Praulins: The Nightingale (CD Review - Gramophone Magazine, 2011)

Layton in Denmark for another Baltic Voyage

This new disc reinforces the extraordinary strengths of the Danish choral tradition. Here are voices of mature suppleness and agility, surveying new music by a Nordic quartet of a Dane, a Latvian, a Swede and a Faroese, stirring from a deep wellspring of creativity and all sung in English. The oldest piece recorded here (a mere four years old) is Nemesis divina by Daniel Börtz, born in Sweden in 1943. This is a challenging 'musical/meaphysical meditation' on the word 'man', reminiscent of 1970s Berio but none the worse for it. Rasmussen's 'I' is equally challenging on first hearing, full of twists and turns. 

'The Nightingale' (2011) by the Latvian Ugis Praulins is essentially a 30-minute concerto, consisting of a tableaux based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the Emperor and the Nightingale. It demands an astonishing choral range of four octaves. The seventh section, 'The Artificial Bird', is a marvel of invention, with percussive imitations and multiphonics. The ornithological theme i continued with Bruun's pair of Hopkins bird-poem settings. In an accessible and diatonic idiom, they make a splendid and satisfying conclusion to this distinctive programme.

Needless to say, Stephen Layton steers his perrlessly virtuoso musicians through this eclectic and innovative mix with his customary polish and dramatic energy. Also running through it all like a golden thread is Michala Petri's iridescent playing. She uses the full 'chest' of recorders with mercurial ease. This is an unequivocal treat for connoisseurs of fine choral singing and recorder lovers alike.

Reviewed by Malcolm Riley
Gramophone Magazine

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