26.04.–05.05.2024 / Tartu
Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir

Fri, May 3, 19:00
St. Paul's Church of Tartu

Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Mai Simson

Justė JanulytėIridescence (2023) for choir and electronics 

Andris DzenītisDiptych (2013)

I A Cloth of Fine Gold (text Dorothy Walters)
II Everlasting Voices (text William Butler Yeats)
Soloist Marie Roos (soprano)

Maria Kõrvits
Night. O you … (2020/2024, premiere) for choir and electronics
Soloists: Yena Choi (soprano), Marianne Pärna (alto), Danila Frantou (tenor)

Marianna Liik
Psalm 38, 39 (2020/2024, premiere of new version) for choir and electronics
Soloists Marie Roos, Laura Štoma (soprano), Annely Leinberg, Cätly Talvik (alto), Raul Mikson (tenor), Miguel Gonçalves Silva (tenor)
Readers Henry Tiisma, Kristel Marand

Evelin Seppar
Iris (2024, Estonian premiere)
Soloist Yena Choi (soprano)

Iridescence (2023) for choir and electronics, commissioned by IRCAM-Centre Pompidou and SWR for the 100 year anniversary of György Ligeti. Justė Janulytė: Iridescence for choir and electronics (2023) is a search for a musical metaphor of light – a radiating sound object, a choir emanating light, inspired by Lux Aeterna by György Ligeti, one of my lighthouse composers. The title comes from the interviews with Ligeti who used this term to describe sound surfaces of changing colours in terms of harmony and timbre, which appeared immediately as a perfect concept to my composition referring to the optic, light-based phenomenon of iridescence in nature.

The voices of the choir are constantly moving in a circle from the highest frequencies down to the lowest pitches and returning, gradually expanding the micro-polyphonic sphere, densifying, enriching, transforming it towards its utmost limits. The only form of sound in the piece is a pure wave, like a simple breath in and out, which becomes slower and longer along the organic evolution of the entire sound body. The only text material used, pronounced without consonants and therefore accessible only for the singers, is a phrase from Richard Brautigan’s poem Star Hole (‘I sit here on the end of a star’) which, like a mantra, is repeated for infinite times, adding a melancholic, nostalgic, lightly apocalyptic dimension to the lux aeterna theme: 

I sit here
on the perfect end
of a star,
watching light
pour itself toward

The light pours
itself through
a small hole
in the sky.

I’m not very happy,
but I can see
how things are
(Richard Brautigan)

Diptych (2013), Andris Dzenītis: responding to the call to create a choral miniature dedicated to the element of fire by conductor Kaspars Ādamsons and flipping through a large amount of poetry dedicated to such a theme, I couldn’t decide between two poems written at different times – classics of Irish literature William Butler Yeats (1865–1939) and American literature illuminated by kundalini to the works of professor and women’s rights researcher Dorothy Walters (b. 1928). As a result, Diptych was created – two halves of an apple connected in content, but musically independent compositions.

Yeats and Walters talk about the same thing – the healing and purifying power of fire – according to Walters – the eternal fire, which after removing all the excess leaves only our spirit, pure as butter in the mouth of God, according to Yeats – the fire of time, which introduces the concept of the past at the end of time. Only somewhere in the distance – the voices of eternity. Musically, both compositions create a mutual balance stylistically – “A Cloth of Fine Gold” (Walters) – a timbral sonorous world, flashes and extinguishing of individual flames, “Everlasting Voices” (Yeats) – a slightly sad warmth, dressed in a pure harmony.

I A Cloth of Fine Gold

You may think
that first lit flame
was the ultimate blaze,
the holy fire
entered at last.
What do you know of furnaces?
This is a sun that returns
again and again, refining, igniting,
pouring your spirit
through a cloth of delicate gold
until all dross is taken
and you are sweet as
clarified butter
in god’s mouth.
(Dorothy Walters)

II Everlasting Voices

O sweet everlasting Voices, be still;
Go to the guards of the heavenly fold
And bid them wander obeying your will,
Flame under flame, till Time be no more;
Have you not heard that our hearts are old,
That you call in birds, in wind on the hill,
In shaken boughs, in tide on the shore?
O sweet everlasting Voices, be still.
(William Butler Yeats)

Night. O You… (2024, premiere) for mixed choir and electronics. Maria Kõrvits: the piece Night. O You… came into being in 2018 when the then chief conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir Kaspars Putniņš made a proposal to write a composition for a chamber choir and electronics connected to liminal space.

I think that night is the transitional space or a threshold between days, thoughts, feelings and states of being. Nights may make days very different, and stepping into the night also requires bravery. During that creative period, many of my works were underlined by the presence of night and darkness.

Darkness is the embodiment of freedom, the universe and clarity. Lately, night has acquired a new layer in my eyes – with the passing of every night I see how my daughter has grown, how she acquires new skills and how her glance becomes more profound.

Nacht. O du in Tiefe gelöstes 

Nacht. O du in Tiefe gelöstes
Gesicht an meinem Gesicht.
Du, meines staunenden Anschauns größtes
Nacht, in meinem Blicke erschauernd,
Aber in sich so fest;
Unerschöpfliche Schöpfung, dauernd
Über dem Erdenrest;
Voll von jungen Gestirnen, die Feuer
Aus der Flucht ihres saums
Schleudern ins lautlose Abenteuer
Des Zwischenraums:
Wie, durch dein bloßes Dasein, erschein ich,
Übertrefferin, klein –;
Doch, mit der dunkelen Erde einig,
Wag ich es, in dir zu sein.
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Night. O you (whose countenance), dissolved in deepness, (hovers above my face).
You who are the heaviest counterweight
to my (astounding) contemplation.

Night, (that) trembles as reflected in my eyes,
(but in itself strong);
(inexhaustible) creation, (dominant),
enduring, everlasting, beyond the earth’s permanence (endurance);

Night, full of newly created stars that leave trails of fire streaming from their seams
as they soar in inaudible (adventure) through interstellar space:

how, overshadowed by your all-embracing vastness, I appear minute!
Yet, being one with the ever more darkening earth, I dare to be in you.

(Translation Albert Ernest Flemming)

Psalm 38, 39 (2020/2024, version premiere). Marianna Liik: the measure of a day in our lives is a tiny, insignificant moment in the flow of time. On the other hand, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). These are parameters that apply for all of us. To understand our importance, yet not try to be or seem something more than we are. Not to waste life but to cherish it, because when zooming into the flow of time, you see and create the value of this empty moment that you focused on. The first ideas for this composition came into being in 2018, when I was a composer in residence in Morelia, Mexico. Some sounds that can be heard in the electronic part have been recorded there. I completed the first version in 2020 and I heard a performance of it in the summer of 2023. Since then I have altered the piece and this is the premiere of the new version.

Psalm 38

There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my
bones because of my sin.
For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for
My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.
I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.
For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease: and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.
My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from
For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
Forsake me not, O Lord: O my God, be not far from me.
Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

Epilogue: Psalm 39

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may
know how frail I am.
Verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up
riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
Truly, every man is but breath.
(King James Version Bible)

Evelin Seppar: in February 2024, the festival Zeitinsel Arvo Pärt dedicated to the oeuvre of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt took place in Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany. Iris (2024, Estonian premiere) was commissioned by Konzerthaus Dortmund for this festival. It was performed by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Tõnu Kaljuste. The text was written by Jaan Kaplinski and the poem originates from his 1967 collection Tolmust ja värvidest (Of Dust and Colours).

From the roots to the top
From blossoms below to blossoms above
Blue colour ascends
Until completely away
There, into the great blue
To the very top, high up
You flow blue river
Before my eyes
Through my eyes
Iris sibirica

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir (EPCC) is the most famous Estonian music collective in the world. This year, the EPCC will offer a touching programme that brings together fresh works by composers from the Baltic States. The sound of the choir will be enriched by live electronics and the choir will be conducted by Mai Simson. The EPCC will deliver the Estonian premiere of Evelin Seppar’s Iris. The audience will also hear Diptych by Latvian composer Andris Dzenītis; Iridescence by Justė Janulytė from Lithuania who has earned a lot of international attention; Maria Kõrvits’ poetic nocturnal image Night. O You… and Marianna Liik’s Psalm 38, 39 that will offer a chance to delve into the imagery of the Holy Scripture.

The concert is recorded by Klassikaraadio and transferred across Europe through the EBU (European Broadcasting Union).

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