2023 / Decca Classics
Review by Kathy Parsons
Dreamweaver is a wonderful new album by Ola Gjeilo that was inspired by Norway, his country of birth. Gjeilo is possibly best-known for his choral works, but he has also released several solo piano albums, which is how I originally became acquainted with his music. I reviewed his debut album, Stone Rose, back in 2007, and later named it as one of the Best Albums of the Decade.
One of the things I like best about Dreamweaver is that it is a combination of choral songs, instrumentals and solo piano pieces that were built around two multi-movement works, "The Road" and "Dreamweaver." "The Road" pays homage to places that were significant to Ola as he was growing up, and the six movements were titled for those places. "Dreamweaver" is a seven-movement work that was inspired by one of the best-known Norwegian medieval folk poems, "Draumkvedet." There are also six stand-alone pieces: three that are choral, a piano solo, a piano and cello duet, and a piano and orchestra piece. Charles Anthony Silvestri wrote the text for the choral pieces, which were performed by The Choir of Royal Holloway and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, both directed/conducted by Rupert Gough. Ola also plays the piano on many of the tracks - either solo or as part of the ensemble.
Ola Gjeilo studied classical music, jazz and composition starting from his childhood in Norway. He studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music from 1999–2001, transferred to the Juilliard School in New York in 2001, and studied at the Royal College of Music in London from 2002–04, earning his Bachelor's degree in composition. He returned to Juilliard from 2004–06 and earned his Master's degree there, also in composition.
Dreamweaver begins with "The Road," Gjeilo's tribute to one of Norway's most stunning stretches of road that travels through the mountains, a plateau, a narrow valley that winds down to the sea, and passes by magnificent waterfalls. I have never visited Norway, but it is easy to imagine the beauty and majesty of the places that are described in the music.
"Autumn" is the choral version of a piano solo on Ola's Seasons EP and often reminds Ola of Vestmarka, a national park near his childhood home. The a cappella choir is atmospheric and very peaceful. "The North" follows, and is a beautifully expressive piano solo - graceful and full of longing.
In the story that inspired "Dreamweaver," the protagonist falls asleep on Christmas Eve and sleeps for thirteen days. When he wakes up, he rides to church to tell the congregation about his dreams of an epic journey through the afterlife. The English lyrics for the seven choral movements were written by Charles Anthony Silvestri and tell a story of danger and adventure, eventually meeting and being redeemed by Christ - an epic choral work!
The last four pieces are one-movement works. "Winter Light" is an elegant and evocative piano and cello duet that all but sparkles like light dancing on the snow. "Agnus Dei" is a choral work sung in both Latin and English. "Stone Rose" was the title track of Ola's debut solo piano album, this time beautifully arranged for piano and orchestra. It's so good to hear this piece again! "Ingen Vinner Frem Til Den Evige Ro" is one of Ola's favorite folk songs that later became part of the Norwegian hymnal. It is performed by the a cappella choir - a haunting and very stirring close to an exceptional album!
Dreamweaver is available as a CD or download from Amazon, to download or stream from Apple Music/iTunes and from many streaming sites including Spotify. Very highly recommended!
November 4, 2023