First published in the Guardian on 10 March, 2016
Sorensen: Works for choir
Danish National Vocal Ensemble/Hillier (Dacapo)
Bent Sorensen’s Snowbells began life in the forest: a sort of sonic Cuscuta. Recorded voices and rural Danish church bells were played back as a sound installation that hung about the beeches and oaks of Palsgaard like a soft choral moss. The main tune is a lullaby that gets stretched and smudged and woven through lush harmonies and hummed in mournful slow-motion while peeling bells fade in and out — it was probably atmospheric in a dappled-light kind of way when experienced in situ, but on disc there’s something excruciatingly pallid and fey about it. The Danish National Vocal Ensemble sounds beautiful under Paul Hillier, though, making a warm, unforced, understated blend, and earlier Sorensen works on the album give the singers more meaty material to play with: try the haunting Three Motets or the shapely Lacrimosa, both from 1985.