Andrew SMITH
(b.1974) Lux illuxit laetabunda (2004) [3.54]
Henning SOMMERRO (b.1952) Med Jesus vil eg fara [3.37]; Ioannes (2006, rev 2009) [9.31]
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)
Wolfgang PLAGGE (b.1960) Harmsol VII: Solarkonge (2005) [2.00]; Harmsol XII: Enno vil eg nemna (2005) [5.45]
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) [7.10] (1)
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]
Trondheim Soloists (1); Torbjorn Dyrud (organ) (2); Nidaros Cathedral Choir/Vivianne Sydnes
rec. Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway, 6-10 March, 8-10 May and 17 September 2009
2L72 2L-072-SACD [61.10]

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 homophonic.

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 fanfare-like piece.

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.

Robert Hugill

A superb showcase. Anyone interested in contemporary choral music should try it.