GRIEG:  Four Hymns, Op. 74*.  Two Religious Choruses.  Den store, hvide flok vi se, Op. 30 No. 10*. Dona nobis pacem.  GADE:  Morgensang.  Pàske.  Three sacred choruses.  Four hymns.  Benedictus and Amen**.
Per Hoyer, bass-baritone (*). Bine Katrine Bryndorf, organist (**)  Danish National Radio Choir/Jesper Grove Jørgensen, cond.

CHANDOS 9767  (F) (DDD) TT:  67:52

Edward Grieg (1843-1907), known primarily for his oft-performed Piano concerto in A minor, both Peer Gynt Suites, dozens of piano pieces and memorable songs, composed very few sacred choral pieces. Some say a strained relationship with the Christian church was the reason. Whatever, a sampling of some, along with a few by a friend and colleague, Danish composer Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890) fill  this Chandos release guaranteed to delight both connoisseurs and lovers of folk-song simplicity.

Included are Grieg's earliest known choral work,  Dona nobis pacem composed while in his last year at the Leipzig Conservatory (1862), and his very final composition, Four Hymns, Op. 74 (1906). Featuring baritone solo and mixed (SATB) choir, the hymns present a style and formula that is featured in these and other little gems. A simple tune taken from L.M. Lindermann’s Collection of Norwegian Folk Ballads is passed back and forth between soloist and chorus in an ongoing dialogue. Grieg enriches the arrangements with appropriate key changes, interesting sequences and sumptuous harmonies.

Simpler and even more direct are the pieces by Gade which sound very much like those songs presented at the annual college fraternity songfest.  This is basic tonic-dominant stuff with an occasional suspension thrown in for variety. Noteworthy are a “Gebeth” with its beautiful layering of treble voices, and the double-choir antiphonal music found in Pàske. Throughout these and the other Grieg and Gade pieces, the joy is relishing the beautiful melodies, gorgeous textures, and choral blend so magnificently achieved by the very fine Danish National Radio Choir under Jesper Grove Jørgensen. Also, kudos to the excellent baritone soloist, Per Hoyer.  A light-listening treat!

K.S. (June 2000)