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Latin was a universal language, right? On the page, yes, but what about in the ear? This is where it gets sonically interesting, when performers don’t take the easy route by reverting to some generalised pseudo-Italianate pronunciation. The Office of St Sigfrid ‘Celebremus karissimi’ the four singers of Ensemble Gemma attempt ‘Latin as it would have been pronounced in the High Middle Ages in Sweden’. I’m not convinced about their consistency, but well done, anyway. The vocalists on this important recording of one of Sweden’s oldest repertoires are of individual character, ranging in technical accomplishment, and one assumes that the vibrant voice of many of the incipits belongs to their director, Karin Strinnholm Lagergren. Their selection of unique chant repertoire associated with Växjö Cathedral is not a liturgical reconstruction and does not pretend to authenticity. The vevlira (hurdy-gurdy) is the sole instrumental colour, and the five improvised instrumentals are impressive even though the instrument is far too modern in design and scope. I’d love to hear Johannes Geworkian Hellman grapple with the limitations of a more historically informed organistrum/symphonie.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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