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Of Light and Dust
Mari Askvik (mezzo)
Kammerkoret NOVA/Yuval Weinberg
rec. 2018, Ris Church, Oslo and Sofienberg Church, Oslo
LAWO LWC1168 [56:22]

This disc revolves around the fundamental themes of faith and doubt in both religious and non-religious contexts within music. The accompanying booklet contains a brief introduction to the theme and its philosophical context, and points to the eleven pieces of music presented here based upon mainly non-liturgical texts from both the Jewish and Christian traditions, as well as pieces that declare “faith in humankind and life before death.” Unusually for Lawo recordings, the notes on the music itself are scanty, although full sung texts and translations are included.

Of the composers featured on this disc, only the prolific Knut Nystedt is known to me, and then only through a handful of short pieces. There is still a lot of music to enjoy on this atmospheric disc, and all but two of the composers, Knut Nystedt and Yehezkel Braun, are still alive. The disc opens with If You Receive My Words by Nystedt, which includes a short section of spoken text along with varied choral styles and soon became one of my favourite pieces here.

The second track is Andrew Smith’s Lighten Our Darkness, the first piece to use the mezzo Mari Askvik as soloist. At first I did not get along with her voice, which seems a little harsh at times, but she has grown on me, mainly as she is employed not as a traditional soloist, but more as a ‘cantor’, and in this respect her voice suits the role she plays, especially if you search for her on the internet and compare her voice with those you find online. In even When He Is Silent, Kim André Arnesen only has three lines of text to play with, but he weaves his magic well, making this a varied and very attractive piece. Frank Havrĝy’s Psalm does not take a biblical text but rather uses a deeply-felt poem by Paul Celan, which works well in this setting. Both Yehezkel Braun and Dov Carmel set Hebrew texts to great effect, the first being a setting of Psalm 42, whilst Carmel sets a beautiful traditional Jewish text with an absolutely stand-out musical line, which is simple yet sticks in your head so that you end up humming it wherever you are; this is contrasted with a more strident section. The final track opens with a lovely, lilting setting of the Jewish declaration of faith by Abraham Kaplan. Mari Askvik then introduces Henning Sommerro before the chorus enters, using the men’s and women’s voices differently to highlight differing aspects of the text which is quite mesmerising, especially in the way that Askvik’s voices weaves in and out - a wonderful conclusion to this disc.

The sheer beauty of the choral singing helps to bring out the quality of these works and the Kammerkoret NOVA is on top form. Every piece on this highly original and interesting disc has something to offer the listener and is for those who like to tread the less-trodden musical path; you will not be sorry if you take it. This is beautiful music, beautifully sung, my only gripe being the lack of composer information.

Stuart Sillitoe

Knut Nystedt (1915-2014)
1   If You Receive My Words [6:05]
Andrew Smith (b. 1970)
2   Lighten Our Darkness [4:05]
Kim André Arnesen ((b. 1980)
3   Even When He Is Silent [4:58]
Nana Forte (b. 1981)
4   Forte Iam non dicam [4:26]
Frank Havrĝy (b. 1969)
5   Psalm [6:15]
Lansing D. McLoskey (b. 1964)
6   Dear World [4:13]
Trad., Henrik Ĝdegaard (b. 1955)
7   Jesus, la mitt hjerte lenges [4:40]
Yehezkel Braun (1922-2014)
8   Psalm 42 (from Niggunim) [3:21]
Dov Carmel (b. 1932)
9   Piyutim (Hymns) [7:20]
Trad., Knut Nystedt
10 Neslandskyrkja [3:40]
Abraham Kaplan (b. 1931)
11 Ani Ma’amin
Henning Sommerro (b. 1952)
Med Jesus vil eg fara [7:10]