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Nordisk romantik
Peter Erasmus LANGE-MÜLLER

Tre Madonnasange Op.65 (1900) [7.24]
Emil HARTMANN (1836-1898)

Fire åndelige sange [13.14]
Oskar LINDBERG (1887-1955)

Frya andliga sånger med melodier från Dalarna (1945) [10.37]
Pingst (1911) [1.56]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Fire Salmer Op.74 (1906) [25.25]
Robert Bǿgelund Vinther
Jysk Akademisk Kor/Sǿren Birch
Recorded at Lystrup Church, September 2000


If Scandinavian sacred choral music, predominantly Protestant, appeals then this disc will fulfil a need. The quartet of composers includes only one household name, and his are by far the most accomplished and impressive of the settings, though all are worth hearing. It’s undeniable that a certain ennui sets in from time to time but in the main we’re listening to well-crafted and imaginative word setting.

Lange-Müller contributes three compact Catholic settings in his Tre Madonnasange written at the dawn of the twentieth century. Whilst cleanliness and clarity are the watchwords throughout it’s the last that catches the ear – a lissom hymnal with some harmonically diverting writing to keep the ear keenly alive. The choir proves well blended here and to have this repertoire fully under its collective belt.

Emil Hartmann’s songs manage to be lyric and simply expressed and melodically distinctive without quite achieving striking memorability. The third, a long strophic song, has a certain English-sounding robustness and is probably the most convincing. Folk elements fuse with Late Romanticism in the first of Lindberg’s four songs which, to English ears, has a slight Vaughan Williams accent but the last is the best, a very modulated setting which doesn’t evince any kind of theatrical patina but has a strophic lyricism and generosity.

The Grieg songs, Fire Salmer, are set for baritone and choir. Psalm settings, these show plenty of dynamic variance and variety. Grieg proves effortlessly superior to his trio of colleagues in the sheer lyricism and dynamism of his writing; nothing is static. There is colour in the first whilst the second generates a quietly ebullient folk-like cleanliness and strength. In the third we hear a strophic ballad in which Grieg has utilised the form to bring variety – the baritone soloist and choral responses add tension; the piety grows increasingly - gently serious. His last setting illustrates warm optimism.

As suggested before, the choir proves adept exponents of the repertoire and the notes are helpfully concise. Recorded sound is sympathetic as well. If one finds that Grieg rather dwarfs his colleagues perhaps that’s not unexpected. It’s in matters of detail and dynamic tension that he proves so powerful and those who have yet to experience his settings will find them congenial and attractive. Much the same applies to the rest of the disc with the caveat that not everything here is of comparable distinction.

Jonathan Woolf

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