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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Steindór ANDERSEN (b. 1954)
Rímur: a collection

Atlarímur I-III (Jón Sigurðsson, 1853-1922)
Epigrams (Jón S. Bergmann, 1874-1927)
Gunnarsrímur (Sigurður Breiðfjörð, 1798-1846)
Andrarímur (The Reverend Hannes Bjarnason, 1776-1838)
Epigrams (Bjarni Gíslason, 1880-1940)
Upptíningur (Herdís Andrésdóttur, 1858-1939)
Jómsvíkingarímur I (Breiðfjörð)
Lýsing af hesti (Sigurbjörn Jóhannsson frá Fótaskinni, 1839-1903)
Bernótusrímur (Magnús Jónsson í Magnússkóm, 1763-1840)
Haustið nálgast (Stefán frá Hvitadal, 1887-1933)
Númarímur I (Breiðfjörð)
Rammislagur (Stephan G. Stephansson, 1853-1927)
Göngu-Hrólfsrímur (Hjálmár Jónsson frá Bólu, 1796-1875)
Jómsvíkingarímur II (Breiðfjörð)
Lágnætti (Þorstein Erlingsson, 1858-1914)
Númarímur II (Breiðfjörð)
Steindór Andersen, voices
Monika, Irish harp
Recorded on location in Iceland by Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson.
NAXOS WORLD 76031-2 [55.06]

"Icelandic Viking Poetry Chanting" is how the avant electro-folk group Sigur Rós described Steindór Andersen's contribution to their 2001 collaboration and that is a pretty accurate representation of the sounds contained herein. The great Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson is the common thread linking Andersen and Sigur Rós, here he has recorded the singer in various Icelandic locations:- "Tracks 1 to 7 in the small confines of the traditional baðstofa, and the perspective was that of a member of the household listening in a typical evening wake situation", others inside a small turf church and the Salurinn Concert hall, with its "beautiful acoustics". Hilmar gives a detailed account of the recording process with the performer himself enlightens us to the history and development of rímur in a very readable but detailed fashion.

According to Anna M. Magnúsdóttir, rímur (plural of ríma) are "melodies sung to long narrative poems, characterised by irregular accents corresponding to changes in the underlying poetic metre". Like its Lydian mode dominated folk music, they are central to the Icelandic musical heritage and play a pivotal role in the music of the country's classical composers, such as Jón Leifs and Karl Runólfsson.On this inspired disc from Naxos World, Steindór Andersen proves to be an expert and genial guide. In their original settings rímur cycles can go on for hours so here we are treated to well chosen excerpts or "chapters" The subject matter ranges from "tales of ancient warriors, life's lessons, songs to the sea, and how to buy a horse!" and the composers dates span the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of the rímur are sung solo unaccompanied but in some Andersen's elemental voice is twinned with another chanter, a didgeridoo (that must be Hilmar's influence!) and an Irish harp. Unfortunately, the otherwise very detailed booklet does not give us much information about the additional performers or whether Andersen himself or indeed Hilmarsson sang or played the accompaniments. On the turf church recordings, he is occasionally accompanied by the howling wind outside, its haunting sound fitting the subject matter being sung about. It is perhaps an indication of my own musical preoccupations that I found the harp pieces particularly affecting but I also found some kinship within the more sparse pieces with the glorious sean-nos Irish singing tradition. However, the Celtic muse is generally a little less abrasive and more soft-focussed than the rímur tend to be, the latter measuring up well to the Nordic characteristics the aforementioned Leifs tried to create in his own music, namely "laconic, stoic, objective, stern, usually sober and serious, but given to occasional outbursts of harsh and sardonic humour".

This is a wonderful introduction to a virtually unknown genre outside its native land and should be of interest to anyone interested in Nordic/Celtic folk music or the wider musical traditions, classical included, of northern Europe. Recommended for serious listening but not as background music, "Adiemus" it isn't!

Neil Horner

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