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CD: MDT AmazonUK
BIS Downloads available from

Peter Mattei – A Kaleidoscope
Full track listing at end of review
Peter Mattei (baritone)
Bengt Forsberg, Andrew Canning, Mattias Wager (organ), Love Derwinger, Roland Pöntinen, Folke Alin (piano)
Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, Allmänna Sången, Uppsala Musikklasser/David Anstey, Orphei Drängar/Robert Sund, St.Jacob’s Chamber Choir/Gary Graden
Malmö SO/Paavo Järvi
Texts and English translations included.
rec. 1991-2006. DDD
BIS-CD-1954 [76:50]

Experience Classicsonline
Kaleidoscopes are often made with pieces of multicolored broken glass. In the case of this Kaleidoscope, the glass chips come from other BIS recordings with the baritone Peter Mattei: Christmas Music (BIS-CD-533), Stenhammar: Piano Concerto No.1 etc. (BIS-CD-550), Duruflé: Requiem (BIS-CD-602), Orff: Carmina Burana (BIS-CD-734), Bereden väg – Christmas Songs (BIS-NL-CD-5007) and Sounds of Sund (BIS-CD-5030). There are no new tracks here, and the best way to consume this album is to treat it as a sampler - a taster plate. Otherwise the collection would make no sense: it is too dispersed, from the most sacred to the most profane. The structure of the program is symmetrical, and goes in concentric circles, like the annual rings of a tree. It starts and ends with Latin excerpts from large works (Orff and Duruflé). In the next circle we see Christmas music. Oddly, Adam’s O Holy Night appears on both sides of the “annual ring”, once in French and once in Swedish, and so do The Three Kings by Cornelius – once in German and once in Swedish. The innermost circle is dedicated to secular songs of love and joy.

While the composition of the disc might seem odd, all parts have one thing in common: the magnificent baritone of Peter Mattei. His voice is very special indeed: very young-sounding, conveying the feeling of strength, resonantly ringing, smooth, never wobbly or too reverberant. Listening to him makes me want to buy all those original discs at once: so rare are both his instrument and his skill with it.

The disc opens with several excerpts from the piano-and-percussion reduction of Carmina Burana. I feel that some dimensions were lost in the projection. But even if we agree that the reduction of forces is an interesting experiment, and some loss of colors must be expected – still, there is something incongruous about this reading. This Carmina Burana is too operatic, too beautifully sung. You won’t laugh at this abbot from Cockaigne, but you’ll admire his singing: he sings too well to be drunk! The weary wisdom that Mattei expresses in Omnia sol temperat also comes as a surprise. On the other hand, Estuans interius is very powerful. In the closing (here) Tempus est iocundum, Mattei colors his voice with lustful glee, yet never overdoes it. Probably the last epithet one could ever apply to Carmina Burana is “elegant”, but this performance is elegant. A strange feeling, indeed!

The Christmas selections are mostly choral. Adam’s O Holy Night is deeply felt and powerful. Both versions follow the same arrangement, with a buttery murmuring organ. From the hushed start the music expands in space, reaching spectacular cosmic heights. Cornelius’ Three Kings are carol-like, warm and solemn, over an a capella background. Wennerberg’s Psalm 24 is jubilant and spiky, Mattei’s voice is vibrant, the chorus and the organ are energetic and sharp.

Earthly Love is the next theme. Stenhammar’s Florez and Blanzeflor is a large lyrical poem for voice and orchestra, made of soft Romantic fabric. Some its pages are jubilant, some are sad, but most are warm and tender. Nu har jag fått den jag vill ha (Now That I’ve Got the One I Want) by Olle Adolphson is a sad song about the love that faded. It stirs deep emotions. In Londonderry Air, the love still blossoms, and is full of awe, adoration, and serenity. All the joy and happiness of a meeting after a long separation with a loved one are expressed in another Adolphson song, Nu är det gott att leva (Now is the Time for Living). Its sparkling, swashbuckling waltz rocks like a happy swing. Helgdagskväll i timmerkojan (Evening in the Logging Camp) is another hearty waltz – or, rather, a Ländler. It sings the joys of camping in the wild with friends – and, I guess, with some good beer as well!

We are back to the Christmas theme with Giv mig ej glans (Give Me No Splendour) by Sibelius. It is a simple song, as warm and cozy as a quiet evening near a fireplace. The song by Liljefors is of similar mood and stature, tranquil and solemn. Härlig är jorden is purely choral; Mattei is not there at all. I don’t know why they decided to include this track, but it is beautifully sung by the children from Uppsala Musikklasser. It belongs to the family of “sweetened” Christmas songs, and throws an arch towards Londonderry Air.

The disc ends on the watercolor clouds of Maurice Duruflé. The excerpt from the Requiem has a spicy oriental flavor. It is static and transparent. The two parts from the Mass are orange-hued and vibrant. The reading is unhurried and genial.

So, my advice is – choose the theme that speaks the most to you personally, and buy the related disc(s) separately. It will be worth it. When people speak about great singers, they almost surely think about sopranos and tenors. Peter Mattei is a proof that there are marvels and wonders below the high C. The contribution of all choirs is excellent, but I especially want to praise the exemplary singing of the Orphei Drängar: very precise, very clear, and very expressive. The choral arrangements of the “middle numbers” by Robert Sund are diverse and attractive. The liner-note does not really say much, though it does it in English, Swedish, German and French. The Carmina Burana texts are only in English - no Latin, for some weird copyright reason. Other lyrics are in the original languages with English translations. And I don’t need to mention the excellent recording quality: it’s BIS.

Oleg Ledeniov

Full track listing:

Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
From Carmina Burana (version for piano and percussion by Wilhelm Killmayer), Nos.4, 11, 13, 16, 18, 19, 22 [14:50]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)
Cantique de Noël [4:16]
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)
Die Könige [2:12]
Gunnar WENNERBERG (1817-1901)
Psalm 24 (Gören portarna höga) [2:52]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)
Florez och Blanzeflor, Op.3 (Ballad for baritone and orchestra) [8:19]
Olle ADOLPHSON (1934-2004)
Nu har jag fått den jag vill ha [3:08]
Londonderry Air [3:27]
Nu är det gott att leva [3:33]
Sven SCHOLANDER (1860-1936)
Helgdagskväll i timmerkojan [3:47]
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Giv mig ej glans [3:39]
Tre kungar [2:40]
Ruben LILJEFORS (1871-1936)
När det lider mot jul [2:48]
Härlig är jorden [2:37]
Adolphe ADAM
Julsång [4:43]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1947)
Hostias et preces from Requiem Op.9, version for choir and organ [3:37]
Gloria and Benedictus from Missa cum jubilo Op.11, for unison male choir and organ [7:53]






























































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