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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


RECORDING OF THE MONTH

Icelandic Spring Poem
Thorkell SIGURBJARNSSON / Hannes PETURSSON Beginning
Jon THORARINSSON / Bjarni GISSURARSON Poem to the Sun
Hildigunnur RUNARSDOTTIR / Hildigunnur HALLDORSDOTTIR Summer Rain Sings Out (soloist: Hallveig Runarsdottir)
Snorri Sigfus BIRGISSON / Pall VIDALIN Amor
Hrodmar Ingi SIGURBJORNSSON / Jonas HALLGRIMSSON Ah, Who Mourns an Icelander
Hrodmar Ingi SIGURBJORNSSON / Jonas HALLGRIMSSON Jouney's End
Jon ASGEIRSSON Verses from Viglund's Saga
Hjalmar Helgi RAGNARSSON / Stefan Hordur GRIMSSON April Night Song
Jon NORDAL / ANAKREON / Sigurdur NORDAL The Dark Earth Drinks
Jon NORDAL / Snorri HJARTARSON Autumn
Jon NORDAL / Snorri HJARTARSON Silence
Jon NORDAL / Snorri HJARTARSON Spring
Jon NORDAL / Jon ASKAR Icelandic Spring Poem (percussion: Eggert Palsson)
Atli Heimir SVEINSSON Meditation II
Thorkell SIGURBJORNSSON Ek wiwar / Runic inscription
Thorkell SIGURBJORNSSON / Thorgeir SVEINBJARNARSON Ready to Leave
Thorkell SIGURBJORNSSON / TRADITIONAL Old Upbringing
Mist THORKELSDOTTIR / Thorsteinn VALDIMARSSON Gryla's Motley Crew
Karolina EIRIKSDOTTIR / Sigurdur PALSSON Wild Youth
Karolina EIRIKSDOTTIR / Vilborg DAGBJARTSDOTTIR Winter
Hildigunnur RUNARSDOTTIR / Hildigunnur HALLDORSDOTTIR Sleepless Night (soloist: Olafur Runarsson)
Snorri Sigfus BIRGISSON / Gomul baen - Sleep Now My Darling
Thorkell SIGURBJORNSSON / Sigurbjorn EINARSSON Now the Sun Sinks in the Sea
Hallveig Runarsdottir (soprano), Olafur Runarsson (baritone), Eggert Palsson (percussion)
Hamrahlid College Choir/Thorgerdur Ingolfsdottir
Recorded 1994 to 1999 at various venues in Iceland DDD
SMEKKLEYSA SMK22 [73:24]


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AVAILABILITY

http://www.mic.is/english/index.htm

http://notendur.centrum.is/~ssb/distribution.htm

 

This is a haunting disc. The prospect of 73 minutes of short pieces for unaccompanied choir was not superficially appealing. How wrong I was. The Hamrahlid College choir is extraordinarily fine. Perhaps the most striking thing being their uncannily accurate intonation in many very difficult pieces. They do not go for easy options in repertoire as can be seen above. Some of the music is very powerful indeed despite its brevity. Take for example The Dark Earth Drinks by Nordal, written in 1986. It is only 4 minutes long but knocks one sideways with its astringency and drama. Summer Rain Sings Out by Hildigunnur Runarsdottir has a haunting solo, beautifully sung here by the composerís sister, Hallveig. Towards the end of the recital her chorus Sleepless Night features another sibling as soloist, the composerís brother Olafur. Birgissonís Amor has rhythmic drive, April Night Song by Ragnarsson is another piece I would characterise as astringent, but in this case atmospheric rather than dramatic. There are 21 items on the disc and each invites the closest attention.

The CD is beautifully recorded in the stunningly clean acoustics of various Icelandic churches. The only criticism I have is that a very faint hum can be heard on some tracks, as if the organ pump had been left on. This does not detract from a real "must have" disc. The gatefold sleeve has a panoramic view of some typically wild Icelandic landscape, the notes are very detailed and include all the words. Recordings from the Icelandic Music Information Centre are reasonably easy to get but not always quick. See their website at http://www.mic.is/english/index.htm where they admit that this is due to having just 1.5 members of staff! I would advise persistence. This disc has the potential to be another of those unexpected hits, like the Abbess Hildegaard recordings were for the late Ted Perry and Hyperion. See also http://notendur.centrum.is/~ssb/distribution.htm . I should point out that the company name Smekkleysa means Bad Taste in Icelandic and for this you might find your browser alerting you prior to linking, mine did! Finally can I apologise to Icelandic speakers who will notice a complete lack of diacritics in the names listed at the top.


Dave Billinge

 



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