Grieg: Partsongs for male voices/Die Singphoniker

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

Reviews of recordings such as this one are easy to write. From the very first seconds into this disc you know that it’s a world-class production, from performances to sound quality. Most listeners will not be familiar with this rather obscure repertoire–partsongs for male chorus by Edvard Grieg–but anyone who loves choral music, especially in the 19th-century tradition of Brahms and Mendelssohn, will absolutely love these pieces and these unassailable renditions by the six-voice Munich-based ensemble Die Singphoniker. When the liner notes describe this group’s success in “forming six voices into one harmonious vocal timbre” it’s not an exaggeration. Like a German version of England’s Hilliard Ensemble, these singers define ensemble unity as well as interpretive acuity. Although the notes speak of Grieg’s ardent advocacy of “a new, national, Scandinavian music” that was “the sworn enemy of Scandinavianism softened by Mendelssohn”, there’s certainly plenty of German influence evident in these pieces–but wholly imbued with an optimistic, affirmative character, cloaked in vibrant harmonies and aligned with florid, evocative, romantic texts. Impeccable vocalism and outstanding ensemble singing are captured in an ideal acoustic setting, and although there’s a certain sameness to the sound and to the musical settings, it’s of a quality that only makes you want more, not less.

Highlights are numerous, but include the gentle Min dejilgste Tanke (My sweetest thoughts), the dramatic Bjørneskytten (The bear hunt), and the beautiful, oft-performed (in various arrangements) I Himmelen (In heaven above) that here receives perhaps its loveliest rendition ever on recordings. There’s also the delightful set of songs that form the Album for Male Choir Op. 30 that contains the meowing of a cat (outstandingly done here!) in “Kinderlied” (“The cat sits on the roof chatting with her kitty daughters. . .”). Choral music lovers: don’t miss this outstanding disc. All other potential listeners: don’t spend the rest of your life not knowing what you missed. [2/19/2002]



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Recording Details:

EDVARD GRIEG - Partsongs for Male Voices

  • CPO - 999 835-2
  • CD

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