Early Music of 3rd MilleniumNovember 10, 2020
Cantus AngelicusNovember 10, 2020
Wagner Strauss Seeger
WAGNER STRAUSS SEEGER
Juha Kotilainen, bariton
Eesti Rahvusmeeskoor RAM
Estonian National Male Choir RAM
Orchestra of Estonian Defence Forces
Der Gnade Heil ist dem Büßer beschieden, er geht einst ein in der Seligen Frieden! Vor Höll’ und Tod ist ihm nicht bang, drum preis’ ich Gott mein Lebelang. Halleluja in Ewigkeit! Halleluja in Ewigkeit!
|Opera choruses / Der Fliegende Holländer
|Hojoje! Hojoje! Hallojo! Ho!
|Mit Gewitter und Sturm aus fernem Meer
|Steuermann, laß die Wacht
|Jucche, da gibt’s die Fülle! / Steuermann, laß die Wacht
|Johohoe! Johohoe! Hoe! Hoe!
|Opera choruses / Tannhäuser
|Zu dir wall’ ich, mein Jesus Christ
|Wie Todesahnung Dämmrung deckt die Lande
|O du, mein holder Abendstern
|Von Rom zurück erwartet sie die Pilger
|Beglückt darf nun dich, o Heimat, ich schauen
|Opera choruses / Lohengrin
|In Frühn versammelt uns der Ruf
|Des Königs Wort und Will tu ich euch kund
|Traumlicht, Op 123 No 2
|Ein Jäger aus Kurpfalz
Estonian National Male Choir RAM
Orchestra of Estonian Defence Forces
Juha Kotilainen (baritone, Finland)
Conductors: Peeter Saan (#1–13), Ants Soots (#14–19 )
Arranged by Peeter Saan (#1–13)
Live recording, April 13th–16th, 2010
Sound engineered by Tanel Klesment
Booklet edited by Inna Kivi
Translated by Tiina Jokinen, Ela Vood
Photos by Tuire Ruokosuo, Ardi Hallismaa, Harri Rospu, Jaan Kirvel
Design by Mart Kivisild
Co-produced by Peeter Vähi
Special thanks: Association of Military Music Friends
© 2011 Estonian Defence Forces, Estonian Record Productions
Richard Wagner (1813−1883) − the founder of musical drama, of new ideology, saw opera as combined art where besides music, text and production are equally important. His gigantic legacy includes tragedies of destiny (Tristan und Isolde, 1859; the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen, 1852−1876) as well as Parsifal (1882) where Oriental and Occidental ways of thinking intertwine. Considering himself a musician of the future Wagner was not mistaken − the value of the works, the premieres of which aroused questions and disputes, has only grown in time.
In the 1840s, Wagner composes three operas: Der fliegende Holländer (1842), Tannhäuser (1845) and Lohengrin (1848). All three are connected by their leading Christian orientation, a belief in the power and mercy of the Christian God. The message can be summed up in a simple formula: if the faith is firm, the God will perform most incredible miracles.
At the first glance simple in contents and music (to be Wagner), those operas form intricate philosophical-existential compositions. They dwell on complex questions and what is more important − offer solutions. That is why Wagner is so difficult to digest for those used to Italian operas: ideally one should not only follow the text constantly but also think along with the author’s words, which obviously is a strenuous exercise. Wagner is not for entertainment − but for the ones who can and want to think, his truths are better than vintage wine.
The main question in Der fliegende Holländer is the possibility of forgiveness, the salvation through love. The Dutchman and his community of the cursed ones are opposed by industrious and, in their small world, successful Norwegian fishermen. The latter have not sailed through the oceans. However, they have safe homes where they are loved and welcomed. In the first act the tired sailors sing about the soft Southerly wind that takes them home. Upon the arrival of the Flying Dutchman, the wind changes. The southerly wind song reaches a jubilant climax. In the third act the village prepares to celebrate the sailors’ home-coming. The latter sing that they can finally afford the best vacation with good wine and tobacco. Maidens scold them when the men dance only with each other and do not share the feast with their neighbouring ship. But the Dutchman’s ship is dark and silent. As a joke the fishermen say that the neighbours are dead and need no food or drink any more. The festive mood is being silently penetrated by an indistinct menace. All of a sudden the crew of the Flying Dutchman appears: the black sailors are singing about an eternal curse. The say that their dark captain will never win his bride’s love and thus will be at the mercy of Satan till the end of times.
The theme of salvation is continued in Tannhäuser. Wagner makes the male choir to act pilgrims − the ancient allegory of the earthly life or journey to heaven. In the first act, the journey takes the pilgrims to Rome to look for salvation. Their sincere peace and simple song inspired by Lutheran corals reopen for the sinner Tannhäuser the long-forgotten Christian spirituality. “Blessed is he whose faith is firm” − Wagner’s message can be understood in this single line. At the beginning of the third act the pilgrims return home, freed from their sins. This is the most famous choir of Wagner, full of energy, jubilant with happiness and joy, at the same time firm and calm. People have reconciled with God and through that with themselves − an extremely necessary survival skill for today’s world. “His spirit whose heart is full of, the future lies awaiting, most blessed and mellow. As well as Death, all Evil will stay afar − eternal be the praise to Lord!” Though Tannhäuser is not among the arrivals, the choir inspires hope that he will soon catch up with the others. Tannhäuser’s beloved Elisabeth offers her life to Heaven in return for Tannhäuser’s soul. Wolfram being in love with Elisabeth is shocked by her decision. The whole world is full of death premonition. To fight the twilight of death Wolfram makes a song for the Evening Star by whom he means Elisabeth. The bard believes that when the girl leaves the mundane world, she will become a blessed angel.
Lohengrin is a fairy-tale opera. Set on the background of the fight of Heinrich the Bird-Catcher against Hungarian pagans in the 9th century, it will take the audience back to the times where dangers and miracles lived side by side. The ambassador of the Grail, Lohengrin is so sacred that he has to hide not only his mission but also his name and origin. On that condition he could protect Barbant Christians from witch Ortrud’s schemes as well as from the outside enemy − magyars. In the second act Lohengrin’s origin is put under suspicion: an unkown man cannot be allowed to lead the united forces of warriors. The evil is opposed by the male choir saying that they follow an unkown knight to make brave and great deeds: “We go where he leads us.”
All the heroes of the three operas, except Lohengrin, will, by the earthly understanding, be killed. Their passing is bright, though, since they believe in the continuation of their Journey.
Juha Kotilainen (1955) studied singing with Olavi Hautsalo and Matti Tuloisela at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. After graduation in 1985, he has taken post-graduate courses supervised by Thomas Hampson (UK) and Peter Berne (Austria). His debut at the Finnish National Opera was in 1986, followed by the roles of Almaviva, Marcello, Figaro, Tamerlan et al. In the 1990s, Kotilainen worked at the Aalto Theatre in Essen singing the roles of Onegin, Bluebeard and Don Giovanni. In 1996−1997, Kotilainen sang Gunther in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Later he returned to Finland where he has worked mostly at the National Opera as well as performed at the prestigious Savonlinna Festival. Since 1999, Kotilainen has also worked at the Royal Opera La Monnaie in Brussels. During the last decade the singer has premiered several contemporary Finnish operas like The Book of Kings by Kyllönen and Father’s Daughter by Kortekangas.
Juha Kotilainen’s repertoire includes a number of solo songs from classical German Lied to contemporary as well as parts in sacred music where he sings both bass and baritone, oratorial works and Beethoven’s Symphony No 9. He has gathered accolades for Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Haydn’s The Seasons, Schubert’s Masses and Kullervo by Sibelius.
The Estonian National Male Choir RAM was founded by the grand old man of Estonian choral music Gustav Ernesaks in 1944. Initially a male choir, specialized on a cappella repertoire, has by today grown into a world-famous professional performer of oratorial works.
The choir makes regular recordings for the Estonian Public Broadcasting as well as releases annually CDs under the labels of Deutsche Grammophon, Sony, Warner Classics / Finlandia Records, Alba Records, Virgin Classics, Forte, CCn’C ja GB Records. Some of the probably more noteworthy CD-productions are People of Kalevala (Tormis), Des Jona Sendung (Tobias), Hiiob (Kapp), Kullervo (Sibelius), Requiem (Cherubini), Supreme Silence (Vähi), My Fatherland is My Love (Ernesaks), Silva Caledonia (Bryars, Tulev).
RAM has participated in the recording of the CD that was awarded Grammy for the best choral music in 2004 − cantatas by Sibelius (Virgin Classics), performed by RAM, Girls’ Choir Ellerhein and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Paavo Järvi. The same staff recorded Peer Gynt by Grieg that was elected the best orchestral music album by BBC Music Magazine in 2005.
The long-standing conductors of RAM have been Olev Oja, Kuno Areng, Ants Üleoja, Uno Järvela, Harald Uibo, Ants Soots and Kaspars Putninš. Since the season 2011/2012, Mikk Üleoja is the chief conductor and artistic director.
The choir’s repertoire spans from Renaissance to the 21st century music, and besides Estonian composers, Shostakovich, Taktashvili, Bryars and Bonato have dedicated their works to RAM.
RAM has given more than 6000 concerts all over Estonia, in the former USSR, in Europe as well as in Israel, Canada and the USA.
Currently the choir employs 49 singers. During the season, they give about 40−50 a cappella concerts and participate in 5−6 oratory projects. At least 15 guest conductors from abroad work with the choir annually with minimum two of them producing an independent a cappella program.
Ants Soots (1956) has been conductor of the Estonian National Male Choir RAM since 1991, its chief conductor in 1994–2004 and the artistic director in 2008–2011. He graduated as choral conductor from Tartu Music College in 1978 and from the conducting class of Prof Ants Üleoja at the Estonian Academy of Music in 1983. In 1982–1990, he sang at the Estonian Radio Choir being at the same time its chorus master and conductor. Soots has conducted the male choir of Tallinn University of Technology and the male and female choirs of the Estonian Academy of Sciences.
He has held lectures and seminars to choral conductors in Finland, Lithuania, Spain and Sweden as well as been artistic director of Nordic-Baltic Choral Festivals. Since 1988, he teaches choral conducting at the Estonian Academy of Music, being Professor there since 2004.
He has conducted and artistically directed numerous Estonian Song Festivals as well as been jury member at several international choir competitions.
In 2004, he was awarded Grammy in choral music for the recording of Cantatas by Sibelius (Virgin Classics). In the same year Ants Soots was awarded the title Conductor of the Year and in 2006, he was named the honorary conductor of RAM.
The Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces is a state ceremonial orchestra founded on February 1st, 1993, or more precisely, it was re-established together with the re-establishment of the Estonian Defence Forces after the country had regained its independence. Since 1996, its commander and chief conductor is lieutenant-colonel Peeter Saan.
The main task of the orchestra is to perform at all state and military ceremonies as well as receive and see off high-standing state visits and guests. The orchestra gives concerts in military units as well as public concert halls. Initially comprising a staff of 20 musicians, the orchestra today employs 40 professional musicians.
During their 16 years of existence, the orchestra has participated in many international festivals in Europe and America. The orchestra’s “armament” includes a show-march tattoo and several concert programs of classical and pop music. The orchestra performs at about 180 (!) concerts and ceremonies annually.
In co-operation with the Association of Military Music Friends the orchestra has released 12 CDs mostly with classical and ceremonial music but also some in a lighter style. The current CD begins the second dozen in the list.
Lieutenant-colonel Peeter Saan (1959) has graduated from the clarinet-saxohopne class of Aleksander Rjabov at Tallinn Georg Ots Music College in 1983 and from the clarinet class of Rein Karin at the Estonian Academy of Music in 1988. Having worked as an orchestra musician for 16 years, first in the professional wind orchestra Tallinn and thereafter in the Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces, he became the commander and chief conductor of the latter in 1996.
He took his MA and PhD in conducting at the Estonian Academy of Music. He has researched the development and history of state and military ceremonial music in Estonia (PhD thesis Estonian state music and military orchestras: formation and development in 1918−1940).
Peeter Saan has guest-conducted several European orchestras. Every year, he gives tens of concerts with the Orchestra of the Estonian Defence Forces. His special sphere of interest is the older layer of original Estonian compositions for wind orchestra. He has made modern arrangements of many of those works, in total over 150. Peeter Saan is doing invaluable work in searching, finding and reviving the unique archives of Estonian military music. In addition to the historical treasury of wind music, Peeter Saan has been commissioning and premiering new works of wind music by Estonian composers.