Himmelrand (2016)

Thoresen

Uranienborg Vokalensemble

Elisabeth Holte

*** FREE Holistic Version of this recording will be sent to you automatically when you purchase this album in any Rate/Channel configuration. ***

The Church of Norway’s new Hymnal came into use in 2013. Its goal is twofold: to hold on to traditions from earlier hymnals and to bring in something new, with texts in a modern idiom and with new melodies and new harmonic ideas. The texts of Nordic hymns belong to a shared Scandinavian heritage. They deal with sorrow and joy, faith and doubt, and express in words some of life’s most painful events. There is nothing static about the hymn tradition; on the contrary, it is constantly evolving and continues to be interpreted by our contemporary composers, hymnographers and performers. This is precisely where the strength of the hymn tradition lies. An old hymn in a fresh musical setting loses none of its power; it simply undergoes a change – sometimes small, sometimes more substantial – to its character. 

In this recording there are also three newly composed arrangements by the Norwegian composers Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen, Ola Gjeilo and Ørjan Matre. The hymns are sung by Uranienborg Vokalensemble, conducted by Elisabeth Holte, with Inger-Lise Ulsrud on the organ.

 

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Uranienborg Vokalensemble

Uranienborg Vokalensemble is a choir based at Uranienborg church in Oslo. Part of the choir’s duties involve regular participation in the Sunday services, through which they have come to know and love the rich repertoire of hymns. Hymns for each service are carefully chosen to reflect the readings; the hymn tunes are chosen to complement the music – liturgical and otherwise – for each specific occasion. When these ambitions succeed, the service takes on a power of its own, because the music and the words communicate with one another. A hymn is a unification of two art forms – a poem and a musical composition.

A hymn unites its message with our life experience and takes us to the outer boundaries of our lives – from cradle to grave. Throughout the centuries, hymns have had a special place in people’s lives. Words and music have been created over the space of centuries by people with different approaches to faith. If we search and listen we might discover new paths inwards to places of consolation and encouragement.

Hymns are bearers of a rich cultural heritage; we have found that giving young composers the opportunity to recast the old words and tunes in a new mould allows us to rediscover their meaning. For this recording, composers Morten Christophersen, Marianne Reidarsdatter Eriksen and Marcus Paus have each written a new piece based on a hymn of their choice from the Norwegian hymnbook of 2013. This recording is a sequel to our first collection of hymns Himmelrand from 2016.

Uranienborg in central Oslo takes its place name from the Danish scientist and astronomer Tycho Brahe. The name comes from the Greek uranos meaning “heaven”, which is also the name of one of the planets in our solar system. Five hundred years ago Tycho Brahe sat in his observatory – called Uranienborg / Himmelborgen – on the island of Ven outside Copenhagen and studied the night sky. In Oslo, or Kristiania as the city was called 150 years ago, the city limits lay where the royal palace is, and Uranienborg was rural and dark. It is said that people would wander from the town up to the hill behind the palace to look at the stars. At Uranienborg church we have made this our mission: to erect a heavenly vault over our lives, nurturing the arts through tradition and innovation.

photo: from booklet 2L149

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Himmelrand (2016)

Thoresen

Uranienborg Vokalensemble

    Audiophile Audition -

Himmelrand from 2L is yet another sonic treat from the Norwegian label. In 2013, The Church of Norway adopted its new Hymnal. The goal of this new hymnal was to hold firmly to the traditions of earlier hymn books, and two, bring a modern spin to them with new harmonic ideas. These Nordic hymns are an important part of Scandinavian heritage. The album contains a lovely collection of hymns performed by the Uranienborg Vocal Ensemble conducted by Elisabeth Holte. The group formed in 2002. Besides frequent performances in Norway, the group also tours Europe and the United States. Since this is a 2L release, it’s reasonable to expect a stunning recording, and that is exactly what we get. The set also contains a DSD Multichannel mix. The sound is involving and ethereal. The surrounds carry the beautiful ambiance of the Uranienborg Church in Norway. There is a lot of the expected reverb from the locale, but the voices are nicely anchored in the front speakers. It’s a realistic sound, and the performance of the choir and organist are faultless. Some of the music, like the hymn Jerusalem, will be familiar to most listeners, but it is sung in Norwegian. 2L does not disappoint with this wonderful sonic and musical presentation There is traditional and contemporary music, and this is a showcase album that you will listen to over and over. It also serves as a great demonstration album for a high-quality audio system. The album brings you lovely music with a stunning surround recording.

Mel Martin[read full review]

    High Res Mac

The Norwegian label 2L is always good for a surprise. This usually refers to the quality of the recordings and the various high-resolution file formats in which they are available. This time it's different: It's a great shot. And the same shot again. The trick: It is the same, but not the same. Two different mixes of the same album! The opus of confusion is called Himmelrand, sung by the Uranienborg vocal ensemble under conductor Elisabeth Holte. The 17 tracks of the album entertain for exactly one hour with modern-harmonic songs and Christian-influenced lyrics in Norwegian. While the one album is mixed off classically, Morten Lindberg tried in the second mix - the Holistic Mix - to place the listeners in the middle of the interpreters. This is a heresy goal, especially if the recording is served in stereo. But even there are clear differences. The effect can be heard beautifully, for example with Kvar he du, Gud? Kvar finne vi deg? (Where are you, God, where can we find you?). The classic mix provides a powerful sound with organ and choir, with a variety of nuances on a suitable wide stage. The singers intone structured and differentiated, are well placed on the stage and deeply staggered. The Holistic Mix, on the other hand, looks airy and open. The organ is farther, and the singers wider, as though placed in a semicircle around the listener. This provides for less dominant flute tones, on the other hand for a very finely differentiated and chased sound. The singers can be localized individually, on a stage that reaches from the left to the right ear without being artificial, exaggerated or stretched. As if the listener were at the same time a part of the choir. Or his conductor. Chapeau! The effect can also be Yes, vi elsker dette lands (arr. Rasmus Thaarup) pearl in amazing ease to the ears. In particular, the staggering of the choir creates a spatial effect, which gives the song a plus in transparency and dynamics. The classic mix is differentiated, but just frontally. It acts thereby direct and immediate. Their more compact sound provides denser vocals and makes it easier to watch, but sometimes shifts the organ into the background. And sometimes the vocals nearly swallow them. If you play the Holistic Mix, you will notice that the room effect increases with the volume at which the sounds are presented. So if you regulate too timidly on the pot, you will feel less clear where the differences lie between the two albums, if you buy them both. If you only want to buy an album of the well-rehearsed and mixed-in recordings in both versions, you should ask yourself if you would rather like to experience a powerfully applied ensemble for observation or rather a more delicate and differentiated localized. Which is my favorite of the identical twins? The Holistic Mix. His openness finds my ears simply captivating.

Tom Semmler[read full review]

    Audiophile Magazine

Recollection: This is the first word that comes to mind while listening to this recording from Scandinavian record label 2L. This is a logical result for a hymnal album ... In 2013, the Church of Norway adopted a new hymn book. The purpose of this new songbook was to remain faithful to the traditions of previous hymnal books and to bring them a touch of modernity by developing new harmonies. These Nordic hymns are part of the Scandinavian heritage. Formed in 2002, the Uranienborg Vocal Ensemble consists of 20 to 24 singers and is led by its founder, Elisabeth Holte. In addition to frequent performances in Norway, the choir also performs in Europe and the United States. The 2L sound of Morten Lindberg is sumptuous. Listening, the speakers disappear completely to make way for a magnificent fusion of great organ and choir, in reverberant acoustics but mastered. This gives a hyper-realistic and very soft sound result. The voices are particularly focused while forming a very coherent and diffuse ensemble. "Solrenning saele - orgelimprovisasjon" gives way to the great organ of the Uranienborg church (Oslo). Again, the sound is fabulous, and the last octave of the instrument is legibility with a surprising tonal richness. The polyphony on "O jesus, som fyller alt i alle" is extraordinary. The voices taken individually are of unusual purity. It is equally rare to be held in suspense by a hymnal. But here, the artistic performance and the quality of the production reach such levels that we are captured end-to-end by the 17 tracks of this album.

Joël Chevassus[read full review]

    Vinyl Anachronist

"A pipe organ and a choir are sometimes all I need," an audiophile friend told me recently. He's the type of person who has been caught more than once playing Christmas music in the middle of summer, so I take him at his word. He's kind of a nut this way, and I've rolled my eyes at him more than once for doing this. Fortunately for him, I'd just received this 2L Recording from Norway, Himmelrand, which features new hymnals from the Church of Norway, performed by the Uranienborg Vokalensemble conducted by Elisabeth Holte, with Inger-Lise Ulsrud on the enormous pipe organ at the Uranienborg Church. He sat and listened to this recording straight through to the end with a silly smile on his face the whole time. It was also his first experience with a 2L Recording, and he just couldn't believe the warm, open and engaging sound. Honestly, I think he was in a deep hypnotic state by the end. A few weeks later, I played Himmelrand at a high-end audio show. A man walked into the room and within ten seconds--SERIOUSLY, TEN SECONDS TOPS--he had pulled out a notepad and started asking me what was playing. I handed him the CD case and he started scribbling down all the information. This was his first experience with a 2L Recording as well, and after a twenty-minute conversation, I think I had convinced him to go home and order the entire catalog. "I've never made such an instant emotional connection to a recording before," he explained. I never quite shook the feeling that he was pulling my leg because seriously, ten seconds was all it took. That's it. But this show was in Canada, and Canadians are famously polite, so maybe he was just being nice. Or maybe he was just like the first guy, deeply conditioned to have this sort of response to sacred music. The idea behind Himmelrand is, as usual, intriguing. These 17 hymnals have been resurrected (pun not intended) by modern Norwegian composers such as Aage Samuelsen and 2L mainstay Ola Gjeilo. As the liner notes explain, "An old hymn in a fresh musical setting loses none of its power; it simply undergoes a change--sometimes small, sometimes more substantial--to its character." The result is a collection of hymnals that seem to occupy an intriguing place between the sheer beauty and joy of the classic versions with more adventurous interpretations from these modern masters. That said, truly atonal moments are few and far between, and Himmelrand sounds more like a volume of undiscovered gems than anything else. Coupled with the goosebump-inducing sonics, Himmelrand becomes something incredibly rare for me, a church service I would gladly attend.

Marc Phillips [read full review]

Himmelrand (2016)

Thoresen

Uranienborg Vokalensemble

Digital Converters: Horus, Merging Technologies
Editing Software: Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Mastering Engineer: Morten Lindberg
Microphones: DPA Microphones
Producer: Morten Lindberg
Recording Engineer: Morten Lindberg
Recording Location: Uranienborg Church, Norway, October 2015
Recording Software: Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Recording Technician: Beatrice Johannessen
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DXD

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This album is available as ST+MCH download (Stereo + Multichannel)
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2L126: Himmelrand
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Tracks.
1.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem - orgelimprovisasjon
Thoresen
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2.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem
Thoresen
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3.
Med Jesus vil eg fara - arr. Henning Sommerro
Thoresen
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4.
Kom regn. Kom fred. Kom trost - 1. Kom regn
Thoresen
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Kom regn. Kom fred. Kom trost - 2. Kom fred
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Kom regn. Kom fred. Kom trost - 3. Kom trost
Thoresen
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7.
Kvar er du, Gud - Kvar finn vi deg
Thoresen
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8.
Gud, la vart hovmod briste - orgelimprovisasjon
Thoresen
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9.
Gud, la vart hovmod briste - arr. Max Reger
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Ja, vi elsker dette landet - arr. Rasmus Thaarup
Thoresen
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11.
O Jesus, du som fyller alt i alle
Thoresen
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12.
Se, solens skjonne lys og prakt - arr. Trond Hans Farner Kverno
Thoresen
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13.
Der sola renn i himmelrand
Thoresen
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14.
Solrenning sale - orgelimprovisasjon
Thoresen
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15.
Solrenning sale - arr. Ola Gjeilo
Thoresen
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16.
Dypt heller aret - arr. Paul Hellmuth
Thoresen
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17.
I dine hender, Fader blid
Thoresen
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