Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Guri Egge soprano Einar Henning Smebye piano



Rolf Wallin – Three Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke

Synne Skouen – Rye

Fin Mortensen – The Weight of Branches: three songs to one poem Op33

Magne Hegdal – AIR: to a Gothic Cathedral

Kresimir Sipusch – Four Rilke Songs

Olav Anton Thommessen – The Overtone


Simax : PPC 9055 : [58 minutes Recorded May 2003]





The Norwegian soprano Guri Egge displays tremendous flexibility of voice, a huge range and copes apparently effortlessly with the dynamic range called for in these songs chosen for her debut album. She is always totally in control, and her pianist Einar Henning Smebye deserves equal billing for his strong contribution, as he makes light work of music of enormous complexity - an accomplished partnership.


The CD presents us with an impressive line up of composers and interesting choice of texts. Although it is entitled “Songs of the Last Century”, it would appear that they all date from some time after 1960.


Wallin uses poems from Rilke's “New Poems” anthology, with careful matching of mood to text – for example the words “how shall I lift it (my soul) gently up” is accompanied by a delicately rising passage with the voice soaring above the piano accompaniment.


Synne Skouen's “Rye” opens with a cello melody rustling through the stems of the rye, and the vocal line is a long hissing sound on the words “Hvis” (If). The composer merges two poems by different authors into a single, haunting song. By contrast, Fin Mortensen creates three songs from a single short poem, dividing it into sections of just a few lines. In the second “Only an Echo” the piano has an elaborate series of echoing passages.


Magne Hegdal's Air to a Gothic cathedral is a classic, mixing percussion into the accompaniment.


Kresimir Sipusch also turns to the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, this time from his earlier anthology “The Book of Hours”. The enigmatic “Solemn Hour” brings the piano to the forefront, imitating Whoever laughs without reason in the night”.


The final song, Olav Anton Thommessen's “The Overtone”, set to a text by D H Lawrence is an extraordinary blend of voice, piano, small instrumental ensemble and percussion which defies description but which I found totally fascinating.


The tracklisting for this CD is as shown above. Morten Eide Pedersen's notes (which contain quite a few typographical errors in English translation), refer to them in a different sequence, and the complete texts and translations are set out in yet a further order. This really is unnecessarily confusing and more than a little annoying, but do not be deterred: the effort involved in sorting it out is amply repaid by the interest of the music and the quality of performance.


Many a joking reference may have been made to Norway 's sequence of “nul points” in the Eurovision Song Contest, but their tradition for art song has always flourished and received active encouragement from the Norwegian Academy of Music and Norwegian Concert Institute.


© Serena Fenwick