Dreamers Circus - A Little Symphony
As I've mentioned before, I enjoy folk music that leans toward classical music, and vice versa. My favorite groups who blend these particular genres come from countries in the north are Ensemble Polaris of Canada; Annbjørg Lien's string quartet with members from Norway, Sweden, and Canada; and Fiolministeriet and Zenobia, both of Denmark.
Now comes another Danish ensemble, Dreamers' Circus, with A Little Symphony. Beyond the Dreamers' Circus trio, this recording includes the European Traveling Brass Carnival and the Danish String Quartet (perhaps best known for their recent recording of Carl Nielsen's string quartets).
The direct connection between the Danish String Quartet and Dreamers' Circus is violinist Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen who plays with both ensembles as well as the Copenhagen Philharmonic. The other members of Dreamers' Circus come from the folk side of the aisle. Accordionist Nikolaj Busk gained notice for his duo work with fiddler Hal Parfitt-Murray, while cittern player Ale Carr came up through the Royal College of Music in Stockholm where he studied with Sven Ahlbäck and Roger Tallroth.
With the credentials established, the questions still arises: Can these young Scandinavians make this blend of classical and folk work? The answer: a resounding 'yes.' The trio has written and arranged these tunes to highlight their skills and experience, and each piece is a little gem.
Carr's “Fuglsang Jig” is perhaps my favorite folk-leaning piece here, and it highlights the core skills of the trio. It starts with pizzicato violin, adds some rhythmic guitar background, and then launches into a sweet yet slightly quirky melody on the accordion. Throughout the piece, the fiddle and accordion switch off between melody and accompaniment, adding different harmonies and counterpoint with each passing chorus.
The composition by Busk, “Nikolajs Første Styk',” (“Nikolaj's First Piece”) is another favorite. It starts as a trio, with the melody doubled on violin and accordion. Slowly, the string quartet comes in adding rhythmic backgrounds and countermelodies and wonderful textures. A double bass rounds out the sound. It's a pleasure to listen to this tapestry unfold.
And then there is the brass. “Prelude,” written and arranged by Tonsgaard Sørensen, is bombastic, taking full advantage of the 12-piece brass ensemble. It's a different sound from the rest of this record, and I wonder if it's less of a prelude to A Little Symphony than it is a prelude to where Dreamers' Circus might take Nordic roots music in the future.
Whether you like a bit of folk in your classical music, a bit of classical in your folk, or you just want to wrap your ears around the next generation of Nordic music, there is more than enough to enjoy on this recording. I am definitely listening to this one looking both backward and forward while staying solidly grounded in the enjoyment of right now. - Greg Harness
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