Gerry Mulligan

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Mythological songs and stories from the Old Icelandic Edda
PERFORMER: Barbara Thornton, Lena Susanne Norin (voice), Elizabeth Gaver (fiddles), Benjamin Bagby (voice, lyre)
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77381 2

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These Icelandic tales will be best known to musicians as a distant source for some of the events and characters in Wagner’s Ring cycle – Loki, Odin (Wotan) and the Valkyries all make an appearance here, as does the fiery collapse of the world portrayed so vividly in Götterdämmerung. We have no original melodies for these poems (which were compiled between 800-1200), but the performers have explored surviving folk traditions and fused together an evocative series of musical ‘gestures and signs’ to bring them to life.

The longest item on the disc is the tale of Thrimir, who stole Thor’s hammer and then demanded that the goddess Freyja be his bride in exchange for it. Benjamin Bagby gives us a wonderful roller-coaster of drama, ranging from pathos to hilarity as Thor dresses up as the bride to fool Thrimir, and all accompanied with a sparkling halo of sound on the medieval lyre.

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But the most haunting and internalized emotions are those exchanged between Barbara Thorton (who died during the making of this CD) and Bagby who play the part of the Sybil and Odin respectively, in the long dialogue known as ‘Baldr’s Dreams’. There is nothing else quite like this on disc. Anthony Pryer