Composer Ørjan Matre has worked with Oslo Chamber Choir for over a decade. For Veneliti he has been able to profit from the choir’s strong traditions in folk music in his sonic interpretations of Norwegian folk songs – fervent hymns, mystical legends and bittersweet love songs. By returning to the songs’ sources and how they have traditionally been sung, Matre has preserved their core identity, giving it new life and meaning in his sonic world. Recorded here in immersive audio, you, the listener, take part in this world as if you were sitting in the choir yourself.
Ørjan Matre (born 1979) has studied composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music. While his compositions range from works for solo performers to works for chamber ensemble and choir, many of them are for large ensembles or full orchestras. Since 2008 he has composed many works that emanate from folk music for Oslo Chamber Choir.
Håkon Daniel Nystedt (born 1980) has studied conducting at the Norwegian Academy of Music and at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He regularly conducts Scandinavian orchestras such as the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. He also conducts opera, professional bands and choirs.
Oslo Chamber Choir was founded by Grete Pedersen in 1984 and has become one of Norway’s leading choirs. Håkon Daniel Nystedt took over as conductor and artistic leader in 2005. The choir has sung folk music for over 30 years and has collaborated with several of Norway’s most prominent folk musicians, among them Sondre Bratland, Kirsten Bråten Berg and Unni Løvlid.
Total time: 00:55:14
Horus, Merging Technologies
Pyramix Workstation on Ravenna Audio Over IP (AoIP), Merging Technologies
Jorn Simenstad and Morten Lindberg
|Original Recording Format|
|Power Line Conditioner||
JMF Audio PCD302
Ris Church, Norway in June, October and November 2017
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
Beatrice Johannessen and Gjermund Skog
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|Release Date||May 3, 2019|
Part Time Audiophile
In terms of choral performances, the Oslo Kammerkor (Chamber Choir) and their performance of Orjan Matre‘s Veneliti is very different than the last 2L Recording I reviewed, Himmelborgen. In that recording, the Uranienborg Vokalemsemble chose works that re-define and build on traditional hymns, while Veneliti comes from the opposite direction, a re-working of folk music. The music from Matre, of course, takes a dream-like approach to the sound of choral in the prerequisite Norwegian church, but this time the voices are allowed to float and blend into something more surreal than “And when this flesh and heart shall fail.” Veneliti has a secular feel that’s still a bit haunting, still suggestive of mystical forces that drive the singers’ emotions.
“The music you are about to listen to has been on a long journey before it finally reaches your ears,” the liner notes explain. Matre has spent his life listening to folk traditions, and he is especially interested in how a specific voice can change the meaning and core of the song. For that reason, he has carefully matched the members of Oslo Kammerkor with the song by listening to old recordings. Couple that with the fact that the Oslo Kammerkor singers tend to learn songs by ear, and no sheet music, and the individual translations–as well as the corresponding arrangements from Matre–become looser and more intuitive.
That means each one of these brief folk translations has been curated in a way for maximum impact, more musically than mathematically. Perhaps that’s why this beautiful music is so listenable. These are mostly unknown to listeners who did not grow up with Norwegian folk traditional and yet there’s a calm, sensible feel to the songs. They just fit, in a way. They make sense. Oslo Kammerkor and Orjan Matre and conductor Hakon Daniel Nystedt have worked hard to present this seemingly casual precision to Veneliti–it would be a nice story if all the people in that church on that day just winged it and everything surpassed expectations. In the real world, everyone practiced, learned these folk songs backward and forwards until the secret keys were found and employed.
A lot of things could have happened–Veneliti could be messy, chaotic or indulgent. Instead, the Oslo Kammerkor know how to apply consistency to these folk songs and the entire program blends into a whole. That’s amazing since these songs come from so many places and so many times. In lesser hands, this recording might have been more challenging and thorny around its edges, but 2L Recordings’ Morten Lindberg knows how to record and choral work in a big wooden church better than just about anybody. Veneliti is beautiful music, in the most inspiring way, and its long journey to your ears adds depth to the story.
Veneliti is a choral suite of Norwegian songs, hymns and ballads from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, arranged by Ørjan Matre, and offers Prelude, Intermediate and Afterplay to create unity.
The album takes the title from the second and most significant piece. The eight-minute rock song tells of the troll’s abduction of the girl Veneliti. The Veneliti movement is a good example of a pure arrangement that goes into re-composing, showing creativity and subtlety that is not usually found in folk songs.
Following Veneliti comes a sequence of funeral hymns, dances (including a jumper) and songs. No one relates directly to the story of the mountain girl, but in an indirect way, they can reflect the feelings and situation of those who knew her, in the wake of the abduction. In this way, the funeral hymns (especially Und me, God ) can express the grief of the loss, while the jumper Rustemannlåtten is supposedly the song of the troll’s subjects, etc. touching wordless Interlude or the combination of his own melody with the traditional in the friends of the Lord.
It is a pity that Matre does not mention Veneliti among the vocal and choral works on his website, because it is a refined work with considerable power. Once again, as in Concert for Orchestra, it confirms that he is a musical thinker of dimensions. (A symphony should be a tempting future project.)
The closing, climactic event of the evening song Nu’s Light is a bit short of a tour-de-force to be and brings the suite to a lively ending. It is fabulously well sung by the Oslo Chamber Choir (well, I didn’t expect anything else) and Lindberg Sound’s sound is superb.
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