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Zenobia
Midnat
GO' Danish Folk Music (www.gofolk.dk)

A slew of CDs featuring Danish musicians have come across my desk lately, most of them from traditions I am quite familiar with. I've been listening to traditional fiddle music (Trio THG), early music (Aage Nielsen), jazz (Jesper Bodilsen, Morten Lund), and music that fuses those genres with blues, rock, and Slavic traditions (Serras, Kefir Kvartet).

The Danish trio Zenobia comes from a very different place. Singer Louise St°jberg, accordionist Mette Kathrine Jense, and pianist Charlotte St°jberg explore the musical tradition of Denmark, mixing original compositions with traditional songs and works by both famous and lesser-known Danish composers including Carl Nielsen, Kai Normann Andersen, and Harald Balslev.

As I listened to the first few tracks, I didn't have strong feelings about this CD. These women are obviously skilled musicians, but emotionally I wasn't engaged. Then about half-way through the disc came the Balslev setting of Ludvig Holstein's poem "Det lysner over agres felt" (Dawn is breaking upon the fields). The opening melody is played on flugelhorn by Torben Sminge, and for the first time my ears really perked up. It's astounding how a handful of well-placed notes can change the feel of an entire set. After repeating "Det lysner" a few times, I went back to the beginning and listened to the whole CD with new ears and a new sense of emotional engagement.

The arrangements here are subtle and smart. The interplay between the trio and their occasional guests shows both an intellectual and emotional maturity. The balance between accordion and piano is carefully arranged so the two instruments don't step over each other. The singing is clear and straight-forward. Putting all these elements together makes for a set of well-crafted songs skillfully performed by talented musicians. - Greg Harness

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"Det lysner over agres felt"
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