The Trio Mediaeval’s first two ECM discs, Words of the Angel (recorded 1999) and Soir, dit-elle (recorded 2003), received near-unanimous praise from the world’s press, and their international concert appearances have also made a powerful impact. “The group is breathtaking,” wrote Greg Sandow in the Wall Street Journal. “Arresting, vivid, calm but never peaceful, with every moment ready to bring a surprise.” In a major profile piece in The New York Times, James R. Oestreich declared the Scandinavian vocal trio the legitimate successors to the highly-popular Anonymous 4. Germany’s FonoForum meanwhile hailed Soir, dit-elle as an “outstanding discovery” and the Daily Telegraph commented that “the Trio’s knack of devising uniquely imaginative and stimulating programmes makes their recordings irresistible”.
Eight years after the group’s foundation, the combining of medieval pieces and compositions written exclusively for the three singers continues to provide a central repertoire policy. While Words of the Angel situated Ivan Moody’s title piece in the neighbourhood of the Messe de Tournai and 14th century polyphony, Soir, dit-elle interspersed pieces by Moody, Gavin Bryars, Andrew Smith and Oleh Harkavyy with Leonel Power’s 15th century Missa “Alma redemptoris mater”.
Stella Maris again both juxtaposes and seamlessly blends the old and the new. Chants from the 13th century, most of them from English and French Conductus traditions, are complemented by a new sacred composition commissioned by the Trio. Prior to her “Missa Lumen de Lumine”, Korean-born Sungji Hong had already written several pieces for Anna Maria Friman, whom she had met while studying at York University. Hong’s “Missa” is a contemporary and explorative setting of the Mass Ordinary which displays a keen awareness of the Trio’s distinctive vocal style. “We encountered quite a few rhythmic challenges at first,” Anna Maria Friman recalls, “but we felt at once that this piece is really written for our voices.”
“We have an enormous trust and respect for each other, both musically and personally”, says Friman. ”We think that every concert should bring something special and unrepeatable. Also, soundwise, I think we were very lucky to find a natural blend soon after we started the group in 1997. We have of course grown a lot together since then, but we have always been using our voices in a way that is comfortable for us, never trying to create a certain sound, but to concentrate on the music, and take it from there.”
The Trio welcome the creative challenges that medieval repertoire implies for them. “We can’t possibly know what these pieces sounded like at the time, especially since we are singing music which, with very few exceptions, used to be reserved for men. Our aim is to recover from the past what is of relevance for our performances today. We feel we can be free to use the lack of evidence as a creative opportunity.” In approaching medieval music in a contemporary way, the relinquishing of historically informed performance practice becomes a question of artistic integrity. Creativity and irresponsibility are not synonyms in the Trio’s world. Friman: “Of course we look for as much evidence and information as possible when preparing the music. We never predetermine to do things a certain way, and do not lock doors on any possibility.” Trio Mediaeval today collaborates with a steadily growing network of experts who offer scholarship and advice on questions concerning musicology, the Latin language and historical context.
Future plans for the Trio include first performances of a quintet by Norwegian jazz saxophonist and composer Trygve Seim (his ECM recordings include Different Rivers and Sangam) who will appear with the singers alongside accordionist Frode Haltli (see the New Series recital disc Looking on Darkness). Says Anna Maria Friman: “We are as well planning to focus, in the upcoming season, on Norwegian music, folk music and medieval ballads, all aspects of our repertoire that we have been working on since the beginning.”
Sungji Hong, born in South Korea in 1973, studied composition in Seoul before moving to England where she completed her Master in Music at the Royal Academy of Music in London and a PHD in composition with Nicola LeFanu at the University of York. She has won numerous international prizes. Her creative output includes solo, orchestral, choral, ballet and electro-acoustic music with special interest on timbre and pre-determined pitch structures. Her works are regularly performed at international festivals and on major concert series by leading ensembles and orchestras such as the soloists of the Opera House Covent Garden, the Arditti String Quartet, the Nieuw ensemble of Amsterdam and others.
Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, Anna Maria Friman studied with Thorbjørn Lindhjem at the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo and with Linda Hirst at Trinity College of Music in London; she is currently doing a PhD at the University of York, where she is researching the modern performance of medieval music. She also teaches singing and coaches vocal ensembles at the University. In Europe Anna has given workshops in the U.K, Sweden, Latvia and Finland. Her work in the USA has included coaching and recording with the Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral. Anna’s solo engagements include performances with Gavin Bryars Ensemble, Red Byrd, The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, NYYD Ensemble, Latvian Radio Choir, Collegium Vocale Gent and Ricercar Consort. Anna has been a jury member at the vocal ensemble competition at the Tampere International Choral Festival, Finland, since 2001.
Linn Andrea Fuglseth was born in Sandefjord, Norway. She completed her Higher Diploma in singing at the Norwegian Academy of Music in 1997, specializing in baroque interpretation, and writing a dissertation on Restoration Mad Songs. In 1994-95 she studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, receiving a diploma in Advanced Solo Studies in Early Music. She has studied singing with Marit Isene, Barbro Marklund, Emma Kirkby and Mary Nichols. Linn Andrea has been soloist with, amongst others, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, The Norwegian Baroque Orchestra and The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir. Linn Andrea founded Trio Mediaeval in October 1997. In addition to singing, she conducts a children’s choir in Oslo and writes arrangements of Norwegian folksongs for the Trio.
Torunn Østrem Ossum was born in Namsos, Norway. She was educated at the College of Early Childhood Education in Oslo, specializing in music and drama. Torunn studied singing with Svein Bjørkøy at Rønningen County College in Oslo. She has wide experience as an ensemble singer and has performed with groups such as The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, Nordic Voices, Con Spirito and Grex Vocalis conducted by Carl Høgset, where she also sings as a soloist. Torunn has been working as a vocal coach for the junior theatre group ’Bærmuda mini’. Her experience working with children has been a great advantage for the trio’s work touring throughout Norway giving school concerts, engaged by the Norwegian Concert Institute.
Trio Mediaeval will perform the Stella Maris program on October 1st at the Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival and on October 8th at two international release concerts at San Clemente Church in Venice, Italy.
In addition to their now-regular concert presence in the USA (with tours scheduled for December 2005 and March 2006), Trio Mediaeval will be the vocal soloists in a multi-media production entitled Shelter at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music from November 16th to 19th, 2005, with music written by David Lang, Julia Wolff and Michael Gordon – the three composers/founders of “Bang on a Can”.
CD-Package includes 20-page booklet with liner notes by Nicky Losseff and sung texts in Latin.