"From all the tones,
Regards are sent by Björnsen and by Grieg.
Give it wings, let it go!
Norwegian music! Norwegian music!"
So ends Impromptu, track 6 of this delightful
and unusual disc. Singphoniker are new to me, but I have immediately
become a firm fan! There are five voices – two tenors, a baritone, a
bass baritone and a bass, and, even to those of us brought up on the
Kings Singers and Swingle 2, they sing with astonishing ensemble and
perfection of tuning.
The composer is Grieg here, and it is great to see
that he is beginning to receive full recognition now for his genius.
While he used to be a ‘two-work-wonder’, with his reputation based more
or less entirely on the Piano Concerto and the Peer Gynt music,
almost every month there seem to be new issues exploring the lengths
and depths of his output. These part-songs for male voices are quite
wonderful pieces, hovering stylistically somewhere between Schubert
and barber-shop, and if that sounds like curry-flavoured ice-cream,
I assure you it’s much, much nicer than that! There is humour,
romance, and above all, a wonderful sense of narrative, which Singphoniker
bring to life superbly and, apparently, without effort. Melody was
one of Grieg’s strong points, as was harmony, and the singers impeccable
intonation allows the scrumptious chromatic harmonies to be experienced
at their most expressive. Listen to the tonal side-slips of track 3,
Evening Mood – it’s music to make you shiver with pleasure, and
so perfectly done here.
Some of the songs are individual compositions, but
the disc also includes the complete Album for Male Chorus, op. 30,
which has twelve individual songs of great beauty. The two Hallings
('Halling' being a Norwegian dance) are wordless, and sung to nonsense
syllables, bringing welcome contrast. Possibly my favourite of all was
the Children’s Song on track 8, with its miaowing cat and drum
The recording is ideal – close but not up their noses,
while the booklet is informative, and includes all the texts with translations
laid out in such a way to make them easily referred to. Thank-you to
CPO for an imaginative and highly entertaining issue, with music-making
of the highest quality.