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Ale MÖLLER (b.1955)/Hans EK (b.1964)
The Nordan Suite (1994?) [48:12]
Lena Willemark (vocals, fiddle, wooden whistle)
Ale Möller (flutes, mandola, cows-horn, shawm (skalmeja), accordion, wooden trumpet, hammered dulcimer, harmonica, kantele)
Rafael Sida Huizar (percussion)
Västerås Sinfonietta/Hans Ek
rec. Västerås Concert Hall, 2013
PROPHONE PCD-153 [48:12]

The Nordan Suite is a vivid sequence in fourteen movements (and tracks). The disc terms it a "Suite for Orchestra and Folk Music Soloists based on ancient Scandinavian myths, as preserved in three medieval ballads". As far as I can make out, this is the latest evolutionary iteration of what amounts to a Nordic folk legend cycle. It first broke the surface in recorded form in 1994 with two discs from the ever-original ECM Records. ECM's Manfred Eicher is cited in the very scanty documentation that comes with this Prophone CD. You also get a track-list with the sung words and a title or a very pithy line or two of explanation for each sung track. Also present and correct is a list of artists, credits and discographical essentials.

What's the music like? The presence of folk instruments alongside the orchestra and Lena Willemark's resinous voice lend an ancient or timeless flavour to what we hear. I have seen the disc categorised as a 'jazz suite' but I would reject that completely. It sits somewhere along the same bench as Shawn Davey's glorious Granuaile (Rita Connolly's voice is neglected bullion), Luciano Berio's Folksongs (Cathy Berberian taking the lead there), Robert Lamb's The Children of Lir (the Ferdy Mayne version on a 1960s Saga Psyche LP), Toss The Feathers by Dermit Crehan and Paul Honey and Vicente Pradal's El Divan del Tamarit, the third of Pradal's Lorca cycles. Anyone know of any kindred works to join this short list? I would be interested in hearing any work cognate with these.

The recording is forwardly balanced. The singing by the gifted Lena Willemark leans on folk examples. Operatic conventions would have been completely inappropriate. The words are Swedish and some are given in translation on the insert. Exciting rhythmic abrasion is at times the order of the day as in The Flight of the Swans. It's a sort of ethnic Nordic meets Petrushka. As for the opening track, it's is a gaudy and angry panoply like some ancient procession. The Maiden and the Magic Snake and Dance of the Snakes make good and obviously sinuous use of pipes, drums and groaning brass - the latter definitely reminiscent of Alan Hovhaness. The pipes return but with more of a Moroccan skirl in The Chase. Orcadian fiddle sounds shake their way through The Awakening. Willemark is heard in scorching nasal duet with Möller in Aglaria which is a stark bell-accompanied incantation to turn away enemies. The weird shouts, shrieks and groans of Herding Calls is followed by Willemark's way with The Blessing - part folksong and part spell. The Golden Harp has strangely Hispanic-Berber facets with sounds that might have made their way out of a Chieftains collection. The Suite ends with the liquid plangent Roses and Sage. It's the last chance to hear Willemark as, with harp and silvery bells, she deftly and peacefully lulls the listener towards vulnerable silence.

Rob Barnett

Track-List
Part 1
1 Introduction [1:58]
2 Flyg Över Land Och Sjö (Fly Over Land and Sea) [3:21]
3 Intermezzo 1: Svaneflykt (The Flight of the Swans) [4:22]
4 Vita Orm (The White Snake) [3:14]
5 Jungfrun Och Lindormen (The Maiden and the Magic Snake) [5:10]
6 Intermezzo 2: Jakten (The Chase) [2:28]
7 Uppvaknander (The Awakening) [2:57]

Part 2
8 Aglaria [2:01]
9 Vallåtar (Herding Calls) [2:53]
10 Välgångsönskan (The Blessing) [1:52]
11 Intermezzo 3: Ormdans (The Dance of the Snake) [2:56]
12 Gullharpan (The Golden Harp) [7:07]

Part 3
13 Epilogue [2:31]
14 Rosor Och Salivier (Roses and Sage) [5:11]

 

 




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