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De Profundis - Sacred Music for Male Choir
Trad., arr. Gunnar Idenstam
Oh Kristus valgus oled sa [5:26]
Cyrillus KREEK (1889-1962)
Taaveti Laul Nr. 137 (Psalm 137) [6:13]
René EESPERE (b.1953)
Glorificatio* [7:02]
Andres LEMBA (b.1968)
Gloria [2:49]
August SÖDERMAN (1832-1876)
Kyrie* and Domine [4:50]
Sven-David SANDSTRÖM (b.1942)
Sanctus [4:53]
György ORBÁN (b.1947)
Daemon irrepit callidus [1:41]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Ave maris stella [3:21]
Nils-Eric FOUGSTEDT (1910-1961)
Nattlig Madonna [1:58]
Franz Xaver BIEBL (1906-2001)
Ave Maria (Angelus Domini) [5:44]
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)
Psaume 121 [3:03]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Pregheria [3:16]
Bob CHILCOTT (b.1955)
Newton’s Amazing Grace [5:39]
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991)
Praise the Lord (Psalm 150) [3:57]
Arvo PÄRT (b.1935)
De profundis** [6:23]
*Elin Rombo (soprano)
**Magnus Einarsson (percussion)
Andrew Canning (organ)
Orphei Drängar/Cecilia Rydinger Alin
rec. February 2013, Bälinge kyrka, Uppsala, Sweden
BIS-SACD-2053 [66:22]

I’m not a big choral music person. I don’t know the first thing about it. Actually, that’s not true: the first thing about it is that people sing. There are a few more factoids that have made their way into my brain. The most important is that sometimes choral music sounds very good.
The samples for this disc sounded very, very good indeed. So I took the plunge and yes indeed was hooked from the very first track. Gunnar Idenstam has overlaid a traditional Estonian hymn with a funky organ passacaglia that sounds straight from 1970s fusion jazz. The result is a delight which I can only describe as “kick-ass”. Apologies that that’s not typical reviewer-speak. On the other hand, the track-five minutes of continuous hymnal crescendo over the organ’s groovy figure-just plain kicks butt.
There are so many highlights I can hardly keep them straight. Rossini, Grieg, and Milhaud show up at their very best, and Cyrillus Kreek, a 20th century Estonian composer, evokes the plaintive harmonies of centuries earlier. The work was written under occupation in 1944. Andres Lemba’s rapid-fire “Gloria”, where voices speak over each other at conversation speed - here’s my lack of expertise coming through- is a buoyant miniature executed with consummate skill. The Hungarian György Orbán, captivated by some verse about the Devil’s trickery, has built a quick-moving work strongly reminiscent of mature Janacek - think of his choral masterpiece The 70,000. Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” is so beautiful, so generous to the ear, that its author must be my favourite musician whose last name starts with “Bieb”.
Bob Chilcott’s Newton’s Amazing Grace is one of two English-language selections, and maybe it’s because I understood the words but I detected some weakness here. Chilcott leans on lots of accompanying vocals like “hum hum” and “ha ha”, but more worryingly, he observes line breaks in ways that bend the meanings of the sentences. Some of these are probably deliberate “I skippered ships that did more than bruise [long pause] the face of the Atlantic.” That’s an unsubtle allusion to the slave trade which will be explicitly mentioned later in the verse.
There you have it the only thing I can complain about with this fabulous CD. Orphei Drängar is a 160-year-old choir with a warm sound and a seeming inability to ever sound ugly, no matter the language they’re singing. Cecilia Rydinger Alin proves an expert hand in conducting all this little-known music. Recorded sound, in a church is quite simply flawless. The booklet notes include all the sung texts and English translations. Even a clueless choral music neophyte like me is alternately thrilled by and in awe of the music on this disc. Narrowing down my Recording of the Year list just got a lot harder.
My review copy was downloaded via eClassical in fabulous sound, and came with a PDF of the booklet.
Brian Reinhart