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Hortus Musicus [Estonia]

ARTIST: Hortus Musicus

COUNTRY: Estonia

GENRE: Hortus Musicus specialises in performing early music, including 8th–15th century European forms such as: Gregorian Chant, Organum, Medieval Liturgic Hymns and Motets, the Franco-Flemish School, and Renaissance Music (including French chansons, villanelles and Italian madrigals). The group also presents early, non-European styles including Indian Ragas, Israeli temple songs, Arabian mughams and Jewish music. The group’s repertoire also includes pieces by 20th century composers (often created specially for Hortus Musicus, e.g. by Arvo Pärt).

ABOUT: On the slop of Toompea Hill in Tallinn, Värvatorn (the Gate Tower) proudly stands, having been home for more than 30 years for Hortus Musicus, the ensemble celebrating their 40th birthday in 2012. Such an age is phenomenal for a chamber ensemble and Hortus is the oldest constantly active early music group in Europe. The symbiosis of Hortus Musicus and Väravatorn is meaningful and enchanting. As rare and exceptional as Väravatorn – the most significant foothold in the city wall – are Hortus Musicus themselves.

It is impossible to directly classify the ensemble. Although based on academic education, the group, created in 1972 under the leadership of Andres Mustonen, a fervent dissenter, immediately found their own music, which had been practiced very rarely in the then Soviet Union but also in the rest of Europe. It was the early music that corresponded to the energetic wish of the young people to discover something unprecedented.

During their long history, Hortus Musicus have passed through the entire musical history of Europe from the Gregorian choral to the great Baroque composers of the 18th century. A list of the repertoire of Hortus would be very long. It would be easier to say that there is no genre or period in European early music that has not appeared in the programmes of the ensemble throughout the 39 years.

The secret of the longevity of Hortus Musicus is hidden in their approach of uncompromised creativity, and the title ‘early music ensemble’ only concerns the musical material. The music itself is reborn with every rehearsal and presentation, the “old” music becoming “own” and “new”. It is natural that already in the very beginning a good understanding was established with many other musical dissenters in Estonia and Russia. For instance, the strikingly minimalist tintinnabuli-style works of Arvo Pärt were performed at the end of the 1970s exactly in cooperation with Hortus Musicus. Later on, composers like Giya Kantsheli, Aleksander Knaifel, Lepo Sumera, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Galina Grigoryeva and several others have written and dedicated music for the ensemble.

The restless artistic nature and inexhaustible energy of Andres Mustonen, the charismatic leader and conductor of the ensemble, has as a natural course of events taken him in front of the great orchestras of Europe, this process continuing with increasing speed. As a fiery creative person he has managed to cross the line between academic and alternative (early music, jazz, rock, folk) ways of making music. A real musician knows no boundaries.

Since its early years, “HM” has been a praised and warmly welcome visitor to various music festivals in cities all over the world – Berlin, Munich, Paris, London, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Boston, Venice, Warsaw, Krakow, Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, Prague, Bratislava, Antwerpen, Bristol, Glasgow, Helsinki, Willach, Hetta, Malmö, Stockholm, Lockenhaus, Wien, Lintz, Innsbruck, St.Gallen, Herne, Würtzburg, Regensburg, Zaragoza, Utrecht, etc. In addition to the festivals, the ensemble performs on concert tours in practically all European countries, and has similarly been to America, Japan and Israel.

The group has published more than 30 records, all of which musically as wholesome as concert programs: “Gregorian Carols”, “Early polyphony”, “Daniel’s Play”, “Francesco Landini and Trecento”, “Secular Music of the Middle Ages”, “Venetian Canzons”, “16th Century French Dances and Chansons”, “Spanish Golden Age”, “Music at the Baltic Sea”,  “Chamber Music of Gustav Vasa”, “G. Ph. Telemann’s Parisian Quartets”, the music of different 16th-17th century European courts on the record “Maypole”.

The actions of “Hortus Musicus” have been displayed in three films: “Centuries in Stone and Music”, “Jug on the Spring”, “Garden of Music” and in several TV-programs.

The ensemble currently includes 10 musicians – 3 singers and 7 instrumentalists:

Andres Mustonen – violin, artistic leader
Olev Ainomäe – shawns, schalmei, recorders
Imre Eenma – violone
Valter Jürgenson – trombones
Tõnis Kaumann – baritone, percussion instruments
Tõnis Kuurme – curtal, shawn, rauschpfeiff, recorders
Riho Ridbeck – bass, percussion instruments
Ivo Sillamaa – harpsichord, organ
Anto Õnnis – tenor, percussion instruments
Taavo Remmel – double bass

The activities of Hortus Musicus have always been accompanied by a thirst for harmony, love, beauty and life in any kind of music. Therefore, the repertoire of the ensemble has naturally expanded across times and countries. A highly successful programme has thus been “Olles teel…” (“On the Road…”).  Here the Medieval music is performed next to ancient Indian ragas and Israeli temple songs, the early Christian music from Armenia and the Arabian Mughams. And as seen through the prism of eternal truths it appears that those temporally and geographically distant sounds have more in common than is different between them. The world is small!

“This is absolutely incredible – when I first heard this music the world around me ceased to exist for a time. I’ve heard the Miserere before, but this arrangement is by far the best I’ve ever heard. Absolutely incredible – beautiful, one cannot be too supperlative when describing this music.” (Nathan Scarborough, Feralnostalgia)


1975 — Gregorian chant / Early polyphony (Thousand years of music, vol.1) (Melodiya, S10-06499-00)
1975 — “Ludus Danielis” (Thousand years of music, vol.2) (Melodiya, S10 07015-16)
1977 — Italian secular music of the 14th c. (Melodiya, S10 07933-34)
1977 — Francesco Landini: Ballate, madrigali, caccia (Melodiya, S10 07935-36)
1979 — French secular music of the 16th c. (Melodiya, S10 14027-28)
1979 — Secular music of the 12th – 14th cc. LP1: France (Melodiya, S10-15085-86)
1979 — Secular music of the 12th – 14th cc. LP2: Italy (Melodiya, S10-15087-88)
1982 — Italian music of the 16th and 17th cc. (Melodiya, S10 19277-78)
1982 — From Yugoslavian manuscripts of the 10th – 12th cc. (Melodiya, S10 19383-84)
1984 — French music of the 16th and 17th cc. (Melodiya, S10 20873-74) (LP)
1985 — Adriano Banchieri: “La Pazzia Senile”, madrigal comedy of 1607. (Melodiya, S10 21697-98)
1986 — Suite from The Louvain Collection Of Dances (Melodiya, S10 24423-24)
1986 — Guillaume Dufay / Gilles Binchois (Melodiya, S10 24851-52)
1987 — Croatian music of the 11th – 14th cc. (Melodiya, S10 25089-90)
1988 — German Early Baroque Dance Music (Melodiya, S10 28029-30)
1988 — Italian dances of the 14th c. / Liturgical drama “Tractus stellae” (Melodiya, S10 28697-98)
1989 — 1200-1600 Medieval – Renaissance (CD1: instrumental music, CD2: vocal music) (Erdenklang 40692)
1989 — Musik över Östersjön/Music across the Baltic (Musica Sveciae MSCD 302)
1991 — Vasakungarnas hov (The Royal Court of the Vasa Kings) (Musica Sveciae MSCD 202)
1994 — Gregorianische Choräle -Plainchants- (Erdenklang 40712)
1994 — Johann Valentin Meder: Matthäus Passion 1700 (Hortus Musicus, vol. 1) (Forte Classical FD 0006/2)
1995 — Vuestros Amores, He Señora (Erdenklang 50792)
1995 — Peeter Vähi: 2000 years after the birth of Christ (with Kaia Urb, The “Bad” Orchestra etc.) (Antes Edition Classics BM-CD 31.9059)
1996 — Ave… (Erdenklang 61142)
1997 — Maypole (Erdenklang 70982)
1997 — Peeter Vähi: To his highness Salvador D. (with Ivo Sillamaa, Camerata Tallinn etc.) (Antes Edition Classics BM CD 31.9086)
1998 — René Eespere: Concerto Ritornello, Flute Concerto, Viola Concerto (with Ülo Kaadu, Maano Männi, Neeme Punder, Jouko Mansnerus) (Antes Edition Classics BM-CD 31.9129)
2001 — Light / Pari Intervallo / Miserere Mei / Summa (Ccn’c)
2005 — Gregorian Chant, Meditative Medieval Music from Hortus Musicus (CD and DVD, Director: Christophe Mourthe)
2005 — Ave… (ERP 805)
2006 — Telemann: Quartets (Wea Apex Classics UK)
2008 — Helesa (Hortus Musicus)
2011 — Early Music of 3rd Millennium: Alexander Knaifel, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Peeter Vähi, Arvo Pärt, Valentin Silvestrov, Giya Kancheli (ERP 4611)









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