Classical, Early Music, Folk, New Music
MOVE MCD 512
Reviewed by Anthony Linden Jones, May 1st, 2015
Each new CD from the Marais Project is a revelation, either of lesser-known works or of new contexts for this collection of early instruments. This current CD continues their tradition with a primary focus on the classical, folk and popular music of Sweden presented in the lush rich tones of baroque instrumentation—indeed a tasty and diverse smörgåsbord of rare delights.
Where their previous CD Lady Sings the Viol (2013) favoured the use of voice, this current project brings the focus onto the instrumental works of Swedish composers Johan Helmich Roman, and Esbjörn Svensson, with a small core ensemble of flute, violin, viol da gamba and theorbo/guitar. The sound of the CD is firmly established by the deeply emotional performance of the first piece Gammal Fäbodpsalm (Old pastoral hymn). The essentialising of the ensemble draws the listener’s attention to the instrumental colours and intensifies the emotional impact of the music with the throb and buzz of gut strings and the breathy huskiness of the baroque flute.
The CD closes with a series of Swedish folk songs, including the haunting tune Låt till Far (Tune for Father), of Pers Erik Olsson, which curiously featured on their previous CD. Nevertheless, it is such a beautiful song that this arrangement with its altered instrumentation is greatly welcomed, even so soon after the last.
Supplementing these instrumental works are a setting of the song Om Sommaren Sköna and a suite of four songs by Carl Michael Bellman. Two bawdy drinking songs are counterpoised against two gentler songs, one calling on the God of Night to calm the heated world, and one praising King Gustav III. All are beautifully sung by able young tenor Pascal Herrington.
The jazz-influenced Pavanne: Thoughts of a Septuagenarian by Esbjörn Svensson forms a dramatic contrast with the earlier works assuaged by the earthy instrumental textures of the period instruments.
The graphic design for the CD cover is magnificent—a series of superb portraits by designer Lyndall Gerlach that made me yearn for the images in a larger format.
This CD has already attracted quite a bit of well-deserved attention. As I write, it was nominated CD of the week on ABC Classic FM. It seems that sixteen years of hard work for Jenny Eriksson and her ensemble are finally coming to fruition. This is a truly beautiful CD, but if you are new to The Marais Project I strongly urge you to explore each of their CDs, each with its own distinct character.