Released in 2011 on the ECM record label, If Grief Could Wait  is a remarkable cross-genre recording featuring indie pop and jazz Norwegian singer Susanna Wallumrød, Swiss Baroque harp player Giovanna Pessi, Italian nyckelharpa (the Swedish keyed fiddle) player Marco Ambrosini and Swiss-based viola de gamba player Jane Achtman.

Concentrating primarily on a repertoire of 17th century songs by English Baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695), the record also includes Susanna Wallumrød’s own two compositions and three “modern” ballads by Nick Drake (“Which will”) and Leonard Cohen (“Who by Fire” and “You know who I am”).

Susanna Wallumrød & Giovanna Pessi - If Grief Could Wait (2011)
Susanna Wallumrød & Giovanna Pessi – If Grief Could Wait (2011)

Giovanna Pessi is a classically-trained musician who has also collaborated with Susanna’s brother, pianist and composer Christian on two records freely exploring the modern-classical, Baroque, church and Norwegian folk music repertoire – Christian Wallumrød  Ensemble’s “The Zoo is Far” (2007) and “Fabula Suite Lugano” (2009) both for ECM. Invited by the harpist and unrestricted by any traditional “early music” label, Susanna Wallumrød’s fresh interpretation of the songs brings a genuine contemporary feel to these beautiful and timeless ballads.

I have played with so many ‘early music’ singers with perfect, trained classical voices and I knew that I didn’t want that kind of sound, not this time. So I asked her if she would like to try. Giovanna Pessi 

With a viola de gamba providing the bass line, a baroque harp sounding like a guitar and an ethereal instrumental solo on the nyckelharpa, the arrangements for Leonard Cohen’s “Who by fire” for voice and Baroque trio are truly magnificent.

[Revised & updated 8/12/14]