The concept of this release is rare if not unique, and it deserves kudos even if most listeners will like some parts of it better than others. Thousands of recordings have featured music inspired by the body of traditional music labeled, problematically enough, as "folk," but most of them feature one particular method of making it into a concert music artifact. This group of Norwegian musicians under conductor Grete Pedersen does something different: it presents several different "impressions of Norwegian folk music" and lets them talk to each other, as it were. There are essentially three. First is a set of lightly arranged renditions of Norwegian traditional music, featuring folk vocalist Berit Opheim Versto, and a Hardanger fiddle player, Gjermund Larsen. This unique instrument may be worth the price of admission for many listeners; it has four main and six sympathetic strings. Second is a group of choral arrangements of folk songs, with wordless passages, which is not too far off, if you don't consider the melancholy Scandinavian spirit, from the choral versions of American folk song that were so common a few decades ago. Finally there's a more contemporary take in the form of the seven-movement Allsang (2009), by composer Eivind Buene, featuring choir, folk singer, violin, and tape; the work has a variety of intriguing rhythmic structures (although the motor rhythms of Bartók are avoided), broadening out at the end to return to the tonality of the source material. All of this is splendidly performed: the Norwegian Soloists Choir is limpid, the fiddler and folk singer have some grit. One point of interest is that much of the music is religious in nature; even some of this religious music may contain the Hardanger fiddle. Strongly recommended and superbly recorded.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
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|Allsang, for voice, violin, choir, and tape|
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