Svend Nielsen: Sommerfugledalen

Jay Batzner, Sequeza 21
Tirsdag, 18. maj Link to Sequeza 21


This requiem in two parts is a complete setting of Inger Christensen’s Sommerfugledalen or Butterfly Valley for twelve voices. Svend Nielsen commands an excellent lyric style and mixes in intriguing vocal effects for an engaging and captivating 45 minutes of music.

The opening triad arpeggiation quickly dissolves away into fresh diatonic and chromatic textures. Cadences on major chords happen at wondrous times. Non-singing vocal effects are used sparingly and are always an integral part of the musical fabric instead of being thrown around willy-nilly. Each of the fifteen movements floats gracefully and elegantly in space and time and maintains a small dramatic scope. A few gestures build to intense moments but these moments are never sustained for long. They drift away on the wind like butterflies. How apt.

The final track on the disc is the poet reading the text used for this piece. While I do not understand the Danish language, hearing the poet speak her own works proved to further elucidate the choral writing. Mr. Nielsen’s pitch language is rather slippery and mercurial. Hearing the natural glissandi and inflections of the language when plainly spoken reinforces the masterful text setting by the composer.

Ars Nova Copenhagen is one of those great groups that specializes in early music and contemporary music. Their performance is exquisite. They glide along with great ease while navigating some rather difficult passages. They truly sing with a single voice and have a great dramatic focus to their sound.