The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir’s Schnittke and Pärt album nominated for a Grammy

“Schnittke: Choir Concerto; Three Sacred Hymns; Pärt: Seven Magnificat-Antiphons” by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and Latvian conductor Kaspars Putniņš has received a nomination for the 64th Grammy Awards in the Best Choral Performance category.

“Alfred Schnittke’s ‘Choir Concerto’ (1984/85) is one of the most powerful a cappella choral masterpieces. It is based on prayer texts from the ‘Book of Lamentations’ by the 10th century Armenian poet Grigor Narekatsi or St. Gregory of Narek, where a soul filled with penitence and a yearning for purity has a heart-to-heart conversation with God,” a representative of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir said in a statement.

Kaspars Putniņš, the chief conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir at the time of the Grammy-nominated album’s recording. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

Kaspars Putniņš – the chief conductor of the choir at the time of the recording, now holding the same position at the Swedish Radio Choir – coupled Schnittke’s piece with Pärt’s “Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen” (1988) that consists of seven antiphons with the Magnificat (the “Song of Mary”), sung at Roman Catholic vespers on the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve.

The recording session took place at the St Nicholas Church in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, in January 2020 with the participation of Jens Braun, a German sound engineer, who has previously worked on the Grammy-winning “Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4” (Minnesota Orchestra, recorded in 2012, won a Grammy in the Best Orchestral Performance in 2013) album.

The recording session took place at the St Nicholas Church in the Estonian capital, Tallinn. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

The “Schnittke: Choir Concerto; Three Sacred Hymns; Pärt: Seven Magnificat-Antiphons” was released on CD by BIS Records, a Swedish classical music record label, in June 2021 and is also available on the streaming platforms.

BIS Records will soon also release two more albums by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir – “Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (op 31)” and an album with music of the Estonian composer Ülo Krigul.

A piece by Arvo Pärt on the “Schnittke: Choir Concerto; Three Sacred Hymns; Pärt: Seven Magnificat-Antiphons” album.

Records of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir have previously won the Grammy award twice – for “Arvo Pärt. Da Pacem” (Harmonia Mundi), recorded with Paul Hillier in 2007, and for “Arvo Pärt. Adam’s Lament” (ECM), with Tõnu Kaljuste in 2014. Over the years, the choir has released almost 80 recordings and has received 15 Grammy nominations in various categories.

In 2020, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir was named by the BBC Music Magazine as one of the ten best choirs in the world.

Cover: The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir walking in Tallinn’s Old Town. Photo by Kaupo Kikkas.

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