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Nordic Winter and Christmas Songs
Gitta-Maria Sjöberg (soprano)
Dorthe Zielke (trumpet); Tobias Durholm (violin); Lindy Rosborg (organ)
rec. Andreas Church, Copenhagen, Denmark, no date supplied
DANACORD DACOCD755 [64:54]

The advertising flyer for this CD explains that this is a wide-ranging selection of songs from the Nordic countries concerning the ‘long, cold and dark winter days or the magic of Christmas’. It further suggests that this is music to enjoy during the cosy ‘Yule’ — a lovely old word — season as well as the cold winter evenings. It certainly achieves its aim.

This wife and husband team present twenty-four songs from Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Faroes and Iceland. Soprano Gitta-Maria Sjöberg sings both opera and song. She has mastered widely ranging roles showcasing both the lyrical and the dramatic. Her recording of Verdi and Puccini arias was reviewed on MusicWeb International.

In 2000, she was voted ‘Singer of the Year’ by a leading German Düsseldorf newspaper for her role as Emilia Marty in Janacek’s The Makropulos Affair. Her interest in lieder and song extends to Scandinavian music: she has recently released a selection of original songs written by her husband (review).

The arrangements on this CD are all made by Matti Borg. He was trained as a composer and singer at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. His original compositions are extensive and include orchestral and chamber works, vocal and choral music as well as material for educational use. The present arrangements have been made to include violin, organ and trumpet which gives refreshing variety.

A glance at the track-listing reveals a few composers who are well-known, including Sibelius, Grieg and Adolphe Adam. This latter was the French composer of Giselle fame. The number presented here is a Swedish version of ‘O Holy Night’. Other songs include original material by Matti Borg, a setting of German folk music and a traditional Icelandic folk-song. I have never knowingly heard a piece of music from the Faroes before: Regin Dahl’s meditation on how ‘Winter brought coldness and snow’ is a lovely introduction to the islands’ music.

A translation of the song titles included in the track-listings would have been helpful, however there is an English ‘resumé’ of each of the songs prepared by the arranger. The cover of the CD could have been a wee bit more seasonal, nevertheless its title is ‘Morning in Winter’ so I guess that it is appropriate. I am old-fashioned but I half-expected frost or snow.

This is an attractive release that features a largely unknown repertoire, at least to listeners outside Scandinavia. It is beautifully arranged, exquisitely sung by Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, finely accompanied by the musicians and well-presented as a disc.

John France

Track listing
Denmark:
Matti BORG (b.1956) Juledag from ‘15 Christmas and Wintersong’s [2:30]; Vinterskoven [2:17]; Julestjernen [2:11]; Helligtrekongersaften [1:49]
Sweden:
Dala chorale: Den signade dag [2:37[]
German folk melody: När juldagsmorgon glimmer [2:02]
Gustaf NORDQUIST (1886-1949) Jul, jul, strålande jul [1:57]
Alice TEGNÉR (1864-1943) Betlehems Stjärna [3:46]
Denmark:
C. E. F. WEYSE (1774-1842) Velkommen igen Guds engle små [2:38]
Povl HAMBURGER (1901-1972) Der er ingenting i verden så stille som sne [3:10]
Th. AAGAARD (1877-1937) Sneflokke kommer vrimlende [1:26]
Matti BORG Hviler du min ven from Anderscenarier [2:13]
Sweden:
Ruben LILJEFORS (1871-1936) När det lider mot jul [3:00]
Emmy KÖHLER (1858-1925) Nu tändas tusen juleljus [1:54]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856) Jul-sång [6:48]
Matti BORG Vinternatt from 15 sånger til dikter av Gustaf Fröding [3:36]
Faroe Islands:
Regin DAHL (1918-2007) Veturin kom við kulda og kava [2:30]
Iceland:
Folksong: Sumri hallar [2:48]
Norway:
Per KNUDSEN (?) Jeg er så glad hver julekveld [1:38]
Trad. O Jul med din glede [2:38]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) No ser eg atter slike fjell og dalar [1:38]
Finland:
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957) Julvisa op.1 nr. 4 [1:38]; Demanten på Marssnön op.36 nr. 6 [2:38]
Armas MAASALO (1885-1960) Joulun kellot [2:47]