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This is ‘sacred music’ that really does need the scare quotes. Jón Leifs – originally Þorleifsson – began his Edda sequence in 1932 with ‘The Creation of the World’ and picked it up again in 1951, the period in between shadowed by the death of his daughter and the writing of several memorial pieces, including an unusual, lullaby- like Requiem. Part three remained unfinished at his death in 1968, so it is perhaps on this middle pillar, recorded here for the first time, that the work’s reputation rests. One can’t help but feel that these are the Norse gods – Odin and his sons plus Valkyries, norns and warriors – neither playfully brought up-to-date like Neil Gaiman’s American Gods nor presented full-screen like the recent Marvel franchise, but somehow straining for atavistic effect, like his representation in ‘Hekla’ of a volcanic eruption. That said, the singing here is remarkably restrained and the orchestra accompanies with a delicacy Leifs doesn’t often invite. SACD sound here tends to emphasise the modesty of the interpretation, rather than drama and grandeur.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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