More than a century ago, the rhythms and harmonies of Edvard Grieg’s music enchanted a whole world. What Grieg himself readily admitted was that these rhythms and harmonies had been absorbed during his journeys along fjords and across mountains, and his encounters with fiddlers and folk singers – such as the dairy-maid Gjendine Slaalien, whose ‘bådnlåt’ (lullaby) Grieg turned into a piano piece. But although the most famous, Grieg is only one of many Norwegian composers who have found folk music a deep and decisive source of inspiration. Combining traditional folk songs with recent compositions springing from folk music, the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir on the present disc makes a compelling case for the powerful hold that this music has over the country’s cultural life, in performances that easily makes one understand why! The choir’s conductor, Grete Pedersen, has a constant eye open for the immediacy of folk music, but also its melancholy which, as she writes in her own introduction, ‘always shines through, whether the tune is a wedding march or a lullaby, and whether it accompanies a religious song or a tale of a maiden abducted by trolls.’ The choir’s previous recording for BIS was a programme of Grieg’s choral works, described as ‘a performance of breathtaking beauty’ in Le Monde de la Musique, and ‘a reference recording, the likes of which one doesn’t encounter every day’ on website klassik.com. Already on that disc the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir explored the music’s roots in folk music, and going a step further in this direction, Grete Pedersen has now invited one of Norway’s most respected folk singers, Berit Opheim Versto, and the fiddler and composer Gjermund Larsen to join her and the choir on their journey through ‘the intricate landscape of folk music’.
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