Nørgård: Frostsalme; Singe die Gärten; Wie ein Kind; Flos ut rosa floruit

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COMPOSERS: Nørgård
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Frostsalme; Singe die Gärten; Wie ein Kind; Flos ut rosa floruit
PERFORMER: Danish National Radio Choir, Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen/Stefan Parkman
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10008

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The title suggests winter, and Frostsalme, one of the four choral works here receiving its premiere recording, is a hymn to the turning year. If there’s any general coolness about this music, however, such froideur springs from a splinter of ice at its heart. A number of these pieces are near contemporary with Nørgård’s opera about the life of Buddha, Siddharta, dating from 1974-9, and reflect its mixture of hope and darkness. ‘Frost Psalm’, indeed, sets poems by the opera’s librettist Ole Sarvig. Silver-toned crotales delight the ear with their mirror of whitening light, no less so than the chiming ensemble background to the rapt setting of Rilke’s Singe die Gärten. But the result in both is of emotion minutely analysed, like snowflakes viewed through a microscope. From here to the testimony of the schizophrenic artist Adolf Wölfli in Wie ein Kind is no distance; a tense little masterpiece of three ballad-like choral songs, it’s a striking projection of the composer’s authentic voice, covalent with that of the symphonies yet exploring other terrains. This important collection adds to our grasp of the mind of Denmark’s greatest living composer, and is sung with bundles of dedicated precision.

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Nicholas Williams