Listening to Baroque music is meant to calm the nerves and soothe the mind, and this is certainly true for the music on The Marais Project’s fifth disc, Smörgåsbord.
This compilation of Swedish folk music from the late 1700s pays homage The Marais Project founder Jenny Eriksson’s Swedish heritage – her grandfather Knut Axel Eriksson arrived in Melbourne in the 1920s – and the group’s guitarist, or classic era guitar and theorbo player to be precise, Tommie Andersson, who was born and grew up in Sweden.
An old pastoral hymn called Gammal fäbodpsalm opens this delightful disc.
This haunting and melancholy tune comes from the region of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) and was sung by a wandering blind musician called Grund Olof Ersson.
It was passed down aurally until it was finally written down and published for the first time in 1919. The ‘fabodpsalms’ were traditionally sung by women as they tended the cattle up in the mountains.
Carl Michael Bellman is an icon of the Scandinavian song tradition due his skill at combining rhyme and rhythm.
He set his music to poetry, and four Fredman’s songs are featured here, including Epistel No. 12.
The words and music may be old by the subject matter is not; this elegy on the punch-up at the Green Grove espouses learning certain lessons: don’t drink someone else’s booze or dance with someone else’s girl!
The lingering over dissonances conveys the discomfort experienced well, before they are gently resolved.
The obligatory work by composer Marin Marais, Suite No. 2 in G minor from Pieces en Trio (Paris 1692), is stylishly performed.
Modal harmonies and unison between upper and lower voices make the first piece by Pers Erik Olssonin the Swedish Folk Music Suite arranged by Tommie Andersson seem very ethereal and majestic.
The second piece in the suite is a Traditional Birthday song and features beautifully expressive flute playing by Melissa Farrow.
The Crying Song (Gråtlåten) sees baroque violinist Fiona Ziegler bring folk gestures and harmonies to the fore.
In Beautiful Summer, also arranged by Tommie Anderson, is a lovely traditional song performed by tenor Pascal Herrington, whose mellow tone creates a mournful recollection of summer days gone past.
The final piece on the disc is Courante La Waterlô, which is based on the famous song that helped Swedish pop group ABBA win the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974.
The song was originally recorded with jazz rhythms but was eventually released in English with disco-like rhythms supporting it.
Because of the song’s varied treatments, Tommie Anderson felt very comfortable arranging the song as a Courante; a dance popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Many classical ensembles rearrange popular songs; a well-known example is The Kronos Quartet’s arrangement of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.
Meldi Arkinstall, CD-Music Reviews, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015