Sirje Vihma-Normet, 17 September, 2021, Eesti Elu/ Estonian Life​

The world premiere of Elis Hallik’s Firehearted was supposed to be performed last year, during the season dedicated to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Therefore, the strings in the work are largely inspired by the opening movement of Beethoven’s Leonore (Fidelio). According to the composer, at one point she realised that there were not enough of Beethoven’s melodies for wind instruments, and she began adding more abrupt cuts. I was amazed at how masterfully the composer, who is only 35 years old, had written the score. ERSO’s large ensemble, with its captivating and enchanting cascade of orchestral colours, achieved Richard Straussian perfection in their sound. There was also a hinted reference to the coronavirus pandemic – the composer used Wuhan gongs alongside traditional percussion instruments. Although these gongs were small, they were clearly heard over the entire orchestra. According to the composer, the Wuhan gongs are played with various rubber sticks to amplify the upper sound timbre.  The faint echo of Wuhan gongs over the colourful orchestra sounded like Death knocking on the door.  Listeners wearing masks added tension to the performance – looking down from the balcony, I couldn’t tell who was hiding behind the masks. The applause was raucous! I learned from the programme page that Elis Hallik studied composition under Helena Tulve and that ERSO has previously performed Vanishing Point in the Field of Vision under the direction of Baldur Brönnimann (2017).

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