Baltic Exchange = UGIS PRAULINS: Missa Rigensis; Laudibus in sanctis; MAIJA EINFELDE: A Cycle of Fricis Barda Poems; URMAS SISASK: Benedictio; VYTAUTAS MISKINIS: Angelis suis Deus; Pater noster – Choir of Trinity College Cambridge/ Stephen Layton, conductor – Hyperion 67747, 67:43 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Hyperion continues to astound by coming up with unknown and eminently-listenable music from various parts of the world. On this disc the wonderful Stephen Layton presents us with music from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Anyone remotely familiar with these countries is surely aware of the tremendously vibrant and prolific nature of choral singing in those locales. Recent years have shown a spate of activity from this area that testify to the ever-alive and ever-regenerative ongoing creative activity in all the arts, none less involved than the musical, and none better specifically than the choral.
It is impossible to categorize the composers on this disc except by means of generalities. I can say that all of them would be welcome on public radio’s “Music from the Hearts of Space”, but that is not to group them too diffidently into stereotypical boxes. Yet there are some common characteristics that even the most casually-inclined listener will discover, notably an obsession with cluster-like choral harmonic textures, a non-evasive ability to generate clear and almost brilliantly pristine vocal lines, and a rapturous experimentation with all aspects of choral sound, brought under control with a judicious use of conforming harmonies. The music can be subtle and overpowering, vaguely distant and intimately personal. It’s all here, and if you like the idea of a choral tour-de-force on one disc, this is it.
I’ll let the booklet notes serve for any further exploration for those who need it. Suffice it to say that Layton’s Cambridge forces lurch headlong into this music with joyful abandon and Hyperion spots them with rich and deep sound. Easily recommended.
— Steven Ritter