A Baltic State of Mind

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

This week on the Choral Mix, host Kent Tritle takes us for a ride on the Baltic side.

In Minnesota, there's a strong tradition of choral singing that stems from its northern European heritage. We’ll delve into that Nordic influence by focusing on composers and choirs alike from countries bordering the Baltic Sea. Highlights of our Nordic excursion include works by Arvo Pärt and Einojuhani Rautavaara, along with ensembles from Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Minnesota, and Sweden. 

From where did this tradition emerge? During the 19th century, thousands of Norwegians migrated to Minnesota. They brought along with them their rich musical heritage, particularly their traditions of choral singing. In 1851, the first singing school opened in St. Anthony. Soon thereafter, the Plymouth Congregational Church of Minneapolis established its singing group for men in 1857, and later came the Ladies' Thursday Musical Chorus, in 1892. With Nordic singing groups and organizations on the rise, the influence grew. Many Lutheran colleges began forming choirs with Nordic singers, and numerous singing organizations were founded. By 1896, five music clubs joined together to form the Union of Scandinavian Singers.

As we hear, with composers such as Pärt and Rautavaara among others, Northern Europe maintains its influence on contemporary music.


1. (open, then underscore)St Olaf College Choir, F.Melius Christiansen/St Olaf Choir Choral Masterworks Series, Vol.I/O savior throw open the heavens wide, track 1/Brahms/Northfield, MN

2. KFUMS Kammerkor Stockholm, Ragnar Bohlin/Höstlandskap/Geistliches Lied, track 3/Brahms/Stockholm, Sweden

3. Finnish Radio Chamber Choir, Timo Nuoranne/Vigilia/Tracks 1-7/Rautavaara/Helsinki, Finland

4. Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Tonu Kaljuste/Arvo Pärt Te Deum/Track 1, first 16:40 minutes of music, fade before next choral entrance at 16:41/Arvo Pärt/Tallinn, Estonia

5. Chamber Choir Hymnia,Flemming Windekilde/Alfred Schnittke Requiem and Concerto for Mixed Chorus/An expert in human passions Track 2/Alfred Schnittke/Copenhagen, Denmark

6. Choir of Saint Ignatius Loyola, Kent Tritle/Beatitudes, track 5/Arvo Pärt/New York, New York /7:55

Weigh in: Do you have a favorite Nordic composer or choir? Tell us about it below.

Comments [13]

Thom from Charlottesville, VA

One of my favorites of this repertoire is Egil Hovland's "Bli hos os." One of my new favorite composers is Lithuanian, Vytautas Miškinis.

Mar. 13 2011 11:34 PM
Mary Vaughn

This comment is coming a bit late, but I wanted to say that the Rautavaara was a revelation! Also, the Arvo Part Beatitudes never cease to amaze me, even though I've heard them many times. Thank you for this wonderful selection of music.

Mar. 13 2011 05:28 PM
Austen Wilson from Haddonfield, NJ

Wonderful program, but I thought I would mention that it is "St. Olaf College" not "St. Olaf's College".

Mar. 01 2011 11:11 AM

Excellent choice of pieces and choirs. Yes, the Rautavaara is also my favorite. Thanks.

Feb. 28 2011 11:41 PM
Peter M. Graetzer

Please advise the titles of the discs that were played between 7:30 am and 8:00 am on Sunday February 27th. I'd like to purchase them if they are available.

Many thanks & Best regards.

Feb. 28 2011 05:20 PM
Noel W from New York

This is absolutely stunning! I enjoyed einojuhani rautavaara" the all night vigil" by finnish radio choir. Where can I find this exact recording?

Feb. 27 2011 11:57 PM
Michael Meltzer

Nice program Kent, but I hope you do a "Part II" (no pun intended) which includes Latvia.
I do some nolunteer work for the Fabbri Chamber Series on the upper east side, and a few years back the Latvian Consulate asked us to host one of their visiting ensembles which was featuring the music of Peteris Vasks. We did, and we were stunned by the beauty of his chamber music, which I suppose you'd characterize as romantic modern.
I note on the web that there is a Latvian Radio Choir disc of Vasks' Pater Noster and his Dona Nobis Pacem. The latter work is also recorded by Paul Hillyer.
I hope you get a chance to listen to these and perhaps introduce this remarkable composer, who is hardly known at all in the U.S.. I believe his scores are published by Schott, Mainz.

Feb. 27 2011 08:10 AM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

Let's face it, some of this stuff was, er, challenging. But I really enjoyed all of it! Especially the tenor soloist who sang in quarter-tones -- never heard anything like that. This program is really expanding my musical knowledge.

Feb. 27 2011 08:01 AM
Ella Beilin from New York

Please provide the list of pieces and not only for this program, but in the future. Thanks a lot.

Feb. 27 2011 08:00 AM
Roland Ellis from New Paltz, NY

Dear Ken

Please identify pieces when they end. One ended at about 7:43. I think it might have been Part but you didn't say.

Roland Ellis

Feb. 27 2011 07:50 AM

That Rautavaara is amazing! With all respect, modern scales do have quarter tones. They're there. You've got to ferret them out with your voice or a stringed instrumement.

In grad school, we transcribed an obscure book of 16th century Italian madrigals that had quarter and half tones. Then we had to sing the madrigals. No small feat, finding halves and quarters. Really widened our perception of the experimental side of Renaissance music.

Feb. 27 2011 07:16 AM
Kevin Grice from Fulton, Missouri

It would be great to hear some Cyrillus Kreek!

Feb. 26 2011 10:23 PM
Louise Ozolins from Verona, New Jersey

I hope that you will play something from the Latvian Women's Choir. They are outstanding!

Feb. 26 2011 07:20 PM

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