Til Jomfru Maria - Songs to our Lady
SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Ave Maria [2.57]
SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ave Maria (1825) [6.27]
GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria (1859) [3.02]
Léon BOËLLMANN (1862-1897)
Prière à Notre Dame from Suite Gothique (for organ) (1895) [4.29]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Maria from Wiegenlied Op. 76 (1912) [2.42]
PURCELL (1659-1695)
The Blessed Virgin’s Expostulation (1695) [7.37]
HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Pietá and Stillung Maria mit dem auferstandenen fra from Das Marienleben Op. 27
LANGGAARD (1893-1952)
Mariae bebudelse BVN262 (for organ) [1.43]
Hildegard of BINGEN (1098-1179)
Quia ergo [1.39]
VERDI (1813-1901)
Ave Maria – text by Dante (1880) [4.58]
Ave Maria from Otello (1887) [4.05]
FRANCK (1822-1890)
Ave Maria (1863) [3.06]
FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Ave Maria Op 67 (1895) [5.54]
Heinrich MARSCHNER (1795-1861)
Ave Maria Op 115 (1842) [5.54]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)
Meine Seel’erhebt den Herren BWV 648 for organ [2.07]
BRUCKNER (1824-1896)
Ave Maria (1882) [4.11]
Bo GUNGE (b.1964)
Stabat Mater (2009) (b.1964) [6.30]
WAGNER (1813-1883)
Allmächt’ge Jungfrau from Tannhäuser (1845) [6.33]
rec. Ribe Cathedral, Denmark, October 2009. DDD
rec. Ribe Cathedral, Denmark, October 2009. DDD

When this CD first plopped onto my doormat I assumed that the music on it was medieval or renaissance. After all that was when the Virgin Mary had so much music and poetry written in her honour. It’s interesting how the veneration of the Mother of Christ has been a constant in the spiritual world right from the early middle Ages if not even earlier.

The composers represented here range from Hildegard of Bingen, who is medieval of course, to Purcell c.1690 and then ending up with a name new to me, Bo Gunge in a setting from 2009. So we have a wide range of styles and approaches to praise in honour of the holy mother of God who for so many is and has been a lifelong inspiration. If I had needed confirmation it came to me one warm October evening whilst listening to this CD in the Canaries. The streets were crammed with a procession all around the small town of Agüimes as the men held up a huge yellow statute of the virgin which had been on display all day in the church. It was the Feast of the Lady of the Rosary.

Several of the composers represented were probably quite religious and several were Catholic, for example Verdi and Bruckner, but a strong emotion towards the Holy Mother is still to be found in Protestants or even agnostics. The CD has an international flavour therefore and, as these are Danish performers for the Danacord label, Danish Music is quite rightly represented in the shape of an organ work by that arch-eccentric Rude Langgaard who was organist at Ribe Cathedral. There’s also an organ work by Bo Gunge who is an organist of that city and whose moving Stabat Mater is quite a highlight. The recording was made in the cathedral and therefore the organ one hears is the one Langgaard played.

The CD offers us songs for soprano accompanied by organ interspersed with three organ solos by Boëllmann, Langgaard and Bach and one unaccompanied vocal piece (the Hildegard). It goes without saying that some items come off more successfully than others. The successes include the two Hindemith settings from his ‘Marienleben’, the César Franck ‘Ave Maria’ as well as the Gunge. The Marschner is, by the way, quite a find. As for the rest I have in my own collection better versions of most of them and this is why. The Purcell is spoilt by slightly odd English pronunciation and, as also in the Hildegard, by a lack of real stylistic understanding reflected in what I hear as some lack in suitable shaping of phrases and in contrasting dynamic levels. There are also examples of ‘scooping’ as its sometimes called between upper and lower registers. In the Schubert, Verdi, Reger and other pieces there’s too much vibrato where obviously some is appropriate but not as often as is the case here. In addition there are several pieces where the balance between the two musicians is not that brilliant. The organ accompaniments however are beautifully and sensitively handled as are the solo items.

For these reasons it is quite difficult to recommend this CD unless you are attracted by this particular combination of songs and drawn to the whole, clever concept of this CD.

All texts are given in the original, in English (excellently translated by Merete Wendler) and in Danish. There are excellent notes on the pieces and on the composers. Performer profiles are supplied and the two musicians are pictured in a rather lovey-dovey manner both on the cover and on the disc itself.

Gary Higginson

For these reasons it is quite difficult to recommend this CD unless you are attracted by this particular combination of songs and drawn to the whole, clever concept of this CD.