2L Recordings‘ Himmelborgen consists of three very familiar elements–pipe organ, choir and church. Yes, hymns are being sung. This beautiful recording should remind you of being in church on an early Sunday morning, provided you belong to a large and popular church that has a big enough budget to hire a top-notch musical director and gifted musicians. Of course, being in Norway has something to do with this experience since everything is sung in that language. But 2L Recordings is not a typical record label, and Himmelborgen as far from an ordinary church service.
First of all, 2L Recordings’ Himmelborgen features fifteen hymns that sound familiar, but take off on unexpected tangents. The melodies are often based upon existing hymns such as Johann Sebastian Bach’s O hode, høyt forhånet as well as Brahms and Hans Hassler’s takes on the same piece of music. Modern composers Marcus Paus, Marianne Reidersdatter Eriksen and Bjorn Morten Christophersen has used these standards to produce new meditations on faith to enhance the idea that hymn books are living, breathing entities that evolve over time. Himmelborgen, therefore, will sound utterly comforting to you while rewarding your attention with fascinating new ideas.
Those three initial elements should be expected by anyone who loves these fascinating 2L Recordings. Producer Morten Lindberg usually records in Norwegian churches because of the warm, spacious acoustics. Here he uses one of his favorites, the Uranienborg Church, and its resident choir, the Uranienborg Vokalensemble. (Elisabeth Holte serves as conductor.) This church is located in central Oslo, but hundreds of years ago it was a rural area, dark, which became perfect for residents to come and gaze at the stars–or the heavens, depending upon your beliefs. This piece of history sets the mood for this exquisite recording.
The pipe organ, for me, is the star of 2L Recordings’ Himmelborgen. Kåre Nordstoga delivers a truly soulful yet mystical performance. During Doug White’s The Voice That Is! event earlier this summer, Brian Zolner and John Marks discussed how important it is to preserve the pipe organ’s sound as an immense, three-dimensional experience. The instrument itself is large, so each note should come from a different physical location. Morten Lindberg figured out how to capture this image a long time ago, but if you want to experience the sheer size of a pipe organ, and not just the impact of those low frequencies, this is an ideal recording. If you’re just interested in meditating or reflecting upon your life, this will set you on the right course as well.
[Images courtesy of 2L Recordings]