Estonian choir brings artistry to unfamiliar music

The Washington Post

By Anne Midgette

“But it doesn’t mean anything!” complains little Gretel in “The Sound of Music,” faced for the first time with the seven notes (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si/ti, do) of the tonal scale. And her governess, Maria, explains that you simply add words, “one word for every note.” The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, however, opened its concert Monday with a simple iteration of those seven notes, over and over, that wallowed in the pregnant potential of ambiguity, a foreshadowing and preparation of music-making to come, without any words at all.

The chorus stood around the nave of the National City Christian Church, surrounding the audience, and following the clear hand gestures of their director, the charismatic, gray-maned Tonu Kaljuste. “Do,” came from the women at the front of the church, “re” from the men at the back of it, and each section continued to chime in, at different volumes and in different octaves, each note overlapping with the note next to it, and sometimes with two or three at once, to create a small halo of dissonance, while the music continued up and up and up in an unbroken spiral of notes until it was finally silenced, on “do,” by the closing of Kaljuste’s hand.

The piece was called “Solfeggio,” it was written by Arvo Part, and it set the tone for an evening of music that balanced emotional directness with technical mastery.

Read the full review here.