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Nordic Songs
Ulla Ricklander (mezzo-soprano)
Cathrine Pendrup (piano)
rec. 2018, Set. Lukas Kirke, Frederiksberk, Denmark

Discs of Nordic songs are nothing new and this one enters a crowded field of some exceptionally good recordings. However, it differs from them in that it takes a less-beaten track, offering music by composers from Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, and songs by Nystroem and Moe alongside the more usual fare of Grieg and Sibelius.

I have enjoyed everything I have heard by the Swedish composer and artist Gösta Nystroem, especially his wonderful symphonies. The first of them I got to know was the Sinfonia del Mare, which led me to investigate the composer’s music further. It has a text by Ebba Lindqvist, like one of his Sånger vid havet, recorded here. That seems to be his most recorded work, in both the piano (SCD 1039) and orchestral (BIS-CD-530) versions. It is not a cycle as such, as it presents texts from different poets, representing the differing aspects of man’s relationship with the sea, from quiet reflection to an invocation of the swell and the tide. It is a wonderful set of songs, and alone makes this disc worthy of consideration.

I have previously come across Benna Moe only through her inclusion on another Danacord disc of Romantic Piano Works by Danish Women (DACOCD680), in which the pianist Cathrine Pendrup again offers a fascinating insight into unfamiliar works by neglected women composers. Here, she shows that she is equally adept as an accompanist, as she is a pianist in her own right. I imagine that, as with the studies included on the piano disc, these charming and well-crafted songs are here receiving their world premiere recording, and what seems to be a one-woman-crusade to bring the music of Benna Moe to a wider public should be applauded.

Grieg and Sibelius hardly need introducing, nor do their songs, although Sibelius’ songs are perhaps one of the most neglected areas of his music. That being said, there are still some wonderful discs containing selections of their songs and both benefit from complete editions on Bis. If I were to highlight just a couple of songs, the opening “To brune Øine jeg nyelig saae” by Grieg has always been a favourite and although Sibelius’ well-known “Svarta rosor” is here, it is the plaintive opening of “Säf, säf, susa” which always gets my vote.

The mezzo-soprano Ulla Ricklander offers a fine rendition of these songs, especially the Nystroem and Moe. Some might her vibrato find off-putting, but once you have listened to the disc a couple of time it is less noticeable, and what comes through is the quality of her interpretation. Cathrine Pendrup proves an excellent accompanist and if you enjoy this disc, I can also recommend her recording of the Romantic Piano Works by Danish Women as a fine accompanying disc. The recorded sound is very good. The booklet notes offer full texts and translations and brief biographical details but lack any information about the music itself. If you buy this disc it will be for the Nystroem and the Moe, and you will not be disappointed, despite the rather short measure of less than 45 minutes.

Stuart Sillitoe 

Previous review: John France

Gösta NYSTROEM (1890-1966)
Sånger vid havet (Songs by the Sea) (1942)
Ute i skären (Out in the Skerries) (Ebba Lindqvist) [3:37]
Nocturne (Edith Södergran) [3:51]
Havets visa (The Song of the Sea) (Hjalmar Robert Gullberg) [2:27]
Jag har ett hem vid havet (I built a home near wide seas) (Ragnar Jändel) [5:11]
Jag vänter månen (The moon I wait) (Hjalmar Robert Gullberg) [2:46]
Benna MOE (1897-1983)
Op.30, Songs to Texts by Iwan Bratt (1944)
Bäcken (The Brook) [1:50]
Låt mig vara hos dig (Let me be with you) (1944) [2:57]
Op.31, Songs to Texts by Iwan Bratt (1944)
Ett barn är fött (A child is born) [1:29]
Liv (Life) [0:43]
Sök inte runt i världen (Don´t search around the world) [1:08]
Golgatha, Golgotha (Calvary) [2:16]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Hjertets Melodier, opus 5 (Hans Christian Andersen) (1865)
To brune Øine jeg nyelig saae (Two brown eyes I have recently seen) [1:02]
Du fatter ei Bølgernes evige Gang (You do not understand the eternal movement of the waves) [2:09]
Jeg elsker Dig (I love you) [1:26]
Min Tanke er et mægtigt Fjeld (My thought is a mighty mountain) [1:34]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Svarta rosor, op.36, no.1 (Black Roses) (Ernst Josephson) (1899) [2:15]
Säf, säf, susa, op.36, no.4 (Sigh, rushes, sigh) (Gustaf Fröding) (1900) [2:40]
Den första kyssen, op.37, no.1 (The first kiss) (J. L. Runeberg) (1900) [1:52]
Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte (The girl returned from meeting her lover) (J. L. Runeberg) (1901), op.37, no.5 [3:12]

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