The Key Ensemble is a new chamber choir, formed in Finland as recently as 2005, yet is a group of some considerable polish and attainment, judging from this finely sung programme under their founding conductor, Teemu Honkanen. Numbering 28 members (according to the list of personnel in the booklet), the choir is well balanced and well drilled, secure in intonation (if a touch hard-edged in tone) and their diction – as can be judged by this enterprising collection – is first-rate.
I have to confess that I assumed from the title alone that this was a recording of some anonymous medieval or Renaissance Mass setting. Instead, the disc is a collection of sacred pieces from five Baltic countries (Denmark, Germany, Latvia and Lithuania are omitted) sequenced to resemble a Mass at times. So Sven-David Sandström’s reworking of Purcell’s Hear my prayer, O Lord serves as a vigorous ‘introit’ and Lidholm’s grippingly austere De profundis (extracted from his opera A Dream-Spell) a grave ‘Kyrie’. Jan Sandström’s Gloria and Stravinsky’s Credo fill self-explanatory roles but the latter’s brevity is at odds with the concept which, thereafter, is only loosely followed until Górecki’s dismally static closing Amen.
The high points are mainly in the latter half, however, starting with Kokkonen’s marvellous five-span Laudatio Domini, a real modern classic. Mikko Heiniö’s Luceat receives its first recording here and is the real climax of the disc, not the Górecki. We should have more Heiniö on disc. Penderecki’s Song of Cherubim is a well-constructed motet and weightier than Pärt’s over-long Nunc dimittis; both are overshadowed by Rautavaara’s superbly brief setting of the Lord’s Prayer. Fuga’s sound is first-rate.