The fierce music of Estonia, Latvia
Eestlased Eestis 22 Aug 2010  EWR
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David Patrick Stearns, The Philadelphia Inquirer via The California Chronicle
NAISSAAR -- In the Baltic Sea, about 45 minutes from Tallinn, the boat full of music devotees arrives at this near-desert island, then rides in army-style trucks past rusty Soviet war machinery and defused mines to a concert hall called Omari Barn -- for music they can't hear anywhere else.

Tanglewood meets Robinson Crusoe here at the Nargen Festival, an out-of-the-comfort-zone break from the venerable concert halls of Tallinn as well as an immersion into Estonian identity. It leaves little question why tiny Baltic republics, particularly Estonia and Latvia, have become a fierce force in classical music -- a force heard with increasing frequency in Philadelphia, leaving audiences both startled and entranced.

"I never dreamed my music would be understood outside of Estonia," said composer Veljo Tormis, 80, whose agitated, folk-based works at the Nargen Festival were a flashpoint in Estonia's liberation and have since been taken up by the Temple University Concert Choir, among others. "But more and more, it seems people do understand."

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