Look what showed up in the mail yesterday! After seeing their music video of “Water Night” up on Eric Whitacre’s blog, I decided that I had to investigate this choir for myself. Just looking around on their website, you get a sense of how cool this choir is. It’s a good vibe. I wanted to buy the CD rather than download the album’s MP3s because MP3s sound like garbage.
After waiting for a while, it arrived! Listening to it in my car and at my computer I have high praise for these engineers. It’s been recorded very well. The acoustic is right, the mic placement is very good, overall, really good job.
There’s a pretty good variety of repertoire on this album. First the Whitacre. They recorded both “Water Night,” and “Sleep,” with the idea of dreams as their theme. Let me just say that Whitacre is hard to sing for native-English speaking choirs, let alone a European choir. “Sleep” in particular is extremely difficult because of all the long phrases, sustaining a real “sostenuto sound,” and tuning issues, but then add the words and it’s at a whole other level. These are both exciting recordings, and in a time when Whitacre is being attempted by so many amateur ensembles that don’t fully understand how difficult Whitacre is, these are so refreshing. My only complaint is that “Sleep” could have been phrased a little bit more. Lingering on a word here, putting less emphasis on less important words.
A highlight of the album for me was Rachmaninov’s “Bogoroditse Devo.” Excellent sound, and really exciting dynamics. This piece is a challenge for smaller choirs because of how it requires so much sustain. They pull it off really well. Another highlight for me was the “Ave Maris Stella,” by Trond Kverno. I’ve always loved this settings since I first heard it in High School and to hear an actual Norwegian choir sing this was a dream come true. I do feel that the “Allegro agitato” in measure 29 needs even more agitation, but that’s just my opinion. I also feel that the “Ave Virgo Sanctissimo” should have been at the beginning of their “Maria” set rather than at the end. I suspect the reason for this was because Ms. Sundal wanted a different color before going into the “Deus, Qui Illuminas.” Which by the way is spectacular. That recording pretty much nails me to my seat every time.
The last track “Trilo,” is the perfect album/concert closer for this choir. It’s a stunning piece, and has been recorded here so beautifully. The notes say that it’s based on western coast Norwegian tunes sung by the wives of husbands returning home from sea. It’s hard to put into words how cool this last piece sounds to me. It almost feels like it was composed for this choir or something because they just nailed it here. The emotion of this recording is overwhelming and felt through the entire song. Something that this choir understands that others do not is that performances succeed best when the goal and motive is to express rather than impress.
Final thought: this is the kinda of ensemble I want to write music for. Great recordings with excellent performances. I highly recommend it.
Here’s their music video of “Water Night,” but just be aware that it doesn’t sound as good on YouTube as it does on the CD.