The enthusiast's audio webzine

Some Scandinavian Labels and Recordings

As a long-time collector, I’m fortunate to have several recordings from labels such as Proprius, BIS, and Opus 3. Years ago, albums from these companies would often show up in magazines like The Absolute Sound and for good reason. Jazz at the Pawnshop (Proprius) is perhaps the most famous. Musically, however, it is the least interesting of the ones I own. Sometimes a disclaimer about the content would accompany a review if that tells you anything. It is very traditional in a time when jazz was bursting at the seams with new ideas. What makes these recordings so special is the quality and naturalness of the sound. The pressings are still very quiet which speaks volumes (no pun intended) for these companies’ dedication and effort.

Last night I listened to KOR from Proprius. It is spectacular in its naturalness. The compositions are both modern and classic – from composers like Hovland, Verdi, Purcell, Holmboe, and three others – and the singing is sublime. There are 27 young singers pictured in position on the back cover. The conductor is a fellow named Anders Eby. His touch accounts for the wonderful dynamics of the group. Not dynamics in the spectacular sense, the proceedings are usually very soft, spookily so, dynamics in the service of the music. The microphones are not pictured but the sound suggests a Blumlein configuration. Simply two microphones on a tree out from and above the group. The venue is very spacious and the voices very pure. I love this album.

Cantate Domino is another and more well known choral recording from Proprius featuring quite a lot of Christmas music with organ and the occasional big bell that seems to be coming from outside of the walls of my room. Yours, too, I’d venture. The solo female voices on this are as liguid and lifelike in their setting as anything ever pressed onto vinyl. This can be recommended also, indeed.

I have several recordings from Opus 3 but what I would like to focus you on is Black Is The Color from Cyndee Peters. On some songs it is just her. On others she is a cappella with four ladies. And on others there is instrumental accompaniment. Very real-sounding with no embellishments save for the instrumentalists being individually miked. House of The Rising Sun has great instrumental sound. The vocals are excellent on everything. No reverb, no studio enhancements. Just real time and space.

From BIS, I offer the title Mi-Fi-Li, a Symphonic Poem from Ketil Saeverud. It’s actually the whole second side, Double Concerto for Flute, Guitar, and Strings, that is so extraordinary. From the liner notes it is a love story between flute and guitar. This one IS Blumlein miked and the placement and sound of the supporting strings is strikingly good. In the liner notes it says this may be ordered from Grammofon AB-BIS.

Acoustical music like this is best recorded on location rather than in a studio, I believe, and these are state-of-the-art examples. I have not Googled to see if and in what form they may be available. One or all have likely been released on compact disc.

These should make you appreciate your system investment all the more and your collection of music. You know the old saying, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore”? I wish one or more of the new pressing entities would get a hold of these tapes for prosperity and for your sake. Maybe they have!

Good listening.

Readers' comments

    Thanks for your music/audio blog/article. Agreed, Scandinavian music labels, in general, achieve a high standard of recording/mastering quality. Engineers and producers are meticulous in preparation and seldom makeshift or compromised in the recording equipment they utilize. For example, I once read that Danish national radio engineers took all of two whole days to mic up a live-to-air jazz piano gig, testing and placing mics until they were totally satisfied. Sonic results were simply stunning, I seem to recall.

    May I mention an outstanding Finnish classical music label, Ondine of Helsinki? This label was recommended by a good friend some years back, and a dozen titles later, its detailed, tactile, full-range recordings, whether red book or SACD, consistently deliver. I have augmented my fondness for Sibelius’ works with adventurous offerings composed by fellow countryman, Einojuhani Rautavaara. Ondine’s catalogue is rich with Rautavaara titles, from where his quad-CD box set of eight symphonies (ODE 1145-2Q) and Garden of Spaces/Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra/Cantus Arcticus (ODE 1041-2) come highly recommended.

    Indeed “Cantate Domino” became a reference choral staple for many audiophiles, and rightly so. “Pawnshop” remains iconic due to audiophile demand, though musically, it leaves a lot to be desired (IMHO). And there are many unheralded, standout Scandinavian jazz titles out there, ready to be discovered!

  • Thank you, Spin, for your information and reply. Sahib Shihab recorded with The Danish Radio Jazz Group on the Danish OCTAV label. It was released on compact disc in 2008 and is stunning for its clarity and dynamics. Besides that, it doesn’t lack for cooking! I think it a worthy addition to any jazz loving audiophile’s collection. Ondine is a label I’m about to become more familiar with. Again, thanks.

  • Hi Jim!

    I’d like to propose some Norwegian artists for you, all of them with, in my opinion, very good recordings.

    Silje Nergaard, a jazz singer with a beautiful voice and very good sounding records
    You can take a peek here:

    Kari Bremnes, a jazz singer with a very special way of singing, and many of her records are being recorded in the very famous KKV ( Kirkelig Kultur Verksted)
    One of the most played artist among Norwegian HiEnd folks.
    She mostly sings in Norwegian, but have some songs in English too. Here’s one:

    Bjørn Eidsvåg, a minister with many amazing songs. Here’s a song with the very talented Swedish singer Lisa Nilson:

    Mari Boine, a sami woman from Norway, with incredible sound on her records:

    These video’s sound does’nt give credit to the artists though, but you get some idea of their music.


  • Forgot to link to this site,



  • And of course this, an amazing jazz record, “a record to die for” in Stereophile magazine.


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