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Külmking / Chills (2019)

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Ensemble Una Corda –

Kristi Mühling (kannel), Liis Jürgens (harp), Ene Nael (harpsichord)

World Premiere in 10th anniversary concert of Ensemble Una Corda in Kadriorg Palace (Tallinn) 10.02.2019

"It’s nice, sometimes, when a composition isn’t concerned with layers of complexity and subtext, but instead focuses on a single idea. So as the days grow increasingly cold (here in the UK, at least), it seems an ideal time to explore one of Age Veeroos‘ latest works, the title of which, Külmking, translates as “chills”. It was written for one of my favourite ensembles, Una Corda, an Estonian trio comprising harp, harpsichord and kannel. Playing together, these instruments make for a heady, even an opulent combination, but in Külmking they create an altogether different musical environment.


Taking the title literally, we can hear in its sharp points and glistening streaks of pitch a musical equivalent of shards of glinting ice, droplets of semi-melted snow, gusts of frigid wind, in an atmosphere that vividly conjures up the stiffness of deep cold. But chills come from more than just actual cold, and equally the obsessive behaviour of the players, with their spasmodic twitching, lunging and crashing – extended later on to tapping and banging on their instruments – could indicate the symptoms of a fever, or perhaps a more troubling psychological cause.

Furthermore, it’s worth considering that the ‘Külmking’ is also the name for a supernatural malevolent creature in Estonian mythology, a spirit of the “unholy dead” that eats victims (especially children) who unwittingly disturb it. If that’s not enough to induce some shivers, i’m not sure what is. But however we interpret the nature of the chills in Külmking, their vividness is all too apparent, capturing an acute sense of disconcerting, somewhat unhinged iciness."

Simon Cummings

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