finnish composer since Sibelius, Erik Bergman died in 2006, which might suggest to a potential buyer that this is simply a career grab-bag of material put out to mark the anniversary. Absolutely not so. Bergman was something of a choral specialist and even steady recording hasn’t exhausted, let alone familiarised, the bulk of his work, so this is an essential acquisition for anyone interested in the composer or in the evolution of 20th-century choral writing. Bergman blends modernist elements with plainsong and folk devices. The earliest original piece actually comes from 1943 (earlier scores are arrangements) and it celebrates, as so many Finnish works do, the miracle of summer light. The Helsinki choir produces a radiant sound throughout, grittier on the late Hommage à Béla Bartók, fresh and full-chested on the 1973 folk-song settings, profoundly dramatic on the de rigueur settings from the Kalevala, Finland’s unavoidable national epic. Superb music-making and a worthy tribute to a modern master.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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