Voices of Angels

Stockholm Syndrome Ensemble

The Stockholm Syndrome Ensemble is – as the name implies – based in Stockholm, and consists of five of the city’s leading musicians.

Project-based and often inviting guest performers, the SSE is known for its imaginative programmes built around a particular event or concept and bringing together music from various genres and eras.

For its first album on BIS the ensemble has taken Brett Dean’s Voices of Angels as their point of departure, a work scored for the same forces as Schubert’s Trout Quintet and inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s first two Duino Elegies: ‘Angels (it’s said) are often unable to tell whether they move amongst the living or the dead.’

Dean’s work from 1996 opens a programme which ranges from Bach to Sofia Gubaidulina, and includes various scorings for between two and six performers. The angels reappear in songs by Wagner and Gubaidulina performed by Christianne Stotijn, one of the ensemble’s guests on this disc – but it is also safe to assume that they are standing around the heavenly throne which Bach approaches in the chorale prelude Vor Deinen Thron tret ich hiermit – here transcribed for strings. The same prelude is the subject of Gubaidulina’s Meditation, while the disc closes with a work by Gubaidulina’s friend Alfred Schnittke, namely his Hymn for cello and double bass.

Christianne Stotijn (mezzo-soprano), Andrej Power (violin), Lawrence Power (viola) and the Stockholm Syndrome Ensemble perform works by Dean, Gubaidulina, Rachmaninov, Bach, Wagner and Schnittke.

‘Dean’s Voices of Angels is a very substantial work, making his customary detailed sonic investigations into the ensemble’s possible combinations of instruments, with a tremendous sense of drama. A significant addition to the chamber music literature.‘
‘Particularly interesting in Gubaidulina’s Ein Engel is the way the double bass is left to take over from the voice later in the piece, as though they were two aspects of a single voice.‘
‘The recording is wonderfully clear, doing full justice to these powerful performances which range over the full dynamic spectrum.’

— Gramophone

‘Intense spirituality in Gubaidulina’s Ein Engel in which Christianne Stotijn’s velvety intonations weave intricately around an increasingly strident double bass part. Sensitive, sympathetic and deeply nuanced performances are complemented by an incredible surround sound recording in which each delicate intonation is cloaked in rich silence.’

— Limelight