So far 2019 has been a stellar year for Norway’s 2L Recordings. Lux, the third in a trio of amazing trio of recordings I’ve received from Morten Lindberg this year, is in many ways the first among equals. Ljos, which features the Fauna Vokalkvintett, is remarkable for its exploration of five human voices in an extraordinary spatial setting–one of the many Norwegian churches that frequently host Lindberg’s amazing projects. Ujamaa, on the other hand, is a relatively big orchestral project that combines folk music from both Norway and Africa to show the spirit of brotherhood between two very different cultures. Lux, however, seems to be a summarization of everything that has come before, especially when it comes to the sacred works that comprise a significant part of the 2L Recordings catalog.
Performed by both Nidarosdomens jentekor, the Nidaros Cathedral Girl’s Choir, and TrondheimSolistene, a 2L mainstay when it comes to small yet flexible orchestras, Lux employs Andrew Smith‘s Requiem as a central platform for building upon the idea that Roman Catholic masses can also focus on the sometimes “tragic fate of children.” Stale Kleiberg, a composer who is another muse for 2L Recordings, replaces some of the original text so that the listener can draw parallels against “the all-too frequent conflicts of today in which the young are innocent victims.” Kleiberg uses two of his own works, Hymn to Love and The Light, to bracket the Smith composition, and that expands the scope of this ambitious work to a breathtaking new level of listener involvement.
What’s remarkable about Lux is how varied it all sounds, how the journey from beginning to end is marked by such distinct chapters. Trygve Seim’s saxophone, for example, is a surprising addition–when matched with Stale Storlokken’s pipe organ, you’ll be quickly reminded of that audiophile chestnut Antiphone Blues. There are times when Seim’s sax is so uninhibited, so willing to break away with abandon, that you’ll quickly realize that you’ve departed from the realm of the “normal” requiem. Storlokken’s organ can also submerge into the surreal and sound almost nightmarish in stark contrast with the angelic voices in the choir. These daring juxtapositions will conjure imagery that is dark and challenging, full of woe. That might be considered apt for a requiem mass, but if you heard this piece performed in your local cathedral you might wonder if everyone had gone just a little mad.
2l Recordings’ Lux, therefore, is uncommon in almost every way. Conductor Anita Brevik does a fantastic job of keeping all these disparate elements together without a loss of focus that might be forgiven in a composition this daunting and complicated. The next question you might ask is about the overall sound quality–I know that since I’ve moved these reviews from my blog to Part-Time Audiophile, I might be writing for a very different audience. Suffice it to say that I’ve written numerous 2L reviews in the last few years and this label’s releases are state-of-the-art when it comes to sound. Lindberg is very innovative when it comes to recording technologies such as Dolby Atmos, MQA, Blu-ray Audio and DXD, and these Norwegian churches always sound warm and open.
Lux is, on the other hand, is extraordinary–even for 2L. If 2L Recordings took a vacation for the rest of the year, Lux, Ljos and Ujamaa would still define 2019 as one of the highest creative peaks in their history.
(Images courtesy of 2L Recordings)