Nidarosdomens Jentekor / Trondheim Soloists (TrondheimSolistene)

Magnificat

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This album caught the attention of U.S. Grammy voters in 2015 for its engineering, and indeed its surround-sound work, with the orchestral players moving several times over the course of the recording, is impressive even on ordinary playback equipment. But beyond this, the recording, on the small Norwegian label 2L, has gained a substantial following among ordinary classical listeners in several countries who give no sign of having experienced it on equipment costing upwards of $5,000. This is doubtless due in part to the simplicity of style in the main work, the Magnificat by Norwegian composer Kim André Arnesen, but again that's not the whole story. Arnesen's music is tonal, but it builds in considerable rhythmic complexity in the form of shifting time signatures, and it is constructed out of layers that are ideally suited to the recording site, the magnificent Nidaros Cathedral of Trondheim, Norway. The chorus is that cathedral's house girls' choir, the Nidarosdomen Jentekor. The nexus of that group's limpid amateur sound and the razor-sharp string playing of the Trondheim Soloists is one source of the music's appeal; another is the structure of the Arnesen work itself, with orchestra, piano, and organ added at different times, but rarely joining for a massed sound. The inclusion of Aaron Jay Kernis' instrumental Musica Celestis, probably less well known in Norway than in North America, is a stroke of genius, setting off all the qualities of the Arnesen. The program ends with two pieces by another Norwegian composer, Ola Gjeilo, one of them a setting of Walt Whitman's Song of the Universal. An engineering feast, this is an easy-on-the-ears album that nevertheless does not spoon-feed its audiences.

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