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Decca Phase 4
Maria - Medieval Songs and Swedish Traditional
E.A. KARLFELDT (1866-1931)
Jungfru Maria [3.09]
Sankt Göran och draken [5.43]; Shepherd’s tune [1.26]; Josef
kare, Josef min [1.49]; Kritsllen den fina [2.12]; Limu, limu,
Oswald Von WOLKENSTEIN (1377-1445)
Wer ist sie die da leuchet; Ave Mater, o Maria [3.46]
ANON ENGLISH c.1350
Angelus ad Virginem [1.22]; Edi beo thu [1.36]; Stond wel moder
under roode [6.07]
Jacques de CAMBRAI
Retrowange novella [3.41];
ALFONSO X of SPAIN c.1250
Rosa das Rosas; Como podem [2.59]
Leonel POWER (c.1375-1445)
Beata Progenies [2.15];
Pipe Improvisation on Du adela ros [1.18] ;
ANON SPAIN 14th Century
Stella Splendens [5.30]; Polorum Regina [4.21]
Jean GHISELIN (c.1455-1511)
O florens rosa [3.02]
Guillaume DUFAY (c.1400-1474)
Vergine Bella [3.20]
C.J.L. ALMQVIST (1793-1866)
Marias häpnad [0.41]; Den lyssnande Maria [1.17].
Helena Ek (soprano)
Göran Månsson (pipes, frame drum, string drum, hurdy-gurdy); Johannes Landgren
(organ); Marie-Louise Marming (medieval fiddle); Berit Lindberg (harp)
rec. 25-27 January 2006, Hemsjo Church, near Goteborg, Sweden.
pleasant disc, nicely conceived and well worth searching
disc is a pan-European mixture from all times and places,
of music in honour of the Virgin Mary. Some songs are Swedish,
but as can be seen above, not that many. Most are medieval,
but not all. Each is accompanied by differing instrumental
combinations and some are unaccompanied as with the first ‘Jungfrau
Maria’ which has the character of a folksong although written
less than one hundred years ago.
cult of the Virgin spread throughout medieval Europe beginning
at around the time of the Crusades, the men substituting
the women they left behind at home, with the ones they could
see. These were beautiful even sometimes erotic images in
glass and fresco in churches and abbeys. The Roman Catholic
Church still has a strong affection for the mother of Christ
with at least seven feast days dotted throughout the year.
booklet notes seem to be rather puzzlingly set out at first.
It’s one of those cardboard case jobs with its colourful
notes attached. Helena Ek opens with an explanation of what
she is attempting to achieve, then we have biographical notes
on the performers with photos, then the music is described
either giving its background or by quoting parts of the text
or by giving a sometimes rather unsatisfactory résumé of
them. The whole thing is then repeated in Swedish and then
Japanese. Delightful drawings and manuscript illustrations
of Madonnas with child are interspersed before we get the
complete texts in their original languages at the back of
the booklet but without translations.
Helena Ek are four musicians who play, to use a word that
is now somewhat passé, with authenticity; certainly they
show great imagination. The part played by Göran Månsson
is especially enjoyable. His pipes and evocative string drum
can be heard to good advantage in the French song ‘Retrowange
novelle’ - cleverly adapted in honour of the Virgin from
a prostitute’s street song. In her note Ek tells us how she
met Månsson and persuaded him to record with the group. The
choice of instruments is made to suit the country of origin
and the period in which it was written. It works most effectively.
Ek tackles the many languages used here with clarity and
true understanding but she does not attempt to alter the
colour of her voice dependent on style, period or country.
This makes for a somewhat bland effect.
each piece is given its own space and works effectively.
The unaccompanied poem ‘Stond wel moder under roode’ is a
prayer from the foot of the cross and is set to amazingly
passionate music. It is sung very movingly. Surely though,
the Catalan pilgrim songs ‘Stella Splendens’ and ‘Polorum
Regina’ are too slow, long and uninteresting. Just as surely
Dufay’s wonderful ‘Vergine Bella’ is too fast, necessitating
an unhappy tempo change for the final section.
items are purely instrumental. Especially attractive is the
Shepherd’s Tune from Sweden played as pipe solo. Another
approach is heard in the delicate Beata Progenies by one
of England’s greatest medieval composers Leonel Power which
is first heard instrumentally and then with the voice. It
should be emphasised that all of the performances have a
feeling of folksong about them, spontaneously reproduced.
Spontaneity is also in evidence in the other Netherlandish
piece by Ghiselin which is rhythmically quite complex. The
Wolkenstein pieces are like folk-tunes in themselves and
represent the rare, sacred side of his art.
recording in a lovely church acoustic is clear and well focused
with a hint of atmosphere. A final verdict: a pleasant disc,
nicely conceived and well worth searching out.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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