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Veljo Tormis recommendations please

Which pieces by Veljo Tormis should I consider doing with my 12-voice vocal ensemble?  I really like what I have heard but there is too much to go through.  Those of you who know his music - which are the best and most effective pieces?  Thanks,
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on June 26, 2011 8:44am
There are quite a lot of pieces to choose from, depending on the level of your group and how much divisi you can do... No divisi: "Nostalgia" is a set of 8 folk songs about childhood that are quite easy and beautiful. His "17 Wedding Songs" (Seitseteist Eesti Puulmalaulu) are also fantastic, though I can't remember if there's divisi called for. If you have enough ladies to split SSSAAA, "Kevadelaulud" is a set of 4 spring songs.
Jerry Hui
on June 26, 2011 10:23am
You did not specify the makeup of your ensemble so I assume it is SATB with varying numbers on a part.  A few suggestions:
"Autumn Landscapes,"  originally written for women's chorus (as are the three other cycles that make up "Nature Pictures"), Tormis himself reset this for SATB.  Although originally performed by 90 women, which, according to Tormis, allowed for a very large range of dynamic shading, it can be done by chamber chorus and even an ensemble.
"The Bishop and the Pagan" originally for 2 counter tenors, tenor, 2 baritones, and bass, I have heard it performed by an SATB group.
"Three Estonian Game Songs"
"Heaps of Songs"
"Dialectical Aphorisms" one of several groups of songs with specific political meaning--also musically interesting.  Ditto for
"Reflections with Hando Runnel"
"Singing Aboard Ship"  better for chamber chorus but might be done by an ensemble.   Same for
"The Bride's Farewell"
"Four Estonian Lullabies"
    See   data bank  for publishers
Many of his most interesting works are either for men's or women's chorus or require at least a 35-voice chamber chorus of mixed voices, e.g., the multiple cycles of "Forogtten Peoples" and "Estonian Calendar Songs
on June 27, 2011 3:29am
Where to start?
Ours is a 12-voice group just embarking on Tormis' Autumn Landscapes, followed by a look at the Kilnu Island Wedding Songs (both available to listen to on a BIS CD 934, Årstider - Seasons).  We're happy with the first piece in AL and the second but uneasy about others since our voice quality and experience may not quite yet match up to the challenge.  We think, for example, that the last piece, though splendid, is just too difficult for us - think of that very high soprano note at the end and the massive build-up of force...
I'd suggest that this sort of looking and sifting is necessary for much of VT's ouput. One question to ask yourself is if, indeed, you do wish, by selecting individual pieces, to disturb the sequences of songs that VT has composed.  In our case again, we feel that we must select; and we're looking to abstract from VT's Thirteen Estonian Folk Songs - some wild and intense stuff here; and the Nine Estonian Harvest Songs look promising for us (both these two sequences can be heard - on a Carus CD 83.400, entitled Heaps of Songs - probably the most accessible introduction to Tormis).
As other correspondents have pointed out, VT has written much for the male voice and you'd probably discount, say, Visions of Estonia...
Further, Litany to thunder employs different ensembles altogether for each of its constituent parts.  And there are huge difficulties for a small group of singers (some of our lot are non-music-readers) when confronted by works such as Singing Aboard Ship, The Bishop and the Pagan and so on.
It needs great care, in fact, to do justice to VT and to one's own group; but, of all current Estonian composers, Tormis would appear to be the one who has immersed himself most in his traditional song heritage, writing, severally, that he merely seeks to enhance their beauty and power and, to an extent, then, setting aside his own composer-ly abilities.  This is a notable factor to be taken into account when making choices because it tests our understanding not just of VT's musical perception but of the context from which the songs sprang in the first place.  These are not throwaway pieces.
Doubtless, there are many who can offer you much more insight and specific advice but the remakls here might indicate some useful parameters.
Good luck, then.  You can buy a vast amount of VT's music from Fennica Gehrman (Helsinki) or from
roly brown,
on June 27, 2011 7:20am
Hi Nathaniel.
We recorded a whole disc of Tormis' music a few years ago. Have a listen.
The Helletused 'Childhood memory – Herding calls is certainly a brilliant piece, but you need two excellent high soprano soloists (My wife sang it on the recording)
The two songs of Ernst Enno work very well indeed - they're the ones we bring out for performances - but are quite demanding technically.
He's quite a character to work with - when we visited Tallinn, we got him to come to the pub with Arvo Pärt - apparently they don't get on, so it was quite an event...
Best wishes,
Simon Wookey, Associate Music Director, Holst Singers
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