Songs of Olden Times: Estonian Folk Hymns and Runic Songs – Heinavanker – Harmonia mundi

Songs of Olden Times: Estonian Folk Hymns and Runic Songs – Heinavanker – Harmonia mundi HMU 907488, 66:23 [11/12/13] ***1/2:

This is an odd sort of release; most of what we have here are religious folk songs from what has been called one of the least religious countries in the entire world, a full 75% stating that they have no religious beliefs. With Arvo Part calling this place his home, there is a certain irony. Of those professing Christian belief, the largest group are evangelical Lutherans, with the Eastern Orthodox just a nose behind. You will hear both of these influences in the music on this disc, though the chant-like sensations aurally detected here merge into the mostly Protestant-sounding music. Third, fourths, and fifths are all parallel here in places, and very homophonic as well, though this is a generalization and there is some improvisation going on, and a number of pre-Christian examples. But the country dates back pre-Viking, and the musical influences are quite varied.

To be honest it is not all of the same quality; many of the selections are reasonably engaging and even enthralling, while others, with their repetitive series of story-like texts, get quite dull by the time they are concluded. This is not to fault the recording, nicely rendered from the Church of the Transfiguration in Tallinn and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theater, nor of the superb vocal ensemble Heinavanker, now almost 20 years old, and displaying a rarified commitment to this music.

TrackList:

Mu süda, ärka üles (Awake, my heart, and sing) (bearb. von Margo Kolar) 
Rahva Onnistegija (Redeemer of the gentiles) 
Veni Creator (Come, creator spirit) (bearb. von Margo Kolar) 
Nätse Jummal, siin ma rummal (Here behold me as I cast me) 
Oh Aadam, sino essitus (Oh Adam, your guilt) 
 
Ammuste aegade laulud (The songs of olden times) (bearb. von Margo Kolar)
Nr. 1 Haned kadunud (Missing Geese) 
Nr. 2 Imeline koda (Wondrous House) 
Nr. 3 Loomine (Creation) 
 
Oh Jeesus, Sinu valu (O Jesus, your suffering) 
Jeesukest ei jäta ma (I won’t forsake sweet Jesus) (bearb. von Margo Kolar) 
Ma tänan sind, et oled mind (Thank you, O Lord, for sheltering me) 
Kas sureb nii mu koige armsam elu? (Must You die like that, my dearest Life?) 
Mu mano tulge latse (Let the children come to me) 
Koik tulge minu juurde nüüd (Come to me, said the Son of God) 
Nüüd hingvad inimesed (Now rest beneath night’s shadow)

—Steven Ritter

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