Norgard: The Will-o'-the - Wisps Go To Town / Sorensen: The Little Mermaid

Release Date: 8/29/2006
Label: Marco Polo
Catalog Number: 8226046
Conductor: Thomas Dausgaard
Number of Discs: 1

Physical Format:

In Stock
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Per Nørgård (b. 1932) and Bent Sørensen (b. 1958) wrote these works as contributions to Denmark’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. Both are modern fairy-tales bearing some resemblance to tales written by Andersen. Nørgård’s is the longer, taking about 40 minutes; Sørensen’s, obviously, is close to 27. Both combine a pessimistic outlook with an avant-garde (for the last 100 years) confusion of voices and points of view; whether this does justice to the memory and appreciation of Andersen I am not qualified to say, but neither of these gloomy pieces seems to be celebrating anything other than the talents of the composers, performers, and recording technicians.

There is no denying that these composers deserve their international reputations, and have given much of their best contemporary music to these scores. Thomas Dausgaard, as usual, conducts with conviction and draws superb performances from soloists, choruses, and instrumentalists. The head-note above, like the list of performers with the compact disc, does not specify who the soloists and choruses are in each piece. We are informed and certainly hear that The Little Mermaid is scored for soprano, tenor, girls’ choir, and orchestra. I am going to guess that the soprano here, the best on the disc, is Inger Dam-Jensen, because she has such impressive credentials. There is no need to guess the chorus: this is the Danish National Girls’ Choir, Michael Bojeson, conductor. That leaves the longer and larger piece, The Will-o’-the-Wisps Go to Town, to employ the following: Ars Nova Copenhagen, “one of Scandinavia’s leading vocal ensembles in the field of the polyphonic choral music of the Renaissance and contemporary vocal music,” currently led by Paul Hillier; Sun & Moon (Sol og Mån) “an ad-hoc percussion ensemble started by Per Nørgård and Ivan Hansen at the beginning of the 1980s”; and The Danish National Children’s Choir (ages 9–11) plus the Danish National Junior Choir (ages 12–15), both conducted by Susanne Wendt. All these choirs are supported by a school operated by and for the Danish Radio. One should also credit the fine narrator-protagonist, Jens Albinus, who treats us to many spoken words, all in Danish. He speaks about, and also impersonates the author of fairy-tales who has always waited for them to come to his house, but finally goes forth into the world when their visits cease, and winds up listening to the imprecations of the Marsh-Witch (sung splendidly by Helene Gjerris). She hopes to unleash her will-o-the-wisps on the nearby city for a year, and seems overjoyed at all the mischief they will do. However, in the words of the lucid explanatory notes, “they are no match at all today for the dumbing-down the town already exhibits.”

Dacapo packages the disc with a handsomely printed 88-page booklet, with notes and complete texts in Danish, English, and German. Strongly recommended for those who enjoy sophisticated Scandinavian gloom and exceptionally fine contemporary music.

FANFARE: Robert McColley
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