Something Blue
Christiania Mannskor/Marius Skjølaas
rec. Ris Church, Oslo, Norway, March 2015 and August 2016

It is fitting that this disc begins with Rikard Nordraak’s Sang For Norge which is perhaps better known as Ja, vi elskerdette landet. This rose to fame as a Norwegian national song from its conception, becoming the national anthem in the early part of the twentieth century. It has a text provides by Nordraak’s cousin, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and was composed for the fiftieth anniversary of the Norwegian constitution in 1864. That said, in recent years, Ole Paus’ Mitt lille land has been used at some official functions. It is a beautifully crafted work; no wonder it is Nordraak’s best known work. It is an archetypal piece of romantic nationalism that sets the scene well for what is to follow, a celebration of Norway’s culture and landscape through song.

Of the other composers represented, many new to me, Edvard Grieg and Johan Halvorsen, need no introduction, although their choral music is often unjustly overlooked. The seven songs presented here by these two, are wonderful examples of their vocal art. Both men rise to the challenges presented by the text, and produce lovely settings. Halvorsen’s Veslemøy is particularly memorable.

Of the other composers and works Halfdan Kjerulf’s Brudefærden I Hardanger deserves a special mention, if only because it has a beautifully lilting refrain. It's a refrain that I have not been able to get out of my head ever since I first played this disc — a rather pleasing earworm.

Indeed, all of the songs presented here have a charm and beauty that should appeal to all fans of a cappella choral music. Listening to Paul Okkenhaug’s lullaby Voggevise for instance will have you smitten. This is one of the more modern tracks here, dating from the 1960s, but it is firmly based in the choral tradition of Rikard Nordraak’s Sang For Norge, as is Ludvig Irgens Jensen’s På Jorden Et Sted, another of the more modern composers who valued tradition.

This is a most attractive disc, one I have played repeatedly. The music is sufficient to recommend it but when you add the performance of the Christiania Mannskor, a relatively young choir - only founded in 2009 - this disc is a real winner. The Christiania Mannskor have the aim of the “revitalisation of men’s choir singing in Norway”. With performances as good as these, it is fair to say that the tradition is safe in their hands. They have a wonderful vocal intonation and clarity of diction that make it easy to follow the booklet text, something which is not always easy with Nordic choirs. Full texts with English translations are included with the informative notes, whilst the recorded sound is excellent.

Stuart Sillitoe

Rikard NORDRAAK (1842–1866)
1. Sang For Norge [8:12]
Alfred PAULSEN (1849–1936)
2. Naar Fjordene Blaaner [3:31]
Friedrich August REISSIGER (1809–1883)
3. Olav Trygvason [3:46]
Halfdan KJERULF (1815–1868)
4. Norges Fjelde [3:35]
5. Brudefærden I Hardanger [8:56]
Anonymous Arr: Ludvig Mathias LINDEMAN (1812-1887)
6. Norges Skaal [2:21]
Valter AAMODT (1902–1989)
7. No Reiser Kvelden Seg [3:52]
Edvard BRÆIN (1887–1957)
8. Serenade [1:22]
9. Halling [1:32]
10. Den Elskedes Nærhet (Dagfinn Andersen: soloist) [2:24]
Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
11. Aftenstemning [3:22]
12. Bjørneskytten [1:48]
13. Sangerhilsen [3:38]
14. Impromptu [2:11]
Johan HALVORSEN (1864–1935)
15. Endnu Et Streif Kun Af Sol [1:51]
16. Der Skreg En Fugl [1:11]
17. Veslemøy [3:26]
Paul OKKENHAUG (1908–75)
18. Voggevise [3:36]
19. Jeg Lægger Mig Så Trygt Til Ro [1:31]
20. Vuggesang [2:15]
Ludvig Irgens JENSEN (1894–1969)
21. På Jorden Et Sted [1:48]

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