Susanna Wallumrød’s extraordinary career sees no sign of becoming quotidian. Though a composer – adept in many styles of contemporary music – she’s also long been a wonderful interpreter of the work of others: her 2006 record Melody Mountain, as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, is one of the best covers albums you could wish to hear; her last album was a musical interpretation of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch (of course).
Baudelaire & Piano combines her compositional and interpretative abilities, being a selection of adaptations of Charles Baudelaire’s poetry set to music. That means, for one thing, the lyrics are rather more interesting than is usual, even if you find Baudelaire a little florid and overblown, though sometimes the diction is a little confusing – in The Enemy, time apparently “guh-naws” our hearts, until you realise it’s a phonetic pronunciation of “gnaws”. Words, though, do not overwhelm the music: the only elements are voice and piano, yet the simplicity of it all highlights the strength of Wallumrød’s melodies, both instrumental and vocal, much as Nick Cave’s recent Ally Pally streaming show did. She can take the mood from dramatic (Burial, The Vampire) to sombre (The Harmony of Evening).
Like her compatriot, near namesake and fellow Norwegian Grammy winner Susanne Sundfør, Wallumrød has a wonderful voice, reaching effortlessly into the upper registers, and crumbling deliciously when she ventures a little lower, and communicating wordless emotion in the wails and moans at the end of Meditation. Baudelaire & Piano is low key, but it is cool and clear and a perfect welcome to autumn.