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Som den gylne sol frembryter
Kvindelige Studenters Sangforening (The Women’s Choral Society of the University of Oslo)/Marit Tøndel Bodsberg Weyde
rec. 2016, Ris Church, Oslo
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
LAWO LWC1144 [58:14]

In 1895, only eleven years after women were admitted as students to the university, three medical students founded a university choir for women, titled Kvindelige Studenters Sangforening – KSS (in English, the Women’s Choral Society of the University of Oslo). This was in fact the first academic choir for women in the world. It rapidly became an essential part of the musical life, not only of the university but of the city at large, and they have frequently appeared in official situations of importance, for instance as musical introduction to Crown Prince Olav’s radio address on 17 May 1945 and in the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952.

The present disc partly looks back insofar as the arrangements span over one hundred years and some previous conductors of the choir are represented. But a lot of the contents is also contemporary or near-contemporary. The main thread is folk music, either ‘genuin’ or with folk music inspiration. Theodor Caspari’s poem Norge, mit Norge! was first published in 1901, six years after KSS was founded and a decade later Alfred Paulsen, who studied with Grieg, set it to music. Originally written for male choir, it has since the outset been part of KSS’s repertoire. It is a brilliant example of national romantic music with a melody that sticks. The singing is fresh, assured with a homogenous choral sound and the soprano soloist sings beautifully. Throughout the disc there are excellent soloists, it actually seems that the choir is made up of soloists. And it is a large body. Around 75 singers are listed in the booklet.

No less than three soloists appear in the next piece, Vøtranotte (The Winter’s Night), which is a lullaby from the province of Hardanger. The melody is carried by the soloists, while the choir creates a carpet of sounds in the background.

I haven da Marie Kaltenborn var død (In the Garden When Marie Kaltenborn Was Dead) a poem by 19th century Camilla Collett has been set by Trine Franksdatter in 2015 for the choir’s 120th Anniversary, while Bruremarsj fra Lødingen (Wedding March), was arranged for KSS the next year by Idunn Vindspoll Arnesen. A very attractive folktune, sung wordless. One marvels at the assured singing.

Sparre Olsen, one of the most important Norwegian 20th century composers, but largely unknown outside Norway, composed Såg du mit land (Did You See My Land) in 1955, a song that has become part of the national treasure of song. In spite of being a student of both Schönberg and Hindemith he is mainly a follower of Grieg. This is still basically national romantic music – and truly beautiful.

The following three numbers are examples of border-crossing. Norway and Sweden have been closely related – they were even in a union for almost a century – and there are similarities between the folk music. I denna ljuva sommartid (In This Delightful Summertime) is a choral melody from Malung in Western Dalecarlia, not far from the Norwegian border, and Brudmarsch från Jämtland – another wedding march – is from further up north. It is also wordless – traditionally the music for the wedding rituals was played by one or more fiddlers.

The German composer Conradin Kreutzer is the odd bird in this company. In the early 19th century he was a popular opera composer, but today he is largely forgotten. Opera buffs may know his opera from 1834, Das Nachtlager in Granada, where there is an aria that can be heard from time to time: Ein Schütz' bin ich, in des Regenten Sold, and there is also a complete recording with Hermann Prey. The origin of Studentersang (Student Song) is uncertain; he wrote part-songs for men’s voices and this could be one of those. The text is however, genuinely Norwegian, by Andreas Munch, and the arrangement was made for KSS by Per Winge around 1920. Winge was the third conductor of KSS from 1912 to 1928. The song is suitably hearty.

Kornet har sin vila (The Grain Rests Deeply) is an interesting mix: a French folk melody with a Swedish text sung by a Norwegian choir. The arrangement, written by Mette Østby Kamperhaug for KSS, is from 2013.

The last of the three wedding marches is newly composed (2004) and arranged in 2016 for KSS by Idunn Vindspoll Arnesen, like the previous marches. The style is olden but the arranger doesn’t fight shy of some harsh harmonies. The title song, Som den gylne sol frembryter (As the Golden Sun Emerges), is a folk tune, arranged by Henrik Ødegaard, born 1955 and one of the foremost present day choral composers. The text is by Thomas Kingo (1634 – 1703), a Danish priest who became Bishop of Odense. Sigurd Islandsmoen composed Det lysnet i skogen (Dawn Rose in the Woods) in 1902 but not until ten years later when it was arranged for choir did it become popular – and still is. No wonder – it is simple and beautiful.

Halfdan Kjerulf was a generation earlier than Grieg. He studied with Gade in Copenhagen and with Mendelssohn in Leipzig. He is best known for his circa one hundred solo songs. Over de høje Fjelde (Over the Lofty Mountains) is a setting of Bjørnson, and it was arranged for KSS by Emil Nielsen in 1930. Nielsen took over after Per Winge as conductor in 1929. This song is a kind of signature number for KSS.

C E F Weyse was born in Germany but was sent to Copenhagen when he was fifteen and stayed there for the rest of his life. He was an early symphonist and wrote seven symphonies. Constanze, Mozart’s widow, who lived in Copenhagen for some time, counted him as an equal to Wolfgang Amadeus. But today he is first and foremost famous for his vocal works. In 1826 he set Grundtvig’s text Den signede dag (The Blessed Day) but in Norway the melody is applied to Elias Blix’s Gud signe vårt dyre fedreland (God Bless Our Precious Fatherland). The arrangement is by today’s conductor of KSS, Marit Tøndel Bodsberg Weyde.

A hymn by the Danish priest Hans Adolph Brorson (1694 – 1764) brings this programme to a fascinating end: Se, hvor klarner det nu opp på Jorden (Behold Now How the Earth Is Clearing). The tune from Vardal in Norway was arranged by Henrik Ødegaard, and contemporary it is but still accessible. Women’s choirs on disc is not that common, the repertoire is mixed and attractive and the singing is truly great. I will certainly return to this disc often.

Göran Forsling

Alfred PAULSEN (1849 – 1936)
1. Norge, mit Norge! [2:37]
2. Vøtranotte [3:34]
Trine FRANKSDATTER (b. 1990)
3. I haven da Marie Kaltenborn var død [5:56]
4. Bruremarsj fra Lødingen [3:27]
Carl Gustav SPARRE OLSEN (1903 – 1984)
5. Såg du mitt land [3:27]
6. I denna ljuva sommartid [5:00]
7. Brudmarsch från Jämtland [3:31]
Conradin KREUTZER (1780 – 1849)
8. Studentersang [1:45]
9. Kornet har sin vila [4:54]
Joachim KNOPH (b. 1979)
10. Bruremarsj [3:33]
11. Som den gylne sol frembryter [4:52]
Sigurd ISLANDSMOEN (1881 – 1964)
12. Det lysnet i skogen [3:54]
Halfdan KJERULF (1815 – 1868)
13. Over de høje Fjelde [3:46]
Christoph Ernst Friedrich WEYSE (1774 – 1842)
14. Gud signe vårt dyre fedreland [3:09]
15. Se, hvor klarner det nu opp på jorden [4:41]

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