all reviews
currently showing records for:
Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Bo Holten
Årstiderne
28 danske sange
best of all, the music and performances are gorgeous – lovely late-night listening.
Michael Wilkinson, MusicWeb International
05 October 2018
There are three good reasons for buying this CD: it is a fascinating introduction to an important aspect of Danish music; it shows how the choral music of Nielsen belongs within a significant tradition; best of all, the music and performances are gorgeous – lovely late-night listening.

Denmark has relatively few old folk songs, but part-singing has always been popular, both in public performance and in domestic settings. The country in its modern form came into existence in 1849; Danish nationalism led to the peaceful formation of a constitutional monarchy, though in 1864, Schleswig and Holstein were ceded to Prussia, following Denmark’s military defeat. The songs produced between 1830 and 1960, often nationalistic and patriotic, reflected delight in the Danish landscape. Carl Nielsen was an important part of the movement, as his various songs attest. Three are found on the current recording. Hvor sødt i sommer-aftenstunden is perhaps the most striking in its austere beauty.  Those interested in more of his songs might profitably explore Da Capo 8.226112, a collection of some of his songs – of more than three hundred – sung by Danish National Choirs, including the National Vocal Ensemble, which I chose as a Recording of the Month in 2016 (review). The Nielsen songs here are delightful, but companion pieces are not overshadowed.

The songs across the collection, divided by season, are frequently austere in style – emotions are not worn on the sleeve in an excess of sentiment. Each is very brief. They are more powerful for such simplicity. Many of the songs are homophonic, with repeated verses. Where there is polyphony, it is applied with a light touch. Take for example En yndig og frydefuld sommertid (Kærlighedrosen), with a beautiful soprano solo by Malene Nordtrop – who sings also Spurven sidder stum bag kvist in the Winter section. The simplicity and innocence of diction is deeply moving.

Bo Holten is a specialist in this repertoire: the Danish Vocal Ensemble are superb collaborators. The nineteen voices confidently remain light-hued and deeply sensitive, able to provide subtle variety without drawing attention to their artfulness.

Texts are provided in Danish; translations are available from the company’s website. 
Michael Wilkinson, MusicWeb International

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Bo Holten
Årstiderne
28 danske sange
"Som Perler på en snor" 5 stars
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad
01 October 2018
5 stars
”Som perler på en snor”
I denne måned runder komponisten, korspecialisten og dirigenten Bo Holten70 år. Han har unægtelig mange bedrifter på sit cv, i flæng kan nævnes operaerne ”Gesualdo” (der netop er udkommet på dvd) og ”Livlægens besøg” fra 2008, der omhandler det dramatiske hændelsesforløb i Struense-perioden omkring 1700.
Denne runde fødselsdag bliver blandt andet markeret med en koncert dagen forinden, søndag den 21. oktober klokken 16 i Koncertkirken på Nørrebro, hvor Bo Holten dirigerer koret Musica Ficta i en række egne værker.
Har man ikke mulighed for at tage til Blågårds Plads den dag, kan man i stedet glæde sig over en cd med titlen ”Årstiderne”, som for nylig er udsendt af det eminente pladeselskab OUR Recordings.
Her dirigerer Bo Holten DR VokalEnsemblet i hele 28 danske sange med en samlet spilletid på cirka 68 minutter.
Man vil forstå, at sangene kommer som perler på en snor, og at det ikke her er muligt at nævne hver eneste perle i de fire årstider.
Men et par eksempler vil give en idé om udvalgets beskaffenhed. Blandt forårssangene kan nævnes ”Nu lyser løv i lunde” og ”Den blå anemone”, mens sommeren er repræsenteret med hel ni sange, heriblandt ” Jeg ser de bøgelyse øer” og ”Danmark nu blunder den lyse nat”.
Efterårsstemninger indfinder sig markant med titler som ”Blæsten går frisk over Limfjorden vande” og ”Septembers himmel er så blå”, og også vinteren byder på gamle kendinge som ”Der er ingenting i verden så stille som sne” og ”Sneflokke kommer vrimlende”.
Kort sagt et fyldigt og håndplukket udvalg fra den danske sangskat, serveret af et veloplagt kor og en mester i netop det repertoire, fornemt indspillet i Koncertkirken i februar i år og med alle tekster gengivet i det smukke teksthæfte.
Det sidste er værd at hæfte sig ved, al den stund en række af Danmarks ypperligste digtere er repræsenteret.
Peter Dürrfeld, Kristeligt Dagblad

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Bo Holten
Årstiderne
28 danske sange
9/9/9: Für den unbefangenen deutschen Hörer klingen diese Gesänge wie echte Volkslieder
Ekkehard Pluta, Klassik Heute
14 September 2018
Anders als Norwegen oder Schweden hat Dänemark keine eigene Volksliedtradition und diesem Mangel wurde in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts durch die Produktion von nationalen Gesängen abgeholfen, die an deren Stelle traten, zum Schulkanon gehörten und durchaus eine gewisse Popularität erlangten. Die Autoren und Komponisten sind außerhalb Dänemarks kaum bekannt geworden, sieht man einmal von der zentralen Figur Carl Nielsen ab.
Michala Petris Label OUR Recordings hat 28 dieser Lieder unter dem Titel “Årstiderne” (Jahreszeiten) zusammengestellt und durch das international renommierte 18köpfige Vokal-Ensemble des Dänischen Rundfunks einspielen lassen. Für den unbefangenen deutschen Hörer klingen diese Gesänge wie echte Volkslieder, wobei durch den vierstimmigen a-cappella-Gesang, aus dem die Sopran- und Bassstimmen herausragen, denen sich die in einer Mittellage notierten Alt- und Tenorstimmen harmonisch anschmiegen, gelegentlich eine beinahe sakrale Atmosphäre einstellt, vor allem bei den Winterliedern. Doch ein heiter-beschwingter, fast tänzerischer Duktus herrscht vor.
In der Kopenhagener Koncertkirken aufgenommen, deren nur leichter Nachhall der Transparenz des Vortrags keinen Abbruch tut, kommen die stimmlichen Qualitäten des Ensembles, das aus lauter Solisten zu bestehen scheint, die sich zu einem homogenen Gesamtklang verbinden, gut zur Geltung. Der Chorleiter Bo Holten hält sie zudem zu einem rhythmisch pointierten Singen an.
Diese Lieder gehen auch dem deutschen Hörer sehr gefällig ins Ohr. Da die gesungenen Texte im Booklet nur auf dänisch abgedruckt sind, muß er sich allerdings die Mühe machen, die englische Übersetzung im Internet (unter http://www.ourrecordings.com/) abzurufen.
Ekkehard Pluta, Klassik Heute

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Bo Holten
Årstiderne
28 danske sange
This ensemble´s lightness of touch and exquisite detail are revealed best in Laub´s “Stille, Hjerte, sol går ned”
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone
03 September 2018
Gramophone (UK)
Nordic humility combined with Danish plain speaking to take the country´s unique song tradition in a new direction in the first decades of the 20th century. The organist and composer Thomas Laub, was rewriting the country´s hymnbook along rigorous anti-Romantic lines and developing a new form of secular song that resonated with the emerging Højskole movement. Laub had an ally in Carl Nielsen, whose desire to move Denmark away from German “gravy and grease” pervaded community song as much as symphonies. Plenty of other composers joined him.
Bo Holten´s work tending this tradition and its various tributaries has made him something of a national treasure. Here he presents a selection of 28 songs sifted along seasonal lines. A good example of Laub´s principles at work in Nielsen´s music is found in the ode to the sun “Hvor sødt i sommer-aftenstunden” (Text by Adam Oehlenschläger) with its austere but beautiful harmonies.
Often the songs are homophonic with repeated verses, but as in Nielsen`s better-known “Nu lyser løv I lunde” the Danish National Vocal Ensemble shows how colour can be adjusted to create a journey nonetheless. Just as often there are lightly polyphonic arrangements, as in Hans Hansen´s “ For alle de små blomster”. There is more gentle sophistication in Oluf Ring´s autumnal “Sig nærmer tiden”, famously covered by Denmarks´s folk-rock hero Kim Larsen.
This ensemble´s lightness of touch and exquisite detail are revealed best in Laub´s “Stille, Hjerte, sol går ned” and in the tripping textures of Nielsen´s “Se dig ud en sommerdag”, even if the passing chromatic harmonies are sometimes smudged. Plenty here reveals the essence of so much 20th-and 21st-century Danish music; the booklet contains no translation from the Danish text, although English translations are available from the record company´s website. 
Andrew Mellor, Gramophone

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
The Danish performance is very moving in its own right and it completes a highly satisfying programme
William Hedley, Music Web International UK
07 August 2018
Music Web International
Every sensible person knows that league tables – for hospitals, schools etc. – are absurd things that help nobody. This certainly applies to music and musicians. But here goes. I think Frank Martin’s Double-Choir Mass deserves a place right at the pinnacle of the a cappella choral music league table.

The title of this disc is The Secret Mass, an appropriate one given that Martin said of the work that it was a matter between himself and God, which in turn probably explains why he withheld the work from performance and publication for four decades. Martin’s father was a Calvinist pastor, and the composer’s religious faith and the nature of his upbringing colours his music. There is something of the ascetic about much of it, but it would be a mistake to think of the composer, or his Mass, as cold. On the contrary, the extreme fervour of his religious belief is present in every note of the work, but it is kept under tight control, to the extent that many passages threaten to break the bonds of what is possible to express in music.

The Mass is composed for two four-part choirs, with multiple divisions within each choir. The score is liberally peppered with tempo and expression marks, but there is not a single metronome value given, leaving tempi very much to the performers. One of the many strengths of this magnificent performance is that Marcus Creed’s tempo choices are judicious – though one means by this, inevitably, that they are what this particular listener wants to hear. Another strength, however, is that he is scrupulous about following the composer’s indications. So, when Martin marks in the score that a given passage should go “a little faster”’ or “with more insistence” Creed takes note and respects the marking. Only in one place, the opening of the Sanctus, do I find his tempo too slow for Martin’s “With movement but very calm”, but there’s no denying that the chosen tempo allows this magnificent choir to build up to a gloriously sonorous and passionate climax. At a few other points the conductor inserts tempo changes that the composer does not ask for. The ‘Christe eleison’ goes faster than the ‘Kyrie’, for example, and the music surges forward at the words ‘Confiteor unum baptisma’ (Credo) following a particularly wise tempo choice for the preceding passage. The only instance of this that bothered me was the sudden slowing down a minute or so before the end of the work, in the sublime ‘Agnus Dei’, composed four years later than the rest of the work. How pleasing, though, to hear the second choir breathing with the first, giving shape and musical sense to the monophonic chant with which it supports the first choir’s glorious melodic lines.

The Mass is very demanding of its performers, and the five Songs of Ariel even more so. The idiom is more advanced and the choir is, again, frequently divided. The texts, all from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, frequently demand pictorial effects and Martin does not shirk them. Dogs bark and bells ring with remarkable gusto in ‘Come unto these yellow sands’, and as for ‘Where the bee sucks, there suck I’, you’ll be wanting to take out the fly swat. All these effects are dispatched with remarkable brilliance and precision by the singers. The strangeness of Shakespeare’s play is well retained by Martin’s music. The real meat of the piece is the dramatic fourth song, a setting of Ariel’s long speech from Act 3 in which he reprimands the three noblemen who have betrayed Prospero and warns them of their future fate. The alto solo part is superbly taken by Hanna-Maria Strand.

Heard immediately after the Martin, the greater simplicity of Martinů’s Four Songs of the Virgin Mary is evident. It might even seem dryer, with fewer divisions within the choir. These are, however, lovely pieces that will surely bring pleasure to lovers of choral music, just as they do to me. The four songs are settings of Czech folk texts, and the composer’s aim was clearly simplicity of utterance. The music is solidly tonal with a firm hold on dissonance and little counterpoint. The words are clearly audible, therefore, and, though I am not a Polish speaker, the choir seems to have mastered that difficult language very well. You can follow the original text in the booklet, but not, sadly, at the same time as reading the English translation as they are not printed side by side. So it’s a good idea to read the texts first, particularly of the third song where the new-born Christ, responding to a comment from his mother who is presumably hungry following labour, offers to catch fish in the river! A comic text, then, simple and unsophisticated, and it’s a measure of the composer’s skill that by the music he finds to accompany the text, simple and unsophisticated in its turn, he achieves something strangely moving.

Romance from the Dandelions is one of four choral works, usually referred to as cantatas, that the homesick Martinů, exiled in the United States, composed in the 1950s. A young girl waits seven long years for her beloved to come home from the war. She is represented in this unaccompanied work by a solo soprano, beautifully taken here by Klaudia Kidon. A brief passage of march rhythm is tapped out on a drum, but the work is otherwise unaccompanied. The composer is skilful at alternating solo passages and those of the choir, and the work, though melancholy throughout, is varied in texture and often very beautiful. All four cantatas appear on a Supraphon disc (SU4198-2) where the superb Prague Philharmonic Chamber Choir is conducted by Lukaś Vasilek and the march rhythms are tapped out on a chair! Martinů enthusiasts will not let this disc pass them by. The Danish choir’s singing is more sensuous, arguably less authentic. There is less feeling of dramatic movement than in the Czech performance. But this is only evident in straight comparative listening. The Danish performance is very moving in its own right and it completes a highly satisfying programme.
William Hedley, Music Web International UK

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
the singers deliver performances that capture the restrained radiance of these lovely works.
Jan Smaczny, BBC Music Magazine
03 August 2018

Frank martin turned reticence about the public exposure of his music into a fine art. His Mass for two choirs was composed in 1922, but did not see the light of day until 1963 and then only because of the German conductor Franz Brunnert. Why so coy? The Kyrie with its sinuous modal choral lines has immediate appeal. The Gloria shows a certain affinity with the double choir motets of Bach, but the result is individual and also engaging.
Composed nearly 30 years later, Martin´s atmospheric settings of familiar verse from Shakespeare´s The Tempest shares the post-impressionist world of the Mass, but with a rather sharper edge. In both works, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, directed by Marcus Creed, produces an excellently-integrated sound, although they might have been bolder in defining climatic phrases in the longer movements.
Both of the Martinu works recorded here have strong folk roots. While outwardly simple, the Four Songs for Mary, composed in 1934, go well beyond their initial, folk-songs inspiration with rich harmonies and a clear blend of depth and humour. The Romance of the Dandelions belongs to a group of cantatas composed toward the end of his life and rich in nostalgia for his youth in the Bohemian-Moravian highland. The textures are more experimental, with choral humming and an extensive solo for soprano, beautifully sung her. The choir´s Chech declamation could be more pointed, but overall the singers deliver performances that capture the restrained radiance of these lovely works. 
Jan Smaczny, BBC Music Magazine

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
10/10 review- This is a lovely recording of worthy music–great music, in the case of the Mass–in performances that are as good as you will hear anywhere.
David Vernier, Classics Today (US)
14 July 2018
It’s easy to hear the opening of Frank Martin’s Mass and think–Vaughan Williams, as in his own setting for a cappella double choir, composed in the early 1920s, just a year or two before Martin’s work. Not to say there’s any direct connection, but that beginning Kyrie chant-like theme and the gradual addition of voices strikes a more than casual note (or notes) of similarity. It’s interesting, that’s all, but as in the Vaughan Williams, it definitively marks the stylistic sensibility of the whole work. And it’s a beautiful and eminently moving work, not heard often enough (nor is the Vaughan Williams, for that matter). The disc’s title refers to the fact that Martin kept his Mass from performance–or even from view–for more than 40 years after its composition in 1922.
But of course, Martin is not Vaughan Williams, and very quickly we realize that the similar musical setup is taking us into an entirely different world–harmonically for sure, but also in its more immediate, dramatic expression of the text, all the while remaining firmly in a tonal context–albeit a more adventurous one. The comparison is useful, as it so strikingly shows how two contemporaries differently–completely differently–treated the same material, with the same performing forces (also observable in the two composer’s settings of the Shakespeare/Ariel song, “Full fathom five”).
You might think it was just a clever gimmick to juxtapose Martin and Martinu–close contemporaries (Martin was 10 years older) with closely similar last names, who just happen to have composed sets of a cappella choral songs–but actually their music is quite compatible and the programming proves to be not a gimmick at all, but a happy association. It’s interesting to compare how these two composers, subject to the influences of their similar time yet quite different circumstances, approached the setting of secular choral works–texts from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in the case of Martin, and Czech folksong in the case of Martinu. The former texts are fairly familiar, but the Czech songs are, at least in English translation, almost strange in their depiction of Mary, her (instantly, fully functional) child, her dreams (an apple tree sprouting from her heart), her encounters with angels, and her fierce protection from highwaymen of a painting by St. Luke. But the music in both cases is superb–often challenging, but always easy on the ears and compelling, invigorating, inspiriting.
You’ll be sure to go back just to listen again to Martin’s depictions of the bonging bells (Full fathom five) and burrling bees (Where the bee sucks…), not to mention return visits to Martinu’s Our Lady’s Breakfast (you have to hear it). You also have to hear Martinu’s Romance from the Dandelions–another one of those very particular old-world, romantic, folktale-like stories of hopeless love and sacrifice, of a young woman and her long-lost soldier/lover–a hard-to-classify setting of a Czech poem for a cappella choir and solo soprano–unusual and oddly affecting.
The singing is exceptional–this choir, as we’ve heard on earlier recordings, is one of the world’s finest, and here the singers are constantly challenged with prickly technical details and are offered many chances–perfectly realized–to deliver those ringing, resonant harmonic gestures that all choral singers live for. Their Czech pronunciation/enunciation is, how shall we say it, rather “soft”–the delicious richness of those special consonants tends to be rounded off–and unfortunately the translations, attempting to be poetic rather than literal, are often just corny. The English and Czech are printed on completely separate pages in the booklet (which otherwise contains very informative and well-written notes), which is useless if you’re trying to follow along. But, as you’ve gathered from the rest of this review–it ultimately doesn’t matter. This is a lovely recording of worthy music–great music, in the case of the Mass–in performances that are as good as you will hear anywhere.
David Vernier, Classics Today (US)

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
The music is splendid, and the singing is invigorating, focused and delivers the challenging music with ease and musicality that will reward the listener upon each listen. That’s the short of it!
Adorjan Horvát, Staccatofy.com
13 July 2018
The Danish National Vocal Ensemble is the elite choir of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). Comprised of eighteen professional soloist, the ensemble is internationally known for its pure, transparent Nordic sound with a strong personal mode of expression. Since 2014, the principal conductor of the ensemble has been Marcus Creed. The Danish National Vocal Ensemble presents the whole spectrum of choral music – from Medieval and Renaissance music through Romantic classics to brand new works by young composing talents. The beauty of their a cappella performances are now captured in first-rate fidelity on their album, The Secret Mass, CHORAL WORKS BY FRANK MARTIN AND BOHUSLAV MARTINŮ. The album presents: Frank Martin’s Mass for two four-part choirs and Songs of Ariel as well as Bohuslav Martinů’s Four Songs of the Virgin Mary and Romance from the Dandelions. The album totals fifteen tracks. The ensemble sings wonderfully, each section comes through clearly and the soloist are top notch. The text and harmony are adventurous and compelling. The overall flow of the two composers together make for an excellent listen, both approached the setting of the secular choral works with grace and style. The text comes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in the case of Martin, and Czech Republic folk-songs from MARTINŮ. The music is splendid, and the singing is invigorating, focused and delivers the challenging music with ease and musicality that will reward the listener upon each listen. That’s the short of it!  
Adorjan Horvát, Staccatofy.com

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
”Fabulous performance of excuisite choral works by two 20th Century composers. If you don´t know Martin and Martinu, you won´t find a better introduction”.
Bill Todd, senior Native DSD reviewer July 2018
05 Juky 2018
”Fabulous performance of exquisite choral works by two 20th Century composers. If you don´t know Martin and Martinu, you won´t find a better introduction”
Bill Todd, senior Native DSD reviewer July 2018

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
..the result is some deeply felt, little-known, and instantly accessible music.
James Manheim, AllMusic
03 July 2018
The "Secret Mass" referred to in the title of this album actually pertains only to one work: the Mass for two four-part choirs of Swiss composer Frank Martin. The composer suppressed that work for both religious and professional reasons: he believed that his Calvinist faith was a purely private matter, and he was intensely self-critical throughout his career. In any event, it's a lovely work, with a particularly vivid response to the mass text. The juxtaposition of Martin with Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu makes sense, right down to the similarity of their names. Both composers flirted with modern elements within a basically neoclassic context, and both managed to infuse strongly personal elements into their rather fixed styles. Martinu, who fled Communism and settled in America for a time, wrote a good deal of music in English, but here it is Martin who is represented by an English-language work: the Songs of Ariel, to texts by Shakespeare. Sample one or more of these: they're not well-known pieces, and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble under conductor Marcus Creed catches Martin's the lively melodic idiom perfectly. OUR Recordings engineers contribute perfectly idiomatic sound from a Danish Radio studio, and the result is some deeply felt, little-known, and instantly accessible music. 4 out of 5 stars review
James Manheim, AllMusic

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Displaying his mature style, they're again sublime
Graham Rickson, theartsdisk.com
16 June 2018
We're lucky to be able to hear Frank Martin’s Mass for two four-part choirs at all; this most fastidious and self-critical of composers beavered away for decades before he felt he'd found his mature compositional voice. If you're not yet familiar with Martin, rush out now and pick up a recording of his sublime Petite Symphonie Concertante. It deserves be a popular classic, but Martin is still dismissed as a dour Swiss technician by those poor souls who've never heard a note of his music. That work was composed in the mid 1940s. This Mass was completed in 1922, but was locked away until choral conductor Franz Bunnert caught site of the score and persuaded Martin to sanction a premiere in 1963. Self-doubt was only part of it: Martin was deeply religious but felt that his relationship with God was a personal matter, and that the Mass’s “expression of religious feelings ought to remain private and be kept away from the public.” This work is too good to have remained hidden. It is restrained, intimate and personal, though anyone coming to it cold will be dazzled by how beautiful the music is, a radiant, accessible affirmation of faith. It gets a glorious performance from Marcus Creed’s well-drilled Danish choir. Every line is audible, the diction impeccable. If I were forced to choose just one choice moment, I'd opt for the sopranos’ flattened seventh 20 seconds into the “Sanctus”. Phwoar. You’ll know when you hear it. There's also the matter of Martin’s Songs of Ariel, five acapella Shakespeare settings which later prompted him to write an opera based on The Tempest. Displaying his mature style, they're again sublime. The tolling bells in Full Fathom Five and buzzing insects mimicked in Where the bee sucks are brilliantly realised.
From Martin, it's just a short encyclopaedical hop to his near-contemporary Martinů, whose 1934 Four Songs of the Virgin Mary are also included. These settings of folk poetry are irresistible: there’s a joyous depiction of the newborn Christ catching fish for his mother’s breakfast and a cautionary tale about highwaymen damaging a holy icon. Martinů's affecting secular cantata Romance from the Dandelions closes the disc. Beautifully sung, engineered and packaged, with full texts and translations. 
Graham Rickson, theartsdisk.com

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
..the disc is greatly impressive
Ivan Moody, Gramophone, June issue
06 June 2018
This is an intriguing programme. Though one might initially think that it is simply inspired by the juxtaposition of the composers´ names, in fact they are both born in 1890 and their careers were both singular enough to make a comparison of their work a project of considerable interest.
 Martin´s Mass has gone from a work hardly performed to a stable of the choral repertoire, and justly so: it is a composition of tremendous luminosity and great variety. This performance is not the most engaging I have heard – for that one would need The Sixteen, Westminster Cathedral Choir or the Vasari Singers – but the choral sound is rich and warm. There is something a little perfunctory, for example, about the Kyrie, and especially the Christie, which sounds rushed, but the choir´s response to the later movements of the work is deeply affecting.
In any case, the rest of the disc is greatly impressive. Martin´s wonderful Songs of Ariel are given a virtuoso rendition that brings out every nuance and are alone worth the price of the disc. But the addition of the choral works by Martinú creates a wholly unusual and effective balance in the programming. The Four Songs of the Virgen Mary are works of tremendous subtlety, and beautifully sing: while are peaks of the Czech choral repertoire, I do hope performances by non-Czech choirs, especially of this standard, will bring these works into greater international circulation. The Romance of the Dandelion is also a thing of beauty, and while possibly more difficult to programme, if you have a soprano like Klaudia Kidon, you are surely guaranteed success. 
Ivan Moody, Gramophone, June issue

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Recording of the Month!Marcus Creed’s Danish National Vocal Ensemble sing this music with a straight tone, perfectly pitched and wonderfully blended. I have heard some other fine performances of Martin’s Mass, but none better than this.
Leslie Wright, MusicWeb-International
23 May 2018
Recording of the month
What a clever idea to combine a cappella works of Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů on a single disc! Although one composer was Swiss and the other Czech, they are exact contemporaries and both composed idiomatically for unaccompanied choir. Marcus Creed has done much in recent years to bring all kinds of choral music to the listening public. I have greatly admired his “country” series, including America, Russia, and Finland, and a Hindemith CD, all with the SWR Vokalensemble, as well as a Messiaen programme with the Danish choir who perform here. With the choir’s exquisite singing, this new disc can now join those for the pleasure it provides.
Martin’s early Mass for Double Choir has an interesting history, hence the title of this recording. Martin began composing the work in 1922, but withheld it from the public for 40 years. A combination of self-criticism and his strict Calvinism, where he felt his relationship with the Almighty was a private affair, kept him from allowing such a personal piece to be performed in public. Finally, a German choral conductor acquaintance of Martin’s convinced him to allow a performance to take place in 1963. The mass, considered one of Martin’s finest compositions, has received many performances since, though the work is hardly characteristic of the mature Martin. Although the mass clearly belongs to the twentieth century, the influence of Gregorian chant and Bach is everywhere present. The melismatic, chant-like opening of the Kyrie eleison, indeed, recalls music of an earlier age before the work builds polyphonically with both austere and more comforting harmony. The mass contains such contrasts throughout and the music is always closely tied to the text. Originally, Martin concluded the work in 1922 with the Benedictus, where the sopranos sing their highest note at fortissimo. Four years later he added the Agnus Dei, which Jens Cornelius aptly describes in the disc’s notes: “This is movingly beautiful music where Choir 2 is the solid foundation, while Choir 1 sings melodic lines that, as in the introduction of the mass, remind one of Gregorian chants.” Marcus Creed’s Danish National Vocal Ensemble sing this music with a straight tone, perfectly pitched and wonderfully blended. I have heard some other fine performances of Martin’s Mass, but none better than this.

While the Mass for Double Choir is the most substantial piece and the highlight of the programme, the other works are all worthy in their own right. The disc is well balanced between the sacred and the secular. Following Martin’s mass are Martinů’s Four Songs of the Virgin Mary, simpler and folk-like, the first of ten collections of choral songs by the composer. The titles do not belie their contents: The Annunciation, A Dream, the rather humourous Our Lady’s Breakfast, and The Virgin Mary’s Picture. The choir master the Czech tongue, a particularly difficult language for non-native speakers, and perform these songs with excellent pronunciation and dedication. These attractive songs reminded me, both harmonically and rhythmically, of Janáček’s unaccompanied choral pieces.

The choir switch to English for their next set, Martin’s five Songs of Ariel, the composer’s only other a cappella work. This later composition, with the texts taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, resonates like the more familiar and mature Martin with his distinctive harmony which owes something to Schoenberg, but remains basically tonal. They are quite delightful and require some virtuosity and vocal power. The choir obviously relish them and perform them with superb feeling and diction. The songs are Come unto these yellow sands, Full fathom five (with a baritone solo), Before you can say “come and go,” You are three men of sin (with an alto solo), and Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
 
The programme concludes with one of Martinů’s last works, The Romance of the Dandelions. This cantata-like piece has a major role for the solo soprano, unlike the more minor solos in Martin’s Songs of Ariel, and tells the story of a Czech girl who waits for her soldier sweetheart to return from war. It is very moving, and the soprano soloist, Klaudia Kidon, could easily pass for a native Czech with her strong and clear high voice. The choir contributes wordless interludes and sound effects, and there is a part for “finger-drumming.” On this recording a real drum is played to imitate the military rhythms, symbolizing the young soldier. It is certainly effective, but I think the finger-drumming would have been more authentic, and not as loud as the military drum used here. The title of the piece in Czech, Romance z pampelišek, literally means “romance from the dandelions” and that’s how it is translated in the disc’s booklet and sometimes elsewhere—for example, on the front of the Bärenreiter edition. However, that translation seems odd to me, so I have used the more readily understood “romance of the dandelions.”

OUR Recordings contribute an attractive bi-fold album and booklet with plenty of photos and well-written notes on the composers, the works, the choir, and Marcus Creed, as well as a listing of the choir members. There is one minor goof, which should have been corrected, in the track list on the back of the booklet and the album: the timings for the last three Songs of Ariel are in the wrong order. Also the texts and English translations are on separate pages, which makes it nearly impossible to follow along, whereas the more usual side-by-side arrangement would have remedied this. It is a small matter, for this is one of the most enjoyable discs I have reviewed in some time. With exemplary performances and recorded sound, the SACD should be in the collection of anyone who cares about twentieth-century choral music. 
Leslie Wright, MusicWeb-International

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
The excellent Danish National Vocal Ensemble under its director Marcus Creed illuminates the four works with a sensitive and committed singing
Remy Franck, Pizzicato
21 May 2018
Frank Martin nutzte die Ruhe der Schweiz, um sein eigenes Idiom zu entwickeln. Einflüsse aus chromatischer und Zwölftonmusik flossen zwar ein, aber nur soweit sie sich in sein System einfügen konnten.
Bohuslav Martinu kam aus der tschechischen Provinz bald in die weite Welt und konnte aufgrund der politischen Umstände nicht mehr in seine Heimat zurückkehren. Ebenso wie Martin entwickelte er einen sehr persönlichen Stil, obwohl auch er in Debussy, Roussel und Stravinsky Anlehnungspunkte hatte. Außer dem gemeinsamen Geburtsjahr und dem ähnlichen Namen verbindet die beiden nicht allzu viel.
Nur zwei Kompositionen für a cappella-Chor hat Martin geschrieben, die beide auf dieser Aufnahme zu hören sind. Während die Messe auf Muster aus Gregorianik, Renaissance und Johann Sebastian Bach schaut, sind die ‘Lieder für Ariel’ nach der Figur aus ‘Der Sturm von Shakespeare’ sehr persönliche, geradezu intime Werke, die nichtsdestotrotz mit acht oder gar zehnstimmigen Partien und vielfältigen virtuosen Herausforderungen hohe Anforderungen an die Sänger stellen.
Das Chorwerk von Martinu ist dagegen vielfältig. Bei seiner Ankunft in Paris hatte er Volksmusik aus seiner Heimat dabei, die auch in die ‘Vier Lieder über die Jungfrau Maria’ einfloss. Trotz ihrer überschaubaren Strukturen und einfachen Texte handelt es sich um Kleinode. Bereits in den USA übermannte ihn sein Heimweh. Die ‘Pusteblume’ ist ein Mädchen seiner Heimat, das auf die Rückkehr ihre Geliebten aus dem Krieg wartet, zu lange.
Das Nationale Dänische Vokalensemble, hier unter der Leitung seines gegenwärtigen Leiters Marcus Creed, besteht seit gut zehn Jahren und hat mit klarem und transparentem Gesang auf sich aufmerksam gemacht. Auch technisch muss sich der Chor hinter anderen nicht verstecken. In der Präsentation der Werke von Martin und Martinu und der Umsetzung von deren verschiedenartigen Anforderungen bestätigt sich diese Qualität.
Choral works by Martin and Martinu are not really connected, but nevertheless they go very well together because of the personal music language of both composers. The excellent Danish National Vocal Ensemble under its director Marcus Creed illuminates the four works with a sensitive and committed singing
Remy Franck, Pizzicato

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
astonishing richness of the interpreted partitions,...recommended to all lovers of choral music.
Maciej Chiżyński, Resmusica, FR
10 May 2018
Après des productions consacrées à la musique chorale de Francis Poulenc et d’Olivier Messiaen, l’Ensemble vocal national du Danemark, sous la direction de Marcus Creed, se livre à l’exploration des œuvres de deux compositeurs nés en 1890, dont le nom pourrait prêter à une confusion pour les non-initiés : Martin et Martinů. L’album témoigne, autant par la diversité du répertoire que par le caractère des prestations, d’une richesse étonnante des partitions interprétées.
 
Le disque s’ouvre par la Messe pour double chœur a cappella de Frank Martin, composée entre 1922 et 1924 dans un style « archaïque moderne », complétée en 1926 par un Agnus Dei, et créée seulement une quarantaine d’années plus tard, en 1963, à Hambourg. Comme l’indique son titre, cette messe est écrite pour des cori spezzati, c’est-à-dire deux groupes de quatre voix, conformément à la technique de composition que Martin emprunta à la musique de la Renaissance, mais également à celle de Jean-Sébastien Bach dont il appréciait largement l’œuvre. Par sa structure, celle de l’ordinarium missae, cette page s’inscrit dans un legs grégorien, notamment par l’introduction de longs mélismes passant de chœur en chœur – très purs et lumineux dans cette interprétation –, renvoyant au plain-chant, de même que des tenues de notes rappelant le faux-bourdon médiéval. La riche polyphonie qui y est déployée, non sans références à l’héritage dudit Bach, est rendue avec simplicité et avec un naturel de phrasé, tout comme avec vigueur et passion dans les passages les plus dramatiques. Pour le Credo – où le chant n’est pas confié à un soliste, comme d’habitude pour ce type de compositions, mais soumis à l’exécution par tous les choristes – nous sommes impressionnés par la limpidité des tons et des nuances, le charme des voix homogènes, ainsi que par leur diction, irréprochable pour toutes les œuvres proposées sur ce disque (même pour le tchèque !). Pour le Sanctus – débutant par un simple ostinato de voix masculines auxquelles ne tardent pas à se joindre les sopranos, éblouissantes, des deux chœurs –, on est frappé par la manière dont ceux-ci dialoguent, avec une sensibilité musicale élevée et beaucoup d’énergie, de sorte que la tension n’arrête pas de s’accroître tout au long du mouvement, se clôturant sur une sonorité si forte et dense que la prise de son est marquée par des légers craquements. Par effet de contraste, l’Agnus Dei, pour lequel le chœur II paraît limité à un simple appui harmonique du chœur I, commence dans une atmosphère rassurante, soulignée par un legato de belle facture et d’une élégance, suavité et pureté rares. Là où l’intensité parvient à son plus haut degré, cette ambiance se dégrade lors d’une émission forte de quelques accords dissonants, néanmoins un diminuendo, accompagné d’un délicat ralentissement du tempo, signale une remise en état initial rapide, se maintenant jusqu’à la fin de l’exécution.
 
Les Quatre chants sur la Vierge Marie de Bohuslav Martinů – achevés en 1934, inspirés par des mélodies et textes folkloriques tchèques – nous emmènent dans un monde complètement différent de celui de la messe latine. Composés à quatre parties, et de taille assez modeste, ces miniatures vocales sont d’une beauté touchante, tout comme d’une grande intimité, voire d’une austérité contemplative. Dans le premier morceau, intitulé L’Annonciation, on est mis face à la scène de la proclamation de la maternité divine faite à la Vierge Marie par l’archange Gabriel, qui – au niveau des harmonies et de l’expression – nous fait ressentir l’anxiété qu’éprouve la jeune femme. Les choristes illustrent cette angoisse par des modulations du tempo et d’intensité, offertes sous forme de séquence de crescendos et d’accélérandos, après lesquels la déclamation du texte revient à son état d’origine (Marie accepte la volonté de Dieu). Le chant suivant, Un rêve, nous apporte une vision onirique d’un repos de la Vierge au paradis, renvoyant par les multiples couleurs dont s’imprègnent les voix des interprètes, données en demi-teintes, à des fresques et vitraux aussi lumineux qu’éloquents d’une vieille église villageoise. La troisième pièce du cycle, Petit déjeuner de la Vierge Marie – dont les paroles purement conceptuelles n’ont rien à voir avec les dogmes de la foi catholique –, nous fait réaliser à quel point cette musique, mise en évidence par une exécution pleine de tendresse et de poésie, est enracinée dans la culture slave, dont les élans populaires se voient traduits ici en psalmodie classique. Le dernier chant, L’Image de la Vierge Marie, magnifie l’icône de la Madone Noire de Częstochowa, ville polonaise, tout en racontant l’histoire de l’élaboration de cette peinture (dont l’origine reste pour d’aucuns une énigme à ce jour, la tradition l’attribue à Luc l’évangéliste), ainsi qu’en expliquant l’origine des deux rayures dues à des coups de sabre, visibles sur la joue gauche de la Vierge. La lecture proposée par la formation danoise met en valeur la clarté des polyphonies et l’expressivité un brin exempte toutefois, bien que coulant du cœur, du dramatisme caché sous les paroles du récit. L’équilibre est ainsi trouvé entre l’objectivisme (qu’on comprend parfois comme une distance émotionnelle) et l’exagération susceptible de prêter à l’hystérie ou au ridicule.
 
Hormis la Messe pour double chœur, Frank Martin écrivit encore, en 1950, une œuvre a cappella : Cinq chants d’Ariel, composés à un nombre de parties variable, dont la quantité va jusqu’à seize, de même que constitués de passages pour une voix seule, baryton et alto, qui n’interviennent cependant qu’exceptionnellement. Pour les animer, Martin se sert de techniques de chant variées, en attachant la plus grande importance à la signification du texte en vue d’établir un fil conducteur entre les paroles et la musique. D’une virtuosité sensible mais pas démonstrative, ses miniatures impressionnent autant par la multitude de teintes que par la complexité de textures et d’harmonies, rendues par la phalange danoise avec une certaine sobriété expressive inhérente à leur caractère introverti et intimiste. Créés en 1953, les Cinq chants d’Ariel sont élaborés à des textes anglais de La Tempête de William Shakespeare, confiés par celui-ci à Ariel, l’un des personnages les plus curieux et, à la fois, les plus emblématiques de l’ouvrage : un esprit. Cette pièce de théâtre a dû inspirer profondément l’artiste suisse qui, en outre, façonna sur sa base, entre 1952 et 1954, un opéra Der Sturm, dont l’ouverture et le point final de l’épilogue, pour n’en citer que deux exemples, reprennent le matériel thématique du second des Chants d’Ariel, dénommé Full fathom five. Nous sommes enchantés par la richesse imaginative que le compositeur y déploie, et la façon dont il crée l’image des profondeurs mystérieuses de l’océan, en introduisant un ostinato renvoyant à une sonnerie de l’horloge – le chœur déclame avec grâce des « Ding dong, bell » répétitifs, agrémentés de rythmes inquiétants, habilement tissés dans la subtile enveloppe harmonique de l’œuvre –, ayant ici pour but d’illustrer les coraux et les perles gisant au fond du bassin en tant que restes transformés d’un être humain noyé. Parmi les solistes, on saluera particulièrement Hanna-Maria Strand dont l’alto profond, onctueux et suggestif nous donne le frisson dans le morceau You are three men of sin, où Ariel qu’elle incarne, jette un sort sur trois des ennemis de Prospero.
 
L’album se clôt par une cantate de chambre pour chœur mixte et soprano, La Romance des pissenlits, composée par Martinů aux alentours de 1957, sur des vers tchèques du poète Miloslav Bureš. La partition trouve en cette exécution un enrichissement de texture musicale par une « intervention » d’un vrai tambour militaire – symbolisant l’apparition d’un soldat – par l’intermédiaire de laquelle Marcus Creed s’efforce de rendre le propos du texte chanté plus éloquent. Nous sommes témoins d’une tragédie amoureuse : une jeune femme, dont les déclarations sont commentées et complétées par celles du chœur, attend depuis sept ans que son bien-aimé, ledit militaire, revienne de la guerre. Son chagrin et sa langueur sont ici évoqués par Klaudia Kidon, dotée d’un soprano simple, non-tubé et cristallin, mais un peu inexpressif. Par ailleurs, cette « fadeur » d’expression (surtout un manque de ferveur) caractérise également la prestation donnée par les choristes, dont la déclamation ne semble pas rendre justice, par moments, aux émotions dont cette page est emplie.
 
Avec l’effectif de vingt-quatre chanteurs (six sopranos, six altos, six ténors et six barytons), l’Ensemble vocal national du Danemark sous la direction attentive et équilibrée de Marcus Creed rend hommage et reste fidèle aux plus grandes traditions musicales du pays scandinave. La présence dans le livret d’une traduction bilingue anglais-tchèque des textes chantés rend l’écoute du disque plus agréable et plus enrichissante. À recommander à tous les amateurs de musique chorale.
English Google Translation:

Google Translation:
After productions dedicated to the choral music of Francis Poulenc and Olivier Messiaen, the Danish National Vocal Ensemble, under the direction of Marcus Creed, explores the works of two composers born in 1890, whose name could lead to confusion for the uninitiated: Martin and Martinů. The album testifies, as much by the diversity of the repertoire as by the character of the performances, of an astonishing richness of the interpreted partitions.
The disc opens with Frank Martin's double a choir a cappella, composed between 1922 and 1924 in an "archaic modern" style, completed in 1926 by an Agnus Dei, and created only forty years later, in 1963, in Hamburg. As its title indicates, this mass is written for cori spezzati, that is to say, two groups of four voices, according to the technique of composition that Martin borrowed from Renaissance music, but also from that of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose work he greatly appreciated. By its structure, that of the ordinarium missae, this page is part of a Gregorian legacy, including the introduction of long melismas from chorus to chorus - very pure and bright in this interpretation - referring to the plainchant, as well as note-keeping reminiscent of the medieval drone. The rich polyphony which is unfolded there, not without references to the inheritance of this Bach, is rendered with simplicity and with a natural of phrasing, just as with vigor and passion in the most dramatic For the Creed - where the singing is not entrusted to a soloist, as usual for this type of compositions, but subject to performance by all the singers - we are impressed by the clarity of the tones and nuances, the charm homogeneous voices, as well as by their diction, irreproachable for all the works proposed on this record (even for the Czech!). For the Sanctus - beginning with a simple ostinato of masculine voices that soon join the sopranos, dazzling, of the two choirs - one is struck by the way in which these dialogues, with a high musical sensibility and a lot of energy, so that the tension does not stop increasing throughout the movement, ending on a sound so strong and dense that the sound is marked by light cracks. By contrast, the Agnus Dei, for which the choir II seems limited to a simple harmonic support of the choir I, begins in a reassuring atmosphere, underlined by a legato of beautiful workmanship and elegance, suavity and purity rare. Where the intensity reaches its highest degree, this atmosphere is degraded during a strong emission of some dissonant chords, nevertheless a diminuendo, accompanied by a delicate slowdown of the tempo, indicates a fast initial restoration, is now until the end of the execution.
 
The four songs about the Virgin Mary by Bohuslav Martinů - completed in 1934, inspired by Czech melodies and folkloric texts - take us into a world completely different from that of the Latin Mass. Composed in four parts, and of rather modest size, these vocal miniatures are of a touching beauty, as well as of a great intimacy, even of a contemplative austerity. In the first piece, entitled The Annunciation, we are confronted with the scene of the proclamation of the divine maternity made to the Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel, who - at the level of harmonies and expression - makes us feel the anxiety that the young woman feels. The singers illustrate this anguish by modulations of tempo and intensity, offered as a sequence of crescendos and accelerandos, after which the declamation of the text returns to its original state (Mary accepts the will of God). The following song, A Dream, brings us a dreamlike vision of a rest of the Virgin in paradise, returning by the multiple colors of which the voices of the interpreters, given in halftone, are impregnated with frescoes and stained glass windows as bright as eloquent of an old village church. The third piece of the cycle, Breakfast of the Virgin Mary - whose purely conceptual words have nothing to do with the dogmas of the Catholic faith - makes us realize how much this music, highlighted by a full execution of tenderness and poetry, is rooted in Slav culture, whose popular impulses are translated here into classical psalmody. The last song, The Image of the Virgin Mary, magnifies the icon of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Polish city, while telling the story of the development of this painting (the origin of which remains for some a enigma to this day, tradition attributes it to Luke the Evangelist), as well as by explaining the origin of the two scratches due to saber strikes, visible on the left cheek of the Virgin. The reading proposed by the Danish band emphasizes the clarity of the polyphonies and the expressiveness a bit exempt, though flowing from the heart, of the dramatism hidden under the words of the story. The balance is thus found between objectivism (which is sometimes understood as an emotional distance) and exaggeration.
 
Except for the Mass for double choir, Frank Martin wrote again in 1950, a work a cappella: Five songs of Ariel, composed with a variable number of parts, the quantity goes up to sixteen, as well as made up of passages for a single voice, baritone and alto, which only intervene exceptionally. To animate them, Martin uses a variety of singing techniques, attaching the utmost importance to the meaning of the text in order to establish a common thread between words and music. With a delicate but not demonstrative virtuosity, his miniatures impress as much by the multitude of colors as by the complexity of textures and harmonies, rendered by the Danish phalanx with a certain expressive sobriety inherent to their introverted and intimate character. Created in 1953, Ariel's Five Songs are written in English texts by William Shakespeare's The Tempest, entrusted by him to Ariel, one of the most curious characters and, at the same time, the most emblematic of the work: a spirit. This play had to deeply inspire the Swiss artist who, moreover, fashioned on its base, between 1952 and 1954, an opera Der Sturm, whose opening and the end point of the epilogue, to quote that two examples, take up the thematic material of the second of the Songs of Ariel, called Full fathom five. We are delighted by the imaginative richness that the composer displays, and the way he creates the image of the mysterious depths of the ocean, by introducing an ostinato to a bell of the clock - the chorus gracefully declaims " Ding dong, bell repetitive, embellished with disturbing rhythms, skilfully woven into the subtle harmonic envelope of the work - here to illustrate the corals and pearls lying at the bottom of the basin as the remains of a transformed to be drowned human. Amongst the soloists, Hanna-Maria Strand is especially saluted, whose deep, unctuous and suggestive viola gives us the thrill of the song You are three men of sin, where Ariel, which she embodies, casts a spell on three of Prospero's enemies.
The album ends by a cantata of house for mixed choir and soprano, The Romance of dandelions, composed by Martinå around 1957, on to the Czech Republic of the poet Miloslav Bureš. The partition located in this execution an enrichment of musical texture by an "intervention" of a true military drum - symbolizing the appearance of a soldier - through which Marcus Creed is striving to make the connection of the text sung more eloquent. We are witnesses to a tragedy of love: a young woman, whose statements are commented and supplemented by those of the choir, waits in the seven years since his beloved, the said military, returns from the war. His grief and a languor are here mentioned by Angessa Klaudia Kidon, endowed with a soprano simple, non-tubé and crystalline, but a little inexpressive. In addition, this "fadeur" of expression (especially a lack of fervour) also characterized the delivery given by the choir members, including the declamation does not seem to render justice, at times, to the emotions which this page is filled.
With the workforce of the twenty-four singers (six sopranos, six violas, six tenors and six baritones), the entire national voice of Denmark under the careful direction and balanced Marcus Creed pays tribute and remains faithful to the largest musical traditions of the Scandinavian countries. The presence in the operator of a translation bilingual English-Czech of texts sung makes listening of the disk more pleasant and more rewarding. To recommended to all lovers of choral music.
 
 

Maciej Chiżyński, Resmusica, FR

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
STAR REVIEW 5 Stars(Maximum) "Their CD is an important release"
Philip Reed, Choir & Organ, UK
02 May 2018
The main work on this album is Martin’s choral masterwork, the Mass for Double Choir. Completed in 1926, Martin did not allow the work to be performed for almost 40 years. After its premiere he explained that his strict Calvinist faith adhered to a relationship with God that was entirely a private matter: ‘I felt that a personal expression of religious belief should remain secret and hidden from public opinion’. Thankfully, Martin decided to share his ‘secret Mass’, which has been widely regarded as one of the last century’s most significant works for a cappella choir, though it remains still too little known. Bach, Hindemith, renaissance polyphony and Schoenberg’s 12-note system all play their part in shaping the music. Marcus Creed and the Danish National Vocal Ensemble give an exemplary reading of this beautiful work, with a near-perfect balance between the voices and evenness of tone across the ensemble. The other Martin work on the CD is his Songs of Ariel, settings from Shakespeare’s The Tempest dating from 1950: engaging settings, that later led him to write an opera based on the play. The other half of the disc is devoted to Martinù: his Four Songs of the Virgin Mary (1934), unassuming, straightforward a cappella settings which illuminate aspects of, and events in, the Virgin’s life; and his Romance from the Dandelions (1955), which concerns the story of a Czech village girl waiting for her soldier sweetheart to return from the war. It has a major solo soprano part, here admirably dispatched by Klaudia Kidon. Creed and his Danish forces are as adept in Martinù as they are in Martin. Their CD is an important release
Philip Reed, Choir & Organ, UK

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles.
Dr. Matthias Lange , Klassik.com, Germany
30 April 2018
Zwei 1890er
Vor allem Martinus Chorwerke werden selten interpretiert. Die großartige Messe von Frank Martin leuchtet kammermusikalisch intensiv. Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles. 
 
Die berühmte Messe für Doppelchor von Frank Martin, in wesentlichen Teilen entstanden 1922, ist einer der Dreh- und Angelpunkte geistlicher Chormusik im 20. Jahrhundert: In ihrem Charakter intim und tiefgehend, von fast verstörend intensiver Geste und mit diesen Eigenschaften wohl besonders passend in das zerklüftete, von Konflikten erschütterte 20. Jahrhundert. Satztechnisch ist sie kaleidoskopartig reich, harmonisch überwältigend – ein wenig kann man es auch heute noch nachempfinden, dass dieses persönliche Bekenntniswerk für Frank Martin jahrzehntelang zu intim für die öffentliche Aufführung schien. Dokumentiert ist sie vor allem in den letzten beiden Jahrzehnten in etwa einem Dutzend, teils herausragenden Aufnahmen. Doch lädt sie selbstverständlich zur Neuinspektion ein: Marcus Creed und das professionelle Nationale Dänische Vokalensemble haben sich jetzt daran gemacht.
Kombiniert wird die Messe mit den englischsprachigen 'Songs of Ariel', die Martin 1950 nach Vorlagen des Shakespeare-Stücks ‚Der Sturm‘ schrieb: Sie zeigen einen weit virtuoseren Zugriff auf das chorische Geschehen, führen auch in deutlich expressivere Gefilde, garniert mit harmonisch heiklen Verbindungen.
Auf der aktuellen Platte wird Martin mit seinem gleichfalls 1890 geborenen Altersgenossen Bohuslav Martinů in einen spannenden Kontext gestellt. Martinůs 'Four Songs of the Virgin Mary' entfalten sich aus schlichten musikalischen Grundlagen, werden effektvoll in einen oft homophonen Satz übertragen, auch mit kontrapunktischen Rauheiten versehen, die intensive Bewegung evozieren und aus der Ruhe der tschechischen Volkspoesie wegführen, die anfangs noch bestimmend war. Ende der 1950er Jahre komponierte Martinů auf Texte eines Jugendfreunds vier Kantaten, eine davon unbegleitet – 'Romance from the Dandelions' betitelt, die hier das Programm beschließt. Ein melancholischer Blick zurück auf das eigene, von fortgesetzter Flucht geprägte Leben setzt den Ton. Der weit aufgefächerte, luftig gesetzte Chor hat zunächst scheinbar schlichte Aufgaben, die es mit würziger Harmonik und heiklen Klängen von edler Konzentration am Ende aber doch in sich haben.
Ein profiliertes Ensemble
Das ist insgesamt ebenso feine wie attraktive Musik. Und das Nationale Dänische Vokalensemble überzeugt in diesem Programm sehr deutlich – ähnlich, wie auf der 2015 erschienenen Platte mit Werken Olivier Messiaens. In der Grundaufstellung sind es 18 Vokalisten, bei Martin 24 – wohl auch wegen der Doppelchörigkeit, die sich wiederum in einzelnen Sätzen noch weiter aufspreizt. In jedem Fall also eine konzentrierte, schlanke Besetzung, die als eigenständige Größe dann auch den Deutungsrahmen bestimmt: Marcus Creeds Fassung mit den Dänen gerät kammermusikalisch, ist gesammelt, bestimmt von großer Präzision und Klarheit. Manchem mag hier eine Spur Magie größerer Register fehlen: Stimmig ist dieser Zugang gleichwohl. Und darin auch anderen großartigen Deutungen der Messe verschieden, etwa denen von Daniel Reuss und dem RIAS Kammerchor oder Harry Christophers und The Sixteen; besetzungsbedingt gänzlich andersartig als James O'Donnells Knaben des Westminster Cathedral Choir es unbestritten großartig gesungen haben, ist es ohnehin.
Doch verfängt der kammermusikalische Ansatz bei den 'Songs of Ariel' wie bei Martinů besonders deutlich, ist die lebendige, von den Texten ausgehende Art des Singens sehr überzeugend. Niemand muss sich sorgen: Größere Kantilenen geraten durchaus nicht schütter, doch werden sie vor allem mit klaren Konturen gebildet. Immer wieder lösen sich expressive Soli souverän aus dem Ensemblekontext. Soli, angesichts deren individueller Größe man erstaunt ist, wie deutlich diese Stimmen dann auch wieder in den Ensembleklang eintreten können. Marcus Creed wählt maßvolle, gelegentlich sogar verhalten wirkende Tempi – der erstaunlich große Atem des Ensembles macht das problemlos möglich. In verhaltener Dynamik wird anmutig differenziert; große Gesten lassen sich gleichwohl äußerst profiliert vernehmen. Die Intonation ist angesichts der Herausforderungen exzellent zu nennen. Eine einzige Irritation ist am Schluss des Sanctus‘ zu verzeichnen: Das emphatisch gerufene E-Dur, das der erste Chor nach kurzer Note abreißen lässt, gleicht dem darunter liegenden, in anderer Lage gesungenen des zweiten Chors durchaus nicht. Mit Blick auf den Klang überwiegen die positiven Befunde: Das Bild ist klar und plastisch, wirkt harmonisch und ausgewogen – eine blitzsaubere Studioaufnahme. Mit letzterem verbindet sich die einzige Einschränkung: Das Moment des räumlichen Charmes geht der Messe ab, den anderen Werken weniger.
Zu hören ist hochkarätige Chormusik des 20. Jahrhunderts. Vor allem Martinůs Chorwerke werden seltener interpretiert. Die großartige Messe von Frank Martin leuchtet kammermusikalisch intensiv. Nach der mehr als beachtlichen Messiaen-Platte erneut eine schöne Visitenkarte des Nationalen Dänischen Vokalensembles und der Zusammenarbeit mit Marcus Creed. 
Interpretation:4
Klangqualität:4
Repertoirewert: 4
Booklet:3



 
 


Dr. Matthias Lange , Klassik.com, Germany

DVD: MARIN (Animated Fantasy), Axel (Portrait)
SACD: Selected Highlights
Marin
Axel Borup-Jørgensen (1924-2012)
It is something of a milestone among Scandinavian New Music offerings in recent years.
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review (USA)
30 April 2018
I have gone into the music of Danish composer Axel Borup-Jorgensen (1924-2012) at some length on these pages. (See articles from February 23, 2017, February 3, 2014 and September 7, 2016.) However I have not previously discussed his orchestral works. This morning I get the opportunity for that with a deluxe DVD-SACD set of Marin (Our Recordings 2.110426). The DVD contains two films that utilize Borup-Jorgensen's music, "Marin, An Animated Fantasy," and "Axel, A Portrait Film." The SACD contains the full nearly 20-minute performance of the orchestra work "Marin" plus a number of chamber works from the film of the same name.
I have no way of commenting on the DVD because every one of my players or disk drives has failed in the last several years.
On the SACD I have happily spent a good deal of time. Its nearly 80 minute length allows a good number of relevant compositions from the film(s) to be explored. The orchestral opus "Marin" gets a fully fleshed, vibrantly sonic reading from Thomas Sondergard conducting the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Written at various stages between 1963-1970, it has a High Modernist soundscaped sonority and a good deal of dimensional depth. I would not hesitate to number this as among Borup-Jorgensen's most profound and effective works.
Another essential on the disc is his "Coast of Sirens, Op. 100" (1983-85) for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, guitar, piano, percussion and multivoice tape. The female voices ethereally evoke the seductive clarion call while the chamber ensemble wraps itself in and around the vocals with luminous elements of very modern atmospheric articulations.
The two works form a crucial set of bookends for five more sparsely configured works. There are two pieces for solo recorders, very characteristic of Borup-Jorgensen's angular contemporary treatment of the instrument. The 1955-56 "Music for Percussion + Viola" has a heightened sonic sense, a rhythmic drive and a pronounced trajectory more-or-less characteristic of the best New Music of that period. The Percurama Percussion Ensemble and Tim Frederiksen on viola contrast and commune together in ways that make for worthy listening. The 1989 "Fur Cembalo und Orgel" dramatically explores sound colors and wave-like swells while one of the 1959 "Winter Pieces" for piano gives us a gentle and chilly weathered rumination.

In all the SACD provides the modernist aficionado with the most freewheeling and variously instrumented introduction of Borup-Jorgensen's music I have yet to hear. No doubt the DVD film sequence adds to our appreciation as well. For that I do recommend you check out this offering. It is something of a milestone among Scandinavian New Music offerings in recent years. Grego Applegate Edwards, April 30 2018
Grego Applegate Edwards, Classical-Modern Music Review (USA)

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Klangtechnisch ist die Aufnahme superb, natürlich, direkt, transparent und ohne zusätzlichen Kunsthall.
Thomas Baack, Klassik Heute, Germany
26 April 2018
 
Klassik Heute (Germany)
(9/10/8)
 
Welch reizvolle Idee, Werke zweier 1890 Geborener mit nur um einen Buchstaben verschiedenen Nachnamen auf einer SACD zu präsentieren, nämlich Frank Martin und Bohuslav Martinu! Der Titel bezieht sich auf das Faktum, dass Frank Martin um seine in den zwanziger Jahren komponierte Messe solch ein Geheimnis machte, dass diese erst 1962 nach vielem gutem Zureden uraufgeführt werden konnte. Obwohl sie aufgrund der weitestgehend modalen, impressionistisch-archaisch gefärbten Harmonik mit einigen strawinskiesken rhythmischen Zuspitzungen den Ersthörer spontan begeistert, gehört sie – wie auch die Deutsche Motette von Richard Strauss und so einiges von Max Reger – zu den Werken, die schon aufgrund des geforderten immensen Stimmumfangs (2. Bass bis D, 1. Sopran bis c‘‘‘) extrem intonationssicheren (semi)professionellen Ensembles vorbehalten bleiben müssen. Strauss standen hierfür die Opernchöre in Wien und Berlin zur Verfügung, aber kaum jemand hätte damals die knapp halbstündige Ordinariumskomposition eines Newcomers riskiert. Wäre ich Leiter eines solchen Ensembles, würde ich zur Vorstellung des Werkes die süffigere Referenzaufnahme des BR-Chores verwenden, zum intensiven häuslichen Studium aber die hier vorliegende interpretatorisch zumindest gleichwertige, dabei wesentlich transparentere Version empfehlen.
Martins sängerisch noch anspruchsvollere 5 Gesänge des Ariel mit streckenweise vierfacher Teilung der Stimmgruppen von 1950 sind in ihrer erweiterten Tonalität seinem In terra pax verwandt, geben sich somit beim ersten Hören klanglich spröder. Es handelt sich hierbei um Monologe des Luftgeistes Ariel aus Shakespeares Sturm. Dankenswerterweise kann auf dem Web-Auftritt der Universal-Edition eine Probepartitur des Werks eingesehen werden, was das konzentrierte Zuhören ungemein erleichtert. Hier gelingt dem Danish National Vocal Ensemble eine meisterliche Referenzinterpretation mit klarer Diktion, makelloser Intonation und von wohlgerundetem Klang. Amüsant die chromatischen Vokalisen des Bienenschwarms in Where the bee sucks, die den von den Unterstimmen vorgetragenen Monolog immer wieder stören, das Hundegebell in Come unto this yellow sands und die Glocken in Five fathoms deep.
Die 4 Lieder über Maria (1934) und die „Romanze des Löwenzahns“ (1955) von Bohuslav Martinu sind eng mit dessen Liebe zur tschechischen Heimat verknüpft. Die vertonten Texte sind entweder mährische Volkslieder oder nutzen in der Romanze deren Duktus. Melodik und Rhythmik orientieren sich an westslawischer Folklore, die Harmonisierung changiert zwischen Archaismen im Stil der englischen Renaissance und impressionistischen Fortschreitungen.
Bei den klanglich durchaus gelungenen Interpretationen dieser selten eingespielten und somit hier nahezu unbekannten, folkloristisch beeinflussten Werke fehlen mir die Affinität zur tschechischen Sprache und die musikantische Agogik. Sie erschienen mir bereits beim ersten Anhören zu gepflegt madrigalesk und in der Diktion zu verwaschen. Der Unterschied zu Muttersprachlern wurde mir aber erst deutlich, nachdem ich die Supraphon-Aufnahmen der exzellenten Martinu Voices(Lieder), die mit wesentlich klarerer Diktion aufwarten, und des Kühn-Chors (Ballade), der stimmlich mehr slawische Vibranz bei etwas weniger präziser Intonation einbringt, zum Vergleich gehört hatte.
Klangtechnisch ist die Aufnahme superb, natürlich, direkt, transparent und ohne zusätzlichen Kunsthall. Das eine Handvoll Sopran-Stellen zur Schärfe neigt, ist den Komponisten zuzuschreiben (b‘‘ und c‘‘‘ bedürfen der Orchestergrundierung). Das Booklet ist höchst informativ, aber leider nur Englisch. Die tschechischen Texte liegen ebenfalls nur in vorangestellter englischer Übersetzung vor. Daher der Punktabzug hinsichtlich der Präsentation.
Vergleichsaufnahmen: Martin: Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Dijstra; BRKlassik - Martinu: Lieder, Martinu Voices, Supraphon SU 4237-2; Romanze, Milada Čejková, Kühn Mixed Choir, Supraphon SU 3925-2 
Thomas Baack, Klassik Heute, Germany

Danish National Vocal Ensemble
Marcus Creed, conductor
The Secret Mass
Choral works by Frank Martin and Bohuslav Martinů
Homogeneity and precision, perfect intonation and razor sharp articulation, cool bel canto, vigour and integrity.
Valdemar Lønsted, Information, DK
17 April 2018
English Translation,- se below.
DR Vokalensemblet er alene med sin chefdirigent, Marcus Creed, på en anden nyudgivelse, og det er rent ud sagt en pragtfuld plade. Repertoiret er vel temmelig eksotisk – korværker af schweizeren Frank Martin (1890-1974) og tjekken Bohuslav Martinù (1890-1959) – men både aficionados og lyttere med åbne ører og sind vil blive belønnet med fremragende opførelser af melodiøs og stemningsfuld kvalitetsmusik fra en verden af ikke så længe siden. Det er egentlig ikke til at forstå, at det er det samme ensemble, der synger Erlkönigs Tochter. Men det langt mere udfordrende klangunivers og sangernes centrale placering i lydbilledet åbenbarer helt andre prægtige ressourcer, som Creed har fremelsket i de senere år.
 
Udgivelsens titel The Secret Mass går på Frank Martins messe, som blev komponeret i 1922 og derefter skjult i komponistens gemmer indtil 1963, hvor han tillod en enkelt opførelse. Der skulle gå endnu 11 år, inden partituret blev udgivet, og det er en gåde, hvorfor Martin ønskede at hemmeligholde dette mesterværk: En messe for dobbeltkor inspireret af renæssancens praksis med flere kor, der kunne synge over for hinanden i kirkerummet. Martins tonesprog er tidsløst, den gregorianske sang og 1500-tallets italienske vokalpolyfoni høres som en salgs traditionsbekendelser, mens Martins egen dynamiske stemmebehandling og sensuelle harmonier giver denne latinske messe præg af modernitet. Vi får det hele med Vokalensemblet: Homogenitet og præcision, perfekt intonation og knivskarp artikulation, svalt bel canto, vælde og inderlighed.
 
I Bohuslav Martinùs korsatser synger de på tjekkisk. Fire indtagende sange om Jomfru Maria i et betydeligt mere folketoneagtigt sprog end Martins, men mest bemærkelsesværdig er romancen om mælkebøtternes fortællingen om en bøhmisk pige som venter på kærestens hjemkomst fra krigen. Man mærker en affinitet til Gustav Mahler og hans Knaben Wunderhorn-sange i forbundetheden til naturen og den menneskelige hverdagssorg. Det er suggestiv kormusik, i sagens natur farvet af dybt vemod, og med sopranen Klaudia Kidon som blændende solist i pigens replikker.
 
Frank Martin står også for Songs of Ariel, fem sange fra Shakespeares Stormen. Luftånden Ariel er her på spil, vel nok af hankøn, ofte spillet en kvinde som f.eks. Clara Pontoppidan i opførelserne på Det Kongelige Teater 1926, da Sibelius’ scenemusik blev spillet for første gang. Ariels filosofiske smuler omsat til korsangere er vidunderlige perler, ganske særligt Full fathom five, stille bølgende musik som koralernes langsomme liv på havets bund, hvor den druknedes øjne er forvandlet til perler. Valdemar Lønsted, 17. April 2018, Valdemar Lønsted                   
 
Information, DK (English translation)
'Erlkönigs Tochter' is a newly-discovered German version of our national treasure, which now has its first recording. With the fiery anchorman of Concerto Copenhagen in charge, Lars Ulrik Mortensen, three foreign soloists and DNVE we get an admonishing corrective to our view of this national treasure.
In another release, the same vocal ensemble consolidates its position as a European elite choir.
Valdemar Lønsted, from Information (17 April, 2018)
Martin and Martinù
The DR Vocal Ensemble is alone with its Chief Conductor Marcus Creed, on another release, and it is, of course, a splendid record. The repertoire is quite exotic – choir works by the Swiss Frank Martin (1890-1974) and the Czech Bohuslav Martinù (1890-1959) - but both aficionados, and listeners with open ears and minds, will be rewarded with outstanding performances of melodious and atmospheric quality music from a world of not so long ago. It is hard to believe that this is the same ensemble that sings in Erlkönig's Tochter. But this is a much more challenging vocal universe and the singers’ central location in the sound reveals completely different magnificent resources, which Creed has evolved in recent years.
The title of the publication The Secret Mass come from the Frank Martin mass, which was composed in 1922 and then hidden away by the composer until 1963, when he allowed a single performance. It was another 11 years before the score was released and it is a mystery why Martin wanted to keep secret
this masterpiece: a Mass for double choir inspired by the Renaissance practice with several
choirs singing opposite each other in the church space. Martin's tonal language is timeless, the Gregorian
plainsong and 16th century Italian vocal polyphony heard as kind of traditions, Martin’s own dynamic voice-handling and sensual harmonies giving this Latin Mass a touch of modernity. We get it all with the Vocal Ensemble: homogeneity and precision, perfect intonation and razor sharp articulation, cool bel canto, vigour and integrity.
 
In Bohuslav Martinù's choir pieces, they sing in Czech. Four intriguing songs about the Virgin Mary in a significantly more populist language than Martin’s, but most remarkable is the Romance from the Dandelions, about a Bohemian girl waiting for her lover’s return from the war.
You feel an affinity to Gustav Mahler and his Knaben Wunderhorn in the connection to nature and everyday human sadness. It is suggestive choral music, inherently colored with deep melancholy, and with the soprano Klaudia Kidon as a dazzling soloist in the girl's lines.
 
Frank Martin is also responsible for Songs of Ariel, five songs from Shakespeare's Tempest. The air Spirit
Ariel is at stake, probably enough male, often played by woman like eg. Clara Pontoppidan in the performances at the Royal Theater in 1926, when Sibelius's stage music was performed for the first time. Ariel's philosophy, crumbs translated into choral songs, are wonderful gems, quite especially Full fathom five, with quietly rolling music like the corals’ slow life on the ocean floor, where drowned eyes are turned
to pearls.
Valdemar Lønsted, Information, DK
  OUR Recordings
Esromgade 15, opg.1 3.floor, room 1315
2200 Copenhagen N
Denmark
Tel: +45 4015 05 77
E-mail: hannibal@michalapetri.com
QUICK LINKS
NEWS
RELEASES
PROJECTS
COLLABORATORS
CONCERT SCHEDULE
REVIEWS
GALLERIES
  PROFILE

CONTACT

MICHALA PETRI'S WEBSITE
LARS HANNIBAL'S WEBSITE

 

 
   

Home | Contact | Copyright OUR Recordings 2002 - 2019. All rights reserved. | Michala Petri's Official Website | Lars Hannibal's Official Website