Into the Twilight: Romantic choral music from the fringes of Europe – Carice Singers/George Parris

Auringon noustessa
Siell on kauan jo kukkineet omenapuut
The Peaceful Western Wind
Songs of Springtime – Under the Greenwood Tree; The River-God’s Song
Scenes from The Saga of King Olaf – As Torrents in Summer
Voi, jos ilta joutuisi
To be sung of a summer night on the water
Evening Scene
Jeg Lagde Mig Så Sildig [arr. Eyvind Alnæs]
Twilight Night

The Carice Singers
George Parris

Reviewed by: Amanda-Jane Doran

Reviewed: 16 July, 2016
Venue: Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, London SW1

The Carice SingersPhotograph: subtle moods and colours of Scandinavian and Celtic twilight were here explored by the Carice Singers in an unusual and carefully chosen programme. The expansive Holy Trinity Church added a visual and acoustic richness to this young and distinctive group’s performance.

Toivo Kuula’s Sunrise opened the concert in contemplation, the Carice Singers communicating each musical and emotional nuance as the poet describes complex feelings of sadness at human frailty and deception. Kuula’s musical line expands as the sun appears: an emblem of truth and hope. Gorgeous phrasing and perfect dynamics announced a sophisticated approach to this repertoire. George Parris positioned the singers individually and not according to voice type, yet one was always aware of layered ensemble. In Sunrise the basses anchored us in the human realm while the higher voices lifted us from despair to ecstasy.

Partsongs by John Ireland and E. J. Moeran followed, focussing on the power and renewal of nature in Spring. Ireland’s The Peaceful Western Wind was written under the influence of his teachers Parry and Stanford, hinting at the duality of Nature. This Campion setting blended well with two by Moeran, madrigal-inspired. Bright vocal dexterity and emotional responsiveness characterised the interpretation. Grieg’s Våren (Last Spring) and Elgar’s As torrents in Summer added further attractive vocal textures and highlighted harmonic correspondences between these composers.

Voi, jos ilta joutuisi (Oh, if Evening soon would fall) rounded off the survey of a day. Madetoja, another Finnish Nationalist, was also a student of Sibelius. His simple, heartfelt love-song is suffused with longing and unresolved feelings.

The heady mix continued in the second half with Delius and a second Elgar piece. Twilight is now advanced. Parris’s closing selection returned to Finland, via Stenhammar’s Sweden, and the influence of dream-states and the subconscious. Kuula’s Nuku (Sleep) is sweet and strophic whereas Sibelius’s Drömmarna (Dreams) is bittersweet. Finally, Ireland’s Twilight Night is a masterpiece of nostalgic longing set to words by Christina Rossetti and given with lightness of touch, with not a trace of sentimentality obscuring the magic of the music and text.

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