“Midgard” – Traditional and Viking melodies – Mandragore – Big Round BR8939, 51:34, (6/09/15) ***1/2:
The Canadian ensemble La Mandragore is noteworthy for its entertaining and energetic performances of music that is not quite ‘world music’; not quite ‘folk’ and not quite ‘ancient music/classical’ and, yet, its niche is a very rewarding blend of all of these. They also do their research thoroughly and clearly follow a certain amount of musicological rigor but with contemporary creativity.
The members of this talented ensemble, under music director Ingried Boussaroque, perform on the most amazing array of instruments including recorders, ney, shawm, oud, cistre and so forth. The resultant sounds are, therefore, “medieval” but with a modern sensitivity. La Mandragore has produced four prior recordings: its last, the 2010 release Convivencia, was nominated in the category of Best World Music Album by Quebec’s ADISQ in 2011.
This present collection, “Midgard”, is particularly interesting, featuring arrangements of traditional and found manuscripts of music from the old Viking tribes and territories that became Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Finland. I cannot honestly say that there is one track or song here that I favored the most; nor one that I did not really enjoy.
This is “traditional” music played and sung well but with a somewhat ‘relaxed’ and authentic air about it (for example, the vocalists truly sound like people singing of their travails and conquests; nothing “trained operatic” here.) As a whole I found the playing refreshing and the product entertaining. It does make me want to seek out La Mandragore’s other work.
In the meantime, this is a very different, very ‘realistic’ and rewarding listening experience. You may want to sit back with a flagon of mead and enjoy!