For all those who are unfamiliar with this kind of repertoire, there is much to enjoy in a programme which is both rare and uplifting. The disc opens with Lange-Müller's 'Three Madonna Songs, Op. 65' composed to texts by Thor Lange and premièred on February 19, 1900. This composition encapsulates all the elements of a sacred piece; solemnity, piety, supplication and a certain celestial serenity, which stirs the soul towards its heavenly mother. Moments of fervent inspiration are also part of this very short but telling musical prayer.
Emil Hartmann, the son of J.P.E., Hartmann was also attracted to the sacred genre and his 'Four Spiritual Songs' to texts by Thomas Kingo and N.F.S. Grundtvig are wonderful expressions of strophic form, romantic musical idiom and masterful harmony. The two evening hymns 'Now day takes its leave' and 'Time passes, day runs out' both by Königo are moving examples of man's journey along this earthly path, and of his spiritual resignation knowing that he is about to enter immortality. Grundtvig's 'Summer now bans Winter', and 'Become a child again through Jesus' wishes to convey the invitation for change and transformation from a life of iniquity to one of grace. Hartmann's music is perfectly attuned to all these diverse emotions alternating with both the nostalgic sadness and serene sweetness of the texts in exquisite fashion.
Lindberg's 'Four Spiritual Songs from Dalarma' were published in 1945 are all in minor keys and based on folk material. Their subjects cover a wide range of spiritual thinking, but in their simplicity and homely devotion they indeed have that unity that binds them all in one. 'Pingst' is, in contrast a monumental composition. In spite of its brevity, the chromatic content is very much in evidence and the Leventins text adds to that late romantic flavour which is the hallmark of most of Lindberg's pieces.
Grieg's 'Four Psalms' were composed in 1906, a year before his death to texts by Brorson, Thommism and Laurimus. It is baffling that Grieg, who considered himself a Unitarian, should turn to specifically Christian lyrics [with a strong reference to Jesus Christ] for some of his lost compositions, but in the composer's own words 'Everything is created for the good, and love never showed itself more complete than through Him that we are now about to celebrate'. And this is what the pieces are all about.
The Jysk Akademisk Choir under the direction of Søren Birch respond with some ethereal singing which is inspiringly luminous. Engineering and annotations are first rate, albeit no translations to the sung texts. This is a fascinating album of some truly memorable (though rare) choral works.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech