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Nørgård: Will-O’-the-Wisps in Town; Out of the Cradle Endlessy Rocking

Helene Gjerris/Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen

Dacapo: 8226085 [CD + DVD] NB: Dacapo 60% off normal prices

This is a demanding but greatly rewarding book-style double disc, which will repay the time spent digesting it.

Start with the quartet Wave Music for clarinet, violin, cello & piano (same as for Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time), based on Walt Whitman's poem, and featuring Nørgård's fascination with the sea and wave motion - with 'simultaneous different wave-lengths and dense multi-layering', all explained in the composer's note and interview in the substantial booklet included (definitely better in this form than as a download).

The Will-o'-the-Wisps in Town is a fairy tale cantata created by Nørgård with author Suzanne Brøgger, expanded from a little known Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and premiered in Birmingham at the 200th anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth.

Nørgård's chamber version here has the "Marsh Witch" sung by mezzo-soprano Helene Gjerris, who takes part in the half-hour DVD documentary “A Journey in Fairy Tales and Music”, which has them together explaining the genesis of the work to journalists on a train journey, with subtitles for easy following.

This is better watched before listening to the CD of the whole work, which is supplied with full text and English translation; not quite parallel-aligned (the Danish seems to need a little less space on the page). Danish is a beautiful language, and perhaps Dacapo did not take into account those of us whol like to follow texts in both languages together to keep our bearings?

The whole production is superb, and a reminder of some of Nørgård's operas and other music of his reviewed over the years, though still not often enough given in UK, e.g. Siddharta and For a Change.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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