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Fairytales - Nordic Light Duo

Fairytales - Nordic Light Duo

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 354

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Hugo Alfvén, Edvard Grieg, Jean Sibelius, Franz Schubert, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller, Emil Sjögren, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Robert Schumann, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Fanny Mendelssohn

Nordic Light Duo
Josefine Andersson, mezzo soprano
Daniel Beskow, piano

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - August 8, 2022

In a world flooded with fake news, those susceptible to make-believe should do well to seek refuge in the land of fairytales. That was my first thought when this new ARS Produktion release landed on my desk. I don’t know anyone that is too young or too old for that kind of make-believe. It’s probably the best remedy to turn a bag of lies into a bag of dreams.

Everything about this release is special. To start with the packaging. Not the usual plastic jewel box. Folded in a carton cover we have the disc to the left and a booklet glued to the right side with not only the usual liner notes about music and artists, but also, and that was a real surprise, a series of Art Nouveaux and Retro-Style illustrations. This alone is already worth exploring this album. But there is, of course, more to have a thorough look at.

Inspired by the famous Swedish children’s author and illustrator, Elsa Beskov, so tell me the liner notes, The Nordic Light Duo created a ‘concept’ of songs, interspersed with piano solos, divided into five sections, each representing one of Beskow’s fairytales. The programme is mainly, but not exclusively, made up of songs by Nordic composers, enriched by illustrations made and used by Elsa, also known as the Swedish Beatrix Potter.

Though written by famous Nordic Composers, like Grieg and Sibelius, it would seem to me that nonetheless many of the songs are unfamiliar to most of us. By furthermore adding songs of Scandinavian composers hitherto practically unknown, like Lange-Müller, Sjögren, and Peterson-Berger, this survey becomes a document of exceptional interest. The only quibble one might have: What are Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, and Fanny Mendelssohn doing in this company? The answer is that they are part of, or fit in with the farytales. They strengthen the idea behind the programme as designed by the members of The Nordic Duo: Josefine Andersson, mezzo-soprano, and Daniel Beskow, great grandchild of Elsa’s, at the piano.

Nothing is more personal than a person’s voice. Appreciation by an audience can go either way. As it turns out, Josefine’s voice has more of a lyrical than a dramatical opera style, at times using a fair amount of vibrato to lend weight to her voice. Her diction is most expressive, as could have been expected from a confirmed opera singer. It fits in marvellously well with the fairy environment of make-believe. Beskow is an admirably supportive partner, contributing not only with the quality of his playing but also by making available two unpublished illustrations through his family ties.

As so often in an anthology, not all compositions are of the same qualitative level. But this has no bearing whatsoever on the level of singing. Each song gets its own, personalized attention. In my view, one of the best and sung so beautifully is a song from the outside Denmark little-known Danish composer, Peter Erasmus Lange-Müller (track 11). Moreover, taking this album in its total conceptual format, I find that one of the prime attractions is the variety and the order in which of songs are presented, including Daniel Beskow’s choices for his solo intermezzi.

In conclusion: This is in every aspect an outstanding release that should (and no doubt will) find its way amongst a wider public than just lovers of songs and fine illustrations. Reading and savouring the booklet is an unexpected, hugely enjoyable pleasure. Texts of the tales are provided in the original Swedish language, with translation into English. Nordic Light Duo as well as ARS ought to get our heartfelt gratitude for this production.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2022 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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