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Nordic Voices Djanki-Dong

Thoresen: Diphonie I
Schaathun: Verklärung
Ødegaard: O Magnum Mysterium
Bratlie: Lamentations
Ore: Schwirren
Kolberg: Plym-Plym for 6 voices

Tone E. Braaten, Ingrid Hanken, Ebba Rydh, Per Kristian Amundrød, Frank Havrøy, Trond Reinholdtsen

Aurora - ACD5055

Nordic Voices is six professional singers who have taken to the limit the study of near-impossible contemporary writing for voices, carrying with them audiences that they have found to be a lot less conservative than many might believe. One critic wrote: “ - - this was glorious music that could make a believer out of an atheist”.

The selection here encompasses micro-intervals which required long training to master, and tongue-twisting rhythmic constructions. And besides micro-tonality they incorporate in their work overtone singing and kveding (traditional Norwegian folk song).

The selected programme of music by Norwegian composers makes for heady listening. It is well devised for contrast and to make a satisfying sequence. The group evinces enjoyment in confronting extreme challenges and for the listener it is all invigorating.

The artwork is dominated by images of raindrops on window panes, presumably symbolising the long winter nights during which they had been mastering their special singing? One anomaly is that Frank Havroy's explanatory notes are differently ordered from the tracks as given here above, which takes a little back- and forthing to sort out. Texts and translations are provided, but some of the settings are far from straightforward to follow.

Definitely a CD of the month for Musical Pointers.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The score of Lasse Thoresen's Diphonie I Op.39, 2002 [illustrated] has been received. Following the performance with its score enhances hugely one's admiration for the composer's imagination and the dedication of the singers who mastered its complexities.

The explanations of multitudinous signs for sound production, rhythm and time structure are given in English. I hope that the image of the piece's ending might help to whet interest and maybe inspire tutors in our more enterprising conservatoires who specialise in contemporary vocal music
. It would be great to to invite Nordic Voices over from Norway to give master classes and encourage post-grad students to tackle the special techniques and exacting precision demanded to deliver this hugely enjoyable creation, and others in their repertoire.

Nordic Voices Sense and nonSense
[JDR 1005, 2002; 49 mins]

This brilliant vocal sextet's first CD has been received subsequently and it is an ideal introduction to the group's work, balancing old and new in a cunningly contrived programme which should frighten no-one, old or young; including Edward Lear limericks (Petrassi). Watch them singing Ligeti's Cuckoo in the Pear Tree.

Shortish measure at under 50 mins, but you'll play it again and again - and to your friends...

See review from Ottawa, Feb. 2008: - - The group's Sense & nonSense (JDR, 2002) demonstrated just how well material ranging from Claudio Monteverdi and Francois Poulenc to Giovanni Gabrieli and Henrik Hellstenius could coexist on a program that wound its way back-and-forth across four centuries.

and from Amazon: - - works by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Stenhammar, Poulenc, Petrassi, Ligeti and Hellstenius highlight the vast performance register of the ensemble. The voices combine in a seemingly effortless way with amazing balance and precision - - they weave such disparate works into a cohesive whole and somehow make it all make "Sense."



Reges terrae (Music from the Time of Charles V)


De Manchicourt:  Reges terrae; Laudate Dominum; O Virgo virginum; Agnus Dei

De Morales:  Regina Caeli; Exaltata est sancta Dei Genitrix

Clemens: O magnum mysterium

Guerrero: Hei mihi, Domine

Gombert: Ego sum qui sum


Nordic Voices


Chandos – CHSA 5050 [2003/2005; 49 mins]


Of these five composers only one, Nicolas Gombert, is known to have been employed in the court chapel of Charles V, but together they represent the cream of sixteenth century music of this genre, and it is probable that many of the works would have been known to the Emperor.


The motets included in this CD are exceptionally opulent settings and range widely through the liturgical canon, with a piece drawn from the Matins for the Dead sandwiched between celebratory music for Christmas and Easter.


Nordic Voices are masterly exponents of this sort of thing.  Their performances live up to the music: sumptuous unaccompanied singing of the highest accuracy.  The majority of the latin words seem to have been conveniently air-brushed aside to produce a continuous stream of glorious sound perfectly contained by the acoustic of the Ringsaker Church.  The exceptions are a number of joyful alleluias, and the repeated “Noe” at the end of Clemens’
O magnum mysterium
which rings out like a spontaneous peal of bells – the best moment on this CD in my opinion.


Short measure again, but this recording should provide many hours of relaxed listening and no doubt many fans of Nordic Voices will wish to acquire it.


Serena Fenwick


Palestrina / Gesauldo / White / Victoria

Gesualdo: Responsorium II, Feria V in Coena Domini. Tristis est anima mea Responsories feria 6, No. 5 Tenebrae factae sunt

Palestrina: Lectio III, Feria V in Coena Domini. Iod – Manum suam misit hostis Lectio III, Sabbato Sancto. Incipit oratio Jeremiæ Prophetæ

: Lectio III, Sabbato Sancto. Incipit oratio Jeremiæ Prophetæ Lectio III, Feria VI in Passione Domini. Aleph – Ego vir videns paupertatem meam Lectio I, Sabbato Sancto. Heth – Misericordiæ Domini Lectio III, Feria V in Coena Domini. Iod – Manum suam misit hostis

, R: Lectio I and II, Feria V in Coena Domini. Heth – Peccatum peccavit Jerusalem

Nordic Voices
Tone E. Braaten, Ingrid Hanken, Ebba Rydh, Per Kristian Amundrød, Frank Havrøy, Trond Reinholdtsen

Chandos CHAN 0763 [69 mins]

Another riveting account of music I might often avoid and leave to specialists - and certainly to play so much lamentation straight through would be gloom beyond bearing... But these performances held my attention, and the notes nicely differentiate the settings of these same and similar texts by four very different composers.

I suspect that the experience of Nordic Voices in contemporary music has sharpened their skills, and the intonation for Gesualdo's angularities (large vocal leaps and chromatic harmony - Noel O'Regan) must have gained from working at Thoresen et al (see above). It also helps to have the less radical three composers together for comparison and to appreciate their contrasting approaches to word setting.

The production is thoughtful, as one expects from Chandos. Early music experts will tell us whether this new disc, to be released in September, is as special as I have found it. Frank Havrøy provides an essay to concentrate our minds upon the "unfathomable level of human depravity" continuous over 2500 years since Jeremiah's time, marked by the regularity of atrocity ever since. He cites recent examples from Tel Aviv, New York and Gaza, in a week during which compassion prevailed, controversially, for the Libyan prisoner convicted of the Lockerbie horror...

The sombre illustration which I have chosen reflects a mood of remembrance, more suitably than the all-smiling press photo on the back cover. Nordic Voices ask us to think of the innocent children caught up in these events every generation, and is donating part of their royalties from this CD to UNICEF.

Unlike Reges terrae, reviewed above, this is certainly not a disc for "relaxed listening"; so maybe you ought to buy both?

Peter Grahame Woolf

Photo: Guri Dahl