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North - accentus - Eric Ericson
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

1. Sydämeni laulu [2:11]
2. Rakastava [6:21] (soloists: Violaine Lucas, Rigoberto Marin-Polop)
3. Drömmarna [1:41]
4. Sortnut ääni [1:49]
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b.1928)

5. Och glädjen den dansar [2:49]
6. Sommernatten [3:01] (soloists: Nicolas kern, Solange Añorga, Violaine Lucas)
Toivo KUULA (1883-1918)

7. Auringon noustessa [4:05]
8. Siell’ on kauan jo kukkineet omenapuut [5:11]
9. Minun kultani kaunis on [1:16]
10. Tuuti lasta Tuonelahan [3:18]
11. Nuku [2:33]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)

Tre körvisor
12. September [2:01]
13. I Seraillets Have [2:01]
14. Havde jeg, o havde jeg en Dattersøn [1:14]
David WIKANDER (1884-1955)

15. Kung Liljekonvalje [3:29]
16. Förvårskväll [4:18]
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960)

17. Uti vår hage [2:17]
18. Aftonen [3:51]

1. Die erste Elegie [9:19]
(soloists: Caroline Chassany, Isabelle Dupuy-Pardoel, Claire Henry-Desbois, Solange Añorga, Anne-Marie Jacquin, Violaine Lucas)
Kurt NYSTEDT (b.1915)

2. O Crux [6:18]
Jorgen JERSILD (1913-2004)

3. Min Yndlingsdal [3:51]
Jan SANDSTRÖM (b.1954)

Två Körpoem
4. Anrop [2:56]
5. Två japanska landskap [4:51] (soloists: Claire Henry-Desbois, Kaoli Isshiki, Caroline Chassany)
Lars Johan WERLE (1926-2001)

6. Canzone 126 di Francesco Petrarca [10:22] (soloists: Kaoli Isshiki, Charlotte Baillot, Nicolas Maire, Alain Golven)
Choeur Accentus/Eric Ericson
rec. January 1999, Théâtre des Arts in Rouen, France (CD1, tracks 12-18, CD2, tracks 2-6); September 2001, L’Église Notre Dame du Liban in Paris, France (CD1, tracks 1-11, CD2, track 1)
NAÏVE V5037-2 [91:50]

A couple of years back, I heard and reviewed a double CD of choral music conducted by Eric Ericson, featuring two Swedish choirs. The recordings were quite old, but the results were a revelation. And here comes another master-class in choral conducting, this time with a modern digital recording, and with the superb French chamber choir Accentus.

The actual music, however, is all from Ericson’s home territory, being by either Finnish or Swedish composers. The sheer tonal range produced by the choir under Ericson is breathtaking, as is the beauty of their tone. There are many pieces here that were new to me, and which have simply bowled me over. The first track contains a meltingly lovely setting by Sibelius of a poem by Aleksis Kivi entitled Sydämeni laulu , "Song of my Heart", followed by Rakastava ("The Lover") with its fascinating, playful textures and folk-like melodies.

These Sibelius songs are as fine as one would expect from such a master. More of a discovery was the exquisite Sommernatten ("Summer Night") by Rautavaara, a composer I had hitherto associated only with instrumental music. The shifting harmonies and chant-like solos need total control from singers, and that is precisely what they get in this mesmerising performance. This is perhaps the place to congratulate the production team on capturing perfectly the sound of the choir, and achieving an exact balance between solo group and tutti.

The elfin magic of Sommernatten is followed, in a brilliant piece of programming, with Toivo Kuula’s sumptuous Auringon noustessa ("Sunrise"), where the sheer tonal beauty of this choir is once more displayed, together with their flawless ensemble and tuning in this richly harmonised music.

Wilhelm Stenhammar is represented by three choral pieces, including the haunting September, with its dark harmonies and soaring melody, and CD1 is completed with more fine music by Wikander and Alfvén - creator of that ‘Swedish Rhapsody’, but a much better composer than you might therefore think!

CD2 begins with another work by Rautavaara, this time a longer more complex work, Die erste Elegie ("The First Elegy"), a setting of a piece of somewhat impenetrable verse by Rilke. Nysted’s O crux which follows is a powerful meditation on the nature and meaning of the Cross, and occasions wonderful chording from the tenors and basses of Accentus. It does also reveal that the altos, though far from poor, are the most problematic area in the choir, their tone hardening unpleasantly in some loud passages, though it has to be said these are very few and far between. This is a moving and deeply felt piece.

The cooler, more objective approach of Sandström’s Anrop ("The Call") and Två japanska landskap ("Two Japanese landscapes") makes a welcome contrast. In these, one again marvels at the control this choir can exercise in order to project an unbroken, unvarying musical line. The final work, Werle’s Canzone 126 di Francesco Petrarca, is a fascinating work which is clearly - and appropriately given its text - influenced by 17th century Italian madrigalists, Monteverdi most obviously. It combines that influence, rather successfully I feel, with 20th century effects such as tonal clusters and choral speaking, whispering etc.

I’ll own up that I enjoyed CD1 more than CD2; but that tells you more about me than the music or its interpreters! Suffice it to say that this issue is a stunningly brilliant achievement for all concerned. In particular, it was an inspired move by this young professional choir to engage the services of Eric Ericson for this recording. He is the acknowledged master of Scandinavian choral compositions, one of the richest yet comparatively unknown seams of European music.

Gwyn Parry-Jones



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