Notes and Editorial Reviews
TEN YEARS GRADUALE NOBILI
Jón Stephánsson, cond; Graduale nobili
SMEKKLEYSA SMK77 (54:57
Text and Translation)
One can hardly assert that the music of Iceland, of any period, is much known. I suppose it would be hard even to name an Icelandic composer other than Jón Leifs and, perhaps, recently in these pages, Hafli?i Hallgrímsson and, say, one other (apart from Björk). Yet, there is much of musical interest on that island, not least in its choral music.
The music on this disc is mostly recently composed, as near as I can tell (there is no information about it other than the name of the composer and author of the words), often by Icelandic composers to older Icelandic texts. To this, the settings of poems from Lorca by the Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, fall outside, as does the hilarious arrangement by conductor Jón Stephánsson of Rimsky-Korsakov’s bumblebee. Five of the texts set are Marian songs, six if one also counts the Magnificat by Tryggvi M. Baldvinsson, together with the Lorca suite, the major piece on the recording. Rautavaara’s Lorca settings come from 1973 and require exact tuning to make their variety of choral effect, something not at all a problem for this choir. Baldvinsson’s Magnificat, which seems to be from a larger setting of the Vespers, is largely homophonic and is a quiet meditation upon those words.
Most of the music can best be described as “approachable modern” and, in the voices of this choir, is impeccably done. It is also refreshingly off the beaten track and well worth knowing about. The clarity of the ensemble’s sound is a real pleasure to listen to, and they show no fear of Rautavaara’s often challenging demands. Though of 24 singers, the whole sound is light, yet they can call upon an impressive range of volume. This disc is a compilation of 10 years of work by this Icelandic women’s choir, Graduale nobili, most of whom are professional musicians and have been associated with the musically active Langholts Church in Reykjavik. I have had to guess at the name of the production company and have inferred it from the disc number. It might, however, be under Fermata.
FANFARE: Alan Swanson
Works on This Recording
Vocalisa, for chorus by Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir
Length: 5 Minutes 0 Secs.
Vesper: Magnificat by Tryggvi M. Baldvinsson
Length: 8 Minutes 50 Secs.
Lorca Suite by Einojuhani Rautavaara
Gudrídur Thóra Gísladóttir (Voice),
Lovisa Arnadóttir (Voice),
Arny Ingvarsdottir (Voice)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1973; Finland
Length: 6 Minutes 17 Secs.
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