Edda; Medieval Myths - A World Premiere Recording!
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Sequentia here performs a miracle of musical restoration, bringing to vibrant life medieval Icelandic texts about gods and heroes inhabiting a mythic past. Drawing on oral traditions and informed scholarly speculations about long-dead performing styles, they have come up with a hypnotic disc that startles with its power and beauties. The songs and recitations are interwoven with captivating fiddle tunes, and the singers wrench surprising emotions from the old texts. The late Barbara Thornton shines in her solos and duets, and Benjamin Bagby's mesmerizing chanting, recitation, and singing brings us as close as we're likely to get to sitting at the feet of the bards of old. An extraordinary disc that shouldn't be missed. --Dan Davis
Top Customer Reviews
Iceland is a country that was settled by the Norse explorers hundreds of years before the Norman Conquest of Britain, and half a millennium before Columbus sailed across the Atlantic. The Norse explorations of the North Atlantic took them to Britain, Greenland, and even to the North American continent centuries before the arrival of Columbus. Iceland was settled in the late 800s, with a parliament being established in 930 which helped guide their culture and religion. However, Icelandic culture was never centralised in political or religious terms, and the pagan religion of Norse/Germanic gods and goddesses was a free-form body of stories that could be reinterpreted by communities and clans quite easily.
The epic work Edda, which exists from the thirteenth century in writing in both prose and poetry, is the basis of this disc. These works pre-date the manuscript by many centuries, perhaps even the settlement of Iceland itself. Like many epic works in the ancient world, they were passed down by oral tradition long before being committed to writing. The Eddic poems include heroic poems (think Beowulf) as well as poems about gods and goddesses - it is ironic that the deities in these works are often more 'down-to-earth' and human than are the heroes.
The way in which ancient poems would have been performed is always a matter of debate.Read more ›
Well by golly, a rendition of the Icelandic Eddas is going in a direction about as far from Hildegard as one can get. It is certainly nice to see Sequentia exploring new ground again.
These are certainly much more stark arrangements than one might expect from Sequentia, but the nature of the Eddas certainly demands it. The arrangements definitely work, and the results are compelling. Familiarity with the Eddic poems is helpful but hardly essential, as knowledge of Icelandic.
What I especially enjoyed, as a hardingfele enthusiast, is Sequentia's decision to turn to the Norwegian hardingfele tradition when constructing the instrumental music on this disc. I can only hope that listening to "Edda" might lead some curious listeners to explore the wonderful sounds of the hardingfele as it exists now in modern Norway.
This is a great change of pace for Sequentia, and is most welcome. It isn't that I hate Hildegard, but through the 1990's we have had more Hildegard recordings than we can shake a stick at, but not much attention being paid to the Eddic tradition. It is nice to see Sequentia filling this void.
Now, sitting around the fire, listen to the Edda (grandmother) tell the stories. Tonight the wind doesn't howl so loudly, the snow isn't so cold, bards have joined Edda to remind us of the tales of our heritage.
Is this what our distant Viking kin used to listen to back in their great halls? Absent sound recordings, we'll never know for sure. I do miss the percussion I've heard on other recordings of ancient music.
The stark simplicity of this music compels. "Listen to me!" Hear the words of the Witch, of Voluspa. Hear the tale of Thrym, who steals Thor's hammer and gets taken in by a ruse. "Balder's Dreams" haunts the listener, who knows Balder's fate.
It's interesting to spend 76 minutes listening to this music, then to drop Wagner onto the CD player. The contrast, from the spartan Icelandic music to the richness of the 19th century compositions, can cause a brainquake!
Most recent customer reviews
I don't think the ancient Icelanders would have sang these myths in an Opera style. Aside from that, it's great anyways.Published 8 months ago by josh
The Medieval world, if we are to believe the "experts" in "early music", was inhabited by a bunch of flakes. Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by krista
This is a great Asatru CD. The music sounds more like Blue Grass, but who knows what Viking music would sound like?
A most have for any Odinist household. Wyatt Kaldenberg
I love this CD so much that I can't think of what to say about it. For starters, the voices are wonderful - the combination of licoricey baritone, cool sopranos and spare... Read morePublished on May 7 2002 by Andrea Moreno
Sequentia, known primarily for their excellent interpretations of the works of Hildegaard von Bingen, turn their attention here to the poetry and music of 13th Century Iceland. Read morePublished on March 26 2002 by End User
Sounds like most of my other early music CDs. Not to say that it's bad, but I was ready for ax-wielding, berserking music, and this ain't it. Gee, most of it's in Latin. Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2002
Myths From Medieval Iceland is the best slice of Nordic culture since Iceland's Bjørk Gudmundsdottir burst on the pop scene with her band Sugarcubes. Read morePublished on July 14 2000 by Aage Nielsen
I was not prepared for what I heard on this CD, mostly because I did not know what to expect. I have never heard of anyone attempting to duplicate Norse music or bardic... Read morePublished on June 10 2000