SIGURD ISLANDSMOEN: Requiem – Soloists/Det Norski Solistkor/Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra/ Terje Boye Hansen – 2L

by | Oct 30, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

SIGURD ISLANDSMOEN: Requiem – Soloists/Det Norski Solistkor/Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra/ Terje Boye Hansen – 2L Multichannel SACD 36, 50:54 ****:

That’s quite a mouthful of a composer’s name to remember. Norwegian composer Islandsmoen’s music experienced a fate not unlike that of a number of American composers. They all wrote beautiful and accessible music in variations of a late Romantic style and may have been popular in the 30s and 40s but later – when serialism became the academic international standard in modern music – they were put on the shelf and ignored as being old hat. Now that demand for “modernism” in the concert music world has been broken we can again enjoy a variety of musical approaches without prejudice as to which is “up-to-date” and which not.

Islandsmoen’s musical language based on good melodies and folk music had made his Requiem – composed in 1935-36 – very popular in Norway as well as internationally. Large-scale choral works were in demand in Norway during the first half of the century, as they were also in Britain. There seemed to be little problem with the fact that the Requiem is a Roman Catholic mass, which was inappropriate for the Lutheran or Norwegian church.  He bettered Mozart’s Requiem of 12 movements by having 14 in his, plus an instrumental introduction. The sections are:

Canto funebre
Dies irae
Kyrie eleison
Preces meae
Oro supplex
Domine, Jesu Christe
Benedictus/ Sanctus
Agnus Dei

The 2L has very high standards of recording quality and isn’t afraid to be a bit experimental in the recording approach for this album.  I was put in mind of the completely-surrounding sonic layout of the Tacet label on their SACDs and DVD-As.  2L has departed from the usual practice of placing all the performers in the frontal quadrant, by directing the chorus to the surround channels.  A diagram in the note booklet shows a half circle of the choir behind the listener, a larger half circle of the orchestra in front, and placed at the center front of the orchestra circle are the four soloists in the work. This works well, and draws the listener more into the music.  Some of the choir sound is still up at the front channels.

This is quite a lovely work, without the barnstorming of the Berlioz or Verdi Requiems but with more gusto than, say, the Faure Requiem. Since most listeners won’t be familiar with the Norwegian folk tunes used thruout the Requiem, they will just sound like pleasant melodies. The choral parts were rewritten somewhat for the professional choir performing the work, because the original was designed for performance by amateur choirs. The choir-behind-you effect is not just novel, but involves the listener more fully in this lovely music.

 – John Sunier

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