Thought I’d get a jump on holiday music for 2021 with Stille Grender, the latest from 2L Recordings in Norway. If I had received it just a couple of weeks ago, it would have easily been my favorite Christmas recording of 2020. (Insert obligatory bah, humbug! here.) But for some reason, possibly an issue with customs or just the holiday shipping crush, Stille Grender arrived shortly after the New Year. Look at it this way–if you still have your Christmas decorations up while you’re reading this, it’s probably still okay to listen to it.
Here’s another reason for me to listen to Stille Grender on January 5. (My new neighbors already had their doubts about me.) This is another beautiful and technically brilliant recording of a pianist (Tord Gustavson) accompanying a children’s choir (Det Norske Jentekor) as they sing Christmas carols. (This album even starts off with “Carol of the Bells.”) What’s not to like, right?
Well, Stille Grender arrived at the same time as the Acora Acoustics SRB 2-way monitors with dedicated SRS stands. The flagship Acora Acoustics SRC-2s just received our rare Summit Award from reviewer Dave McNair–which was quickly seconded by NC neighbor Eric Franklin Shook. I’ve yet to hear that model, but I have heard the other two on multiple occasions, and they are spectacular.
The one thing that stands out about the Acora Acoustics SRB, however, is its ability to convey emotion and really draw you in so you can collect all the feels. That makes it the perfect transducer for a recording like Stille Grender. The performers, along with conductor Anne Karin Sundal-Ask, take these familiar folk tunes along with their Scandinavian counterparts and re-examine them. Perhaps it’s an unusual key, or the introduction of atonal motifs, that treat you to a new perspective. There’s an extraordinary freshness to the sound that also reveals those emotions, either somber or celebratory. Add Gustavsen’s attraction to the low, low registers, and you have a different type of Christmas music, a more cerebral and intriguing take that I found enormously appealing.
I can’t wait until December to listen to it again!