The Sami are a people indigenous to the Arctic Circle areas of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. In this Pure Audio Blu-ray disc, Spes (Hope), their native music meets the sacred music of Norway, thanks to the efforts of composer, vocalist and musician Frode Fjellheim, a Sami descendant. The dozen sacred and semi-sacred songs listed below include selections by mostly 20th century Norwegian composers. The juxtaposition of songs in Latin, Norwegian, English and Sami makes for a fascinating blend. Singer Fjellheim plays a major role in several numbers and his intonations with the accompanying pulsating rhythms will recall chants by Native Americans. The thirty-four women in the a cappella group Cantus provide seamless vocals thanks to the devoted preparation and leadership of Tove Ramlo-Ystad.
It is difficult to pick favorites from this playlist but those who are coming to it for the first time might start with Biebl, Arnesen, or any of the Fjellheim selections. Moviegoers who have seen the beloved animated feature, Frozen, will immediately recognize the last item on the above playlist as the film’s opener.
- Aejlies (Sanctus) (Frode Fjelheim)
- Ubi caritas et amor (Erik Esenvalds)
- Spes (Mia Makaroff)
- Kryie (Frode Fjelheim)
- Miserere (Eva Ugalde)
- Alleluia, Cantate Domino (Ko Matsushita)
- Njokje (The Swan) (Frode Fjellheim)
- Mary’s Song (Knut Nystedt)
- Ave Maria (Franz Xavier Biebl)
- Dona nobis pacem (Frode Fjellheim)
- Even When He is Silent (Kim Andre Arnesen)
- Vuelie (Frode Fjellheim)
A variety of styles, including call-and-response as in Alleluia, keep this recital from being too much of the same thing. What ties these pieces together is the sheer beauty of the music, regardless of its provenance, and the committed nature of the performers.Listeners who choose either of the surround sound versions will be immediately immersed in the four groups divided into two pairs in front and two pairs in back.
The DXD audio (352.8kHz/24-bit) master was mixed down to a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio or 2-channel LPCM (both at 192kHz/24-bit resolution). The Auro-3D 9.1 (96kHz/24-bit) version was played back in my non-Auro-3D system as DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit). The familiar Uranienborg Church in Oslo is an excellent setting for the recording of choral works and that is absolutely what listeners get in this Pure Audio Blu-ray. The bonus multichannel SACD is no sonic slouch either.
2L provides nice extras including a high-resolution hybrid multichannel SACD and mShuttle downloads in MP3 and FLAC formats. The program booklet lists the works and a libretto with their translations (when needed), the playlist, performance and production credits, a diagram of microphone set up and some recording session photos.
The Final Assessment
It is hard to imagine anyone listening to this Norwegian choral recital without being both moved and uplifted. The recording is a fantastic recreation of the live studio event and provides demonstration quality sound, as recognized by its 2016 GRAMMY nomination for best surround-sound album. Most importantly, this is music that simply demands to be heard. Highly recommended.
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