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Sigurd ISLANDSMOEN (1881-1964)
Requiem (1935-36) (Canto funebre; Introitus; Graduale; Dies irae; Kyrie eleison; Recordare; Preces meae; Confutatis; Oro supplex; Lacrymosa; Domine, Jesu Christe; Sanctus; Benedictus/Sanctus; Agnus Dei) [51:03]
Hilde Haraldsen Sveen (soprano)
Marianne Beate Kielland (alto)
Ulf Oien (tenor)
Trond Halstein Moe (bass)
Det Norski Solistkor
Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra/Terje Boye Hansen
rec. Kristiansand Cathedral, March 2006. Multichannel SACD
2L RECORDS 36 [51:03]

Before discovering this disc, Islandsmoen had been completely unknown to me. In fact, in addition to this Requiem, not performed until 1943, there are two symphonies, a Norsk Overture and an opera Gudrun Laugar. In addition he wrote major choral orchestral works, principally: Israel i fangenskap (Israel in Captivity) (1931), Heimat fra Babel (Home from Babel) (1934) and his final work of this type, the Missa Solemnis (1954).
The Requiem builds its thematic material on folk music from Valdres in Norway. The opening Canto Funebre for orchestra is aligned along the same axis as Brahms (Requiem) and Finzi. The music moves between contented and tormented. It radiates a ruddy folksy glow filtered through a serious classical fabric. Early Nielsen might be a good analogue for what we hear. The music is certainly in a conservative and approachable idiom. There are however moments where more modern works are recalled including - in the Kyrie Eleison - the ricocheting alleluias at the end of Hilding Rosenberg's Fourth Symphony Johannes Uppenbarelse. The fugal Confutatis rushes along with a fiery rhythmically biting urgency melting into a seraphic lento. This is echoed in the Oro supplex in which this particular alto sounds strained when singing pianissimo. This is in contrast to the secure tenor. The composer often reaches for a boisterousness that is part Handelian in its beefy sense of well-being. From that angle you might draw parallels with Havergal Brian's similarly steroidal grandiose Fourth Symphony. More forward looking is the final Agnus Dei which again keys into the calorie-rich melisma of Rosenberg's choral works.
Strange how this work dropped from the repertoire except when you recall that the eclipse of its tonal star came as the Darmstadt school rose to post-war ascendancy.
It is good to see the Islandsmoen Requiem again drawing attention. I hope that choral societies beyond Islandsmoen’s native Norway will want to tackle this work and that there will be revivals of the other works especially the symphonies. Nowhere near as dense as the Frank Martin Requiem nor as ecstatically florid as Howells this Requiem tracks a delightfully naive trajectory.
I reviewed this SACD on a standard CD player.
Rob Barnett


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