Nidaros Cathedral is in Trondheim. It is the oldest cathedral
in Norway. You may be familiar with the name from references
in Elgar's King Olaf. The cathedral choir was founded
in 1946, and is currently directed by Vivienne Sydnes who has
been in post since 2002. The choir numbers some forty people,
with adult female sopranos and altos; the cathedral also has
a boys’ choir and a girls’ choir. This disc showcases a number
of the choir's choral commissions from the last decade. It also
showcases the rather splendid acoustics of the cathedral, recorded
as an SACD.
The disc opens with a motet by Andrew Smith, a young composer
who was born in Liverpool but has been resident in Norway since
1984. The text has a Norwegian connection - Smith has taken
it from the office of St. Olav and his striking setting incorporates
his own Gregorian-influenced chant.
Henning Sommerro has worked a lot in musical theatre and film
production, writing music which is closer to folk music. For
his arrangement of the folk tune Med Jesus vil eg fara,
the choir improvise over Sommerro's setting, with the final
verse in notated four-part harmony; the result is quite traditional.
Ioannes was commissioned by Nidaro Cathedral Choir for
their 2006 tour of France. The work starts with repeat invocations
of the name Ioannes, in a vigorous repeated rhythm. The original
work was designed to have Gregorian chant sung by a French choir
and the composer revised the work in 2009 so that Nidaros Cathedral
Choir could perform the work alone.
Wolfgang Plagge is represented by two excerpts from Harmsol
a work commissioned in 2005 and first performed in Nidaros Cathedral
by three choirs positioned in different parts of the cathedral.
The work sets texts from the works of the medieval Icelandic
scald Gamli, mixed with text from the medieval Nidaros antiphonarium.
Solarkonge, the first excerpt, is limpidly beautiful,
and the second fragment, Enno vil eg nemna, more solidly
Odd Johann Overoye is associate professor at the Institute for
Music at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
in Trondheim. His Praise be to the Lord was commissioned
by Nidaros Cathedral Choir and first performed in 2008. Written
for double choir, the piece uses the English text from Psalm
28 with the Latin Benedictus dominus to create a brisk
Stale Kleiberg is also a professor at the Norwegian University.
His Requiem was written in memory of victims of Nazi
persecution and mixes the Latin requiem text with poems by the
Scottish poet Edwin Morgan. The two extracts here are Latin
mass movements and performed effectively a cappella, with just
doubling from the strings of Trondheim Soloists. The performance
left me curious to hear the full work, though I am not certain
that these two movements stand well on their own.
Torbjorn Dyrud's motet Du, med det skarpe sverd was commissioned
in 2006 for the centenary of the coronation of King Haakon VII
in Nidaros Cathedral. Its text is by Eyvind Skeie (born 1947)
and is in Norwegian. Dyrud uses improvisation in his compositions
and is the organist playing the the five organ improvisations
on the disc.
The folksong arrangement Eg veit I himmerik ei borg is
by Ludvig Nielsen who was cantor in Nidaros Cathedral from 1935
to 1976. In 1976 Per Fridjtov Bonsaksen took over the position
of cantor, a role he still holds. Herre, til deg jeg min
tilflukt was written for Pope John Paul II's historic visit
to Nidaros Cathedral in 1989 and the motet has been in the choir's
repertoire for the last twenty years.
The Prussian organ builder Joachim Wagner (1690–1749) built
an organ in Nidaros Cathedral in 1741. The organ was restored
and reconstructed in 1860 and then dismantled in 1930. In 1994
Jurgen Ahrend restored the organ and it is the one used on the
disc in the five extremely effective organ improvisations played
by Torbjorn Dyrud.
The performances on this disc are attractive and appealing.
The choir makes a lovely clear sound, with a fine characterful
blend which is shown off to great advantage in the cathedral
acoustic. Their repertoire is impressive in its range and their
performances are confident and vivid. The music is generally
tonal but there are plenty of tricky moments which are handled
neatly and accurately. On this showing, the choir is a fine
instrument indeed. The recording manages to convey something
of the fine acoustic in the church.
The CD booklet includes detailed notes about the composers and
the music, plenty of pictures of Nidaros Cathedral along with
texts in the original and English translation.
This disc is a superb showcase for Nidaros Cathedral Choir and
for their policy of commissioning new works. Anyone interested
in contemporary choral music should try it.
Andrew SMITH (b.1974) Lux
illuxit laetabunda (2004) [3.54]
Henning SOMMERRO (b.1952) Med
Jesus vil eg fara [3.37]; Ioannes (2006, rev
Torbjorn DYRUD (b.1974) Organ
Improvisation I (2); Organ Improvisation II (2);
Organ Improvisation III (2); Du, med det skarpe sverd
(2006) [5.28]; Organ Improvisation IV (2); Organ
Improvisation V (2)
(b.1960) Harmsol VII: Solarkonge (2005)
[2.00]; Harmsol XII: Enno vil eg nemna (2005)
Odd Johan OVEROYE (b.1961) Praise
be to the Lord (2008) [5.00]
Stale KLEIBERG (b.1958) Requiem
for the Victims of Nazi persecution (Kyrie, Agnus Dei) (2002)
Ludvig NIELSEN (1906-2001) Eg
veit I himmerik ei borg [5.45]
Per Fridtjov BONSAKSEN (b.1946)
Herr, til deg tar jeg min tillflukt (1989) [2.54]