Various Artists

Luala kultani: European Folk Songs for Equal Voices

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The origins of this charming disc are a little unclear, as are the identities of the line of young women who grace the cover, but apparently choirs from around Europe were invited to submit recordings of folk tunes from their national traditions, unaccompanied arranged for either mixed chorus or "equal voices," and the results were issued in two volumes. This one is the equal-voice collection, which turns out to consist entirely of music for women's choir. The choirs and the music come from all over Europe; although a German choir from Neustadt gets three selections, apparently because the Carus label is itself located in Germany, all the rest of the selections originate among different countries or ethnic groups; Finland opens the proceedings with the title track, "Laula kultani" (Sing, my sweetheart). The majority of the pieces are love songs, although they are not exclusively from the female point of view, and one is struck by the homogeneity of sound among a large group of arrangers, conductors, and composers. The sound of "Syrtos Rhodou" (track 29), for example, is not characteristically Greek. Whatever the original songs sounded like, they've been massaged into diatonic major and minor tonalities here for the most part. There are nevertheless pieces that stand out, either in melodic-harmonic profile (Denmark's "Jeg gik mig," track 15) or in the sheer technique of the choir (the VA Sofia Chamber Choir heard on "Polegnala e Todora," track 23, seems to reflect Bulgaria's traditions of female choral singing). Part of the fun lies in hearing some of Europe's more obscure languages and dialects, especially varieties of German such as the dialect spoken in northeastern Italy (FL is the abbreviation for Liechtenstein, if you were wondering). All texts are translated into German and English (or just summarized), but the originals for those in other languages are not given. The technical proficiency of the choirs involved is impressive, for most of them are nonprofessional enterprises; groups such as the Corfu Municipality Choir and the Female Choir of Tallinn Technical University obviously take their work seriously, and there's not a single track that's disappointing on musical grounds. This disc may be especially enjoyable for listeners in the U.S., where this kind of treatment of folk music has fallen out of fashion, and also for choral singers of all kinds; the music is apparently available in printed versions, and the booklet proclaims that the disc "offers choirs attractive literature to expand their repertoires for many different occasions."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:45
2
3:02
3
4:39
4
2:22
5
3:45
6
1:06
7
1:12
8 2:18
9
2:04
10
1:11
11
3:36
12
1:42
13
2:07
14
1:47
15
2:07
16
2:53
17
1:54
18
2:23
19
2:53
20
2:06
21
2:35
22
0:57
23
4:26
24
1:07
25
1:22
26
1:07
27
1:32
28
1:28
29
1:41
30
1:52
31
3:01
32
1:49
33
1:46
34
1:21
blue highlight denotes track pick