Concert Review: "Kreek and Tormis" - A Triumph for Estonian Choral Music in the Netherlands

22 Mar 2024

EFK Muziekgebouw

During the five-day tour, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir graced the most prestigious concert halls across the Netherlands, including Utrecht, Tilburg, Amsterdam, and The Hague, along with a performance in Antwerp, Belgium. Their captivating presence at the Amsterdam Muziekebouw concert on March 20th left a lasting impact on approximately 600 attendees.

Crafted by the choir's artistic director and chief conductor, Tõnu Kaljuste, the two-part a capella program titled "Kreek en Tormis" exclusively featured Estonian songs. The first part celebrated the works of Cyrillus Kreek, a presentation unprecedented in the Netherlands, while the second honored the compositions of Veljo Tormis. Kaljuste remarked on Tormis's endorsement of Kreek, highlighting their shared belief in folklore as a profound artistic medium. The seamless fusion of regilaul melodies with classical composition characterized both composers' works.

The concert commenced with Kreek's songs, immediately captivating the audience with the choir's flawless intonation and emotive delivery. Many attendees followed translations closely, eager to grasp the essence of each piece. Particularly moving was the choir's rendition of Kreek's lullaby "Sleep Well, My Little Matthias," showcasing their exceptional vocal skill and leaving the Dutch audience spellbound.

At the conclusion of the first half of the concert, applause filled the hall, but in the second half, the audience's enthusiasm intensified, with applause erupting after all individual pieces. The choir presented selections from Veljo Tormis's "Estonian calendar songs," including "Martinmas Songs," "St. Catherine’s Day Songs," "Shrovetide Songs," "Swing Songs," and "St. John’s Day Songs." Alongside exquisite harmony, the choir infused playful choreography, enhancing the Dutch audience's appreciation of the foreign lyrics. Gestures like bowing during "Thanksgiving" and mimicking horse riding in "St. John's Horse" added depth and engagement. A delightful surprise came during "The Narrow String," as the conductor joined the choir, swaying to the music, prompting the audience to sway along. The second half of the program evoked an authentic sing-along atmosphere, with minimal conductor intervention, yet each piece was meticulously executed, showcasing the choir's unity and confidence.

Following the enthralling program's conclusion, the ovations persisted, prompting an encore performance. The choir returned to the stage to deliver Cyrillus Kreek's "Happy is the Man," seamlessly tying together the evening's repertoire. The concert tour reaffirmed the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir's international acclaim and their exceptional representation of Estonian choral music worldwide.

Reviewer: Eva Karo (Veljo Tormis Virtual Center)

Photo: Anneli Ivaste