S:t Jacobs Kammarkör
Gunnar Idenstam: Orgel
Sandra Marteleur: Fiol
Ulrika Bodén: Sång, flöjt
Gary Graden: Dirigent
Well into the previous century Sweden was largely a peasant society with folk music an integral part of daily life. There were work songs, narrative ballads and, obviously, music for dancing. Over the centuries a not always easy coexistence between religion and folk culture developed, with hymns being adapted to a folkmusic aesthetic while popular traditions were given a Christian veneer. An example of the latter is the rich store of ‘Staffan ballads’, springing from a pre-Christian horse cult but given a new slant as its focus shifted to St. Stephen – the first Christian martyr. Gunnar Idenstam and S:t Jacobs Chamber Choir have performed their Folkjul concerts more or less every year since 2002. The concept stem from a rich interplay between ‘folk culture’ and ‘high culture’ and in Idenstam’s arrangements a newly composed halling or polska entwines itself round the old Christmas melodies. The first Folkjul album was released in 2007 – this time the choir and Idenstam are joined by violinist Sandra Marteleur and Ulrika Bodén, one of Sweden’s most well-established folk singers.
Gramophone december 2018
Individuality is one word you could append to the Swede Gunnar Idenstam, whose organ improvisations occupy their own universe – part hard apocalyptic rock, part elfin folklore, part nave-shaking French Symphony. Folkjul II is a follow-up to 2007’s ‘Folkjul’ (‘Folk Christmas’) but if you haven’t come across Idenstam’s exotic art before, I’d heartily recommend this ‘Songs for Jukkasjärvi’ (BIS). ‘Folkjul II’ trades that album’s herding yoiks for chorales and carols, similarly embedded in the Idenstam sound of folk flutes and fiddles, electronics and voices, all of which are egged on to spine-tingling climaxes by Idenstam’s capering, roaring organ (an acquired taste, I can hear som saying). Sandra Marteleur’s fiddle ariosos have a strange wonder, Ulrika Bodén’s vocal solos are mesmeric, Idenstam’s touch on the organ is as funky as it is majestic, Gary Graden’s St Jacobs Chamber Choir sounds full-bodied and bright. There are special moments and ground-moving modulations around every corner. But it doesn’t dilute the experience, nor the deep sense of mystery, that you often know from the start of many a piece – as in the pregnant organ rumblings that open Frän himlens höjd (sic) – that an almighty climax is in the pipeline. It is the journey to Christmas encapsulated.
BBC Music Magazine, 29 november 2018
Christmas hymns and chorales. St Jacobs Chamber Choir et.al. BIS 2334.
Put on some warm knitwear and pop this disc in for the ultimate
Swedish Christmas. The joyful, jaunty mix of hymns and chorales, with folk twist is sure
to make you smile.
A different take on Personent hodie is included on a BIS album entitled Folkjul, which does exactly what it says on the tin – Christmas music in
Swedish folk-music style. (BIS-CD-5031, reviewed as 24/44.1 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com). Gunnar Idenstam (organ and
arranger), Lisa Rydberg (violin), Sofia Karlsson and Emma Härdelin (vocals) and the St Jacob’s Chamber Choir are directed by Gary Graden. Most of
the music will be unfamiliar to UK and US ears and even the familiar items are sung in Swedish, with texts and translations provided. Es ist ein Ros’
entsprugen becomes Det är en ros utsprungen, and Stille Nacht is Stille natt, for example, which is pretty easy for even those devoid of any Scandinavian languages to decipher. Familiar or otherwise, it adds up to a very enjoyably different Christmas offering.
Göran Forsling appreciated all but the final setting of Veni, veni Emanuel, concluding in kulning style on the final track – review. Yes, that is a bit much – a lot much, in fact, so I recommend ditching that one track.
That was recorded in 2007, so quite a wait for its successor, Folkjul II; Ulrika Bodén (vocals) and Sandra Marteleur (violin) replace their equivalents, but
the other performers remain the same (BIS-2334 SACD [73:21]). With brilliant timing, the SACD seems to be out of stock in the UK – all the more
reason to download the 24/96 version, with pdf booklet, from eclassical.com. Once again familiar music appears in unfamiliar guise – Wie schön leuchtet
der Morgenstern as Var hälsad sköna morgonstund, the first verse in a NorthSwedish dialect, and the music borrowed from a traditional Norwegian male
dance, accompanied with the violin sounding like a Hardanger fiddle. If anything, I liked this even more than its predecessor. Better still, 24-bit can be obtained for the same price ($10.98) as 16-bit initially. Be warned that the final track contains more of the kulning singing that upset Göran Forsling, though
his time with just one voice, not two, and less obtrusively.
Christmas Music Past and Present
A short survey by Brian Wilson
Fra seter til katedral
Gunnar Idenstam med flere
Folkjul II – A Swedish Folk Christmas
Anbefalt spor: «Polska»
Stjerner: 6 Stjernene i våre julemusikk-anmeldelser går fra 1 til 6 (beste)
«Det varmeste og vakreste»
SVENSK TILSTAND: For 13 år siden kom den vidunderlige Jul i folkton med blant andre Sofia Karlsson og et knippe av Sveriges «riksspelmän». To år etter allierte Gunnar Idenstam og hans S:t Jacobs Kammarkör seg med blant andre Sofia Karlsson og ga ut plata Folkjul. Nå er oppfølgeren her. Med disse albumene har du noe av det varmeste og vakreste av svensk folkemusikk og deres rike meloditradisjon knyttet til julen.
Mens Jul i folkton låner stemning fra fäbod og gläsbygd, insisterer Gunnar Idenstam med sitt orgelspill og vidunderlige korklang på musikkens katederalkvaliteter. Under de høye hvelvinger gjør imidlertid både kveding og felespill seg praktfullt gjeldende og drukner ikke i orgel og kor. Mange julealbum gir deg enda en utgave av kjente toner. Her finner du garantert mye nytt.
2007 kom den första Folkjul, vars idé är att sammanföra kyrkliga jultraditioner och körsång med folksång och fiolspel.
Repertoaren skiftar friskt mellan uppstudsiga Staffansvisor, gudstindrande julhymner och högst vardagliga polskor. Själv fastnar jag vid de trad-folkligaste låtarna, som en svängig Staffan-halling, men överlag en mycket fin inspelning med fruktsamma musikaliska möten.