“So is my love” – Ensemble 96/ Nina T. Karen/ Mari Skeie Ljones, fiddle – 2L 140-SABD (2 discs: Pure Audio Blu-ray + SACD), 43:24 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The Naxos website describes this best: “So is my love” is about love and the beloved, and this includes the sense of love awakened in us by religious faith and by nature. In works by Dyrud, Odegaard, Havrøy, Daniel-Lesur and Stockhausen the countless facets of love are painted in music and words: we encounter passion, lust, prayer and longing, but we also find humour, playfulness and joy.”

The sterling group Ensemble 96, who have previously garnered two Grammy nominations, returns yet again with an interesting—though perhaps more sedate—concept album of extraordinary finesse. These 24 singers, specializing in contemporary and, especially, Norwegian music, have ingratiated themselves into Norway’s long and distinguished recording history. They are studied, adept, and highly proficient in the choral art, with a wide dynamic range and razor-sharp sense of rhythm.

The Uranienborg Church in Norway, with its spectacular acoustics, offers a wonderful recording set down in 2L’s (which means “Lindberg Lyd”) groundbreaking Auro-3D, supposedly the next generation in three-dimensional audio. This offers the height dimension coupled with existing 5.1 PCM surround sound. Practically, I am not sure how many people with be intent on adding four speakers at ear level on top of their existing five or seven—or even nine—or even how much difference the ear can ascertain. Nevertheless, it does show the current standard of audiophile progression. One only hopes that something will be developed that will not require such a massive investment!

Tracklist:
Martin Ødegaard: Love Me
Torbjørn Dyrud: Lovesongs I
Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur: La Voix Du Bien-Aimé
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Armer Junger Hirt
Torbjørn Dyrud: Med En Bukett
Torbjørn Dyrud: Lovesongs II
Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur: La Sulamite
Frank Havrøy: Rêve Pour L’Hiver
Torbjørn Dyrud: Laughing Song
Torbjørn Dyrud: Lovesongs III

—Steven Ritter