Norwegian boy soprano Aksel Rykkvin, all quintessential Scandinavian good looks, released his debut album, Aksel!, at the end of 2016. By that time he was 13 years old, going on 14: late for the onset of puberty in contemporary Western societies. Perhaps the clarity of his voice seemed unearthly in part because it was doomed to pass away in just a few months, and no one knew what kind of adult singer Rykkvin would turn out to be. He was born on April 11, 2003. His parents noticed that even as a toddler he loved singing. A maternal uncle had also been a boy chorister, and Rykkvin was steered toward the Oslo Cathedral Boys' Choir when he was five years old. Although he was officially too young, he was accepted into the choir's training program, studying with Helene Haarr, and joined the main choir when he was seven. Studying solo songs in preparation on family vacations, he was selected for a solo slot when he was eight and began to attract attention as a standout talent. Entering the Music at Majorstuen school, partly funded by the city of Oslo, Rykkvin took lessons with Marianne Lewis. He joined the Children's Chorus of the Norwegian Opera & Ballet in 2013. The Aksel! album seemed to introduce an unknown talent to the world outside Norway, but Rykkvin had actually attained a substantial level of celebrity in Norway prior to its release. He performed on Norwegian television broadcasters NRK and TV2, was featured in several concerts with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, and sang the opening music on one of the most-watched programs in Norway on Christmas Eve. Rykkvin also appeared on the BBC Radio 3 show In Tune. He has sung at official functions in Norway in the presence of top national officials and the country's royal family. Rykkvin has made operatic appearances in the science fiction opera Elysium by Rolf Wallin, in Kurt Weill's Der Jasager, and, in spring 2017, as Yniold in Debussy's Pélleas et Melisande at the Norwegian Opera. Through 2016 Rykkvin was a frequent presence in cathedral choral concerts in Scandinavia and Britain. Aksel!, featuring arias by Bach, Handel, and Mozart, made its debut in the Top Ten on a British classical sales chart and earned honors including the Diapason "Découverte" newcomers' award in France. Off the musical stage he enjoys playing soccer with a local Oslo team. ~ James Manheim
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released September 2, 2016 | Signum Records
Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or
The solo boy soprano album has a kind of intensity, born of knowing that the sound will soon end, that attracts some and puts others off, but Norwegian treble Aksel Rykkvin, with flawless schoolboy good looks, has become something of a sensation with this album of Baroque and Classical arias. His voice has a rather metallic quality, and you might think that forcing it into these big arias would be an unnatural thing. Yet in fact some of these pieces, including the tough arias from Handel's Alcina, were originally written for a boy soprano, and Bach's church music made use of them as well. Rykkvin handles the acrobatics quite well. The cutting, brilliant quality of his voice in the 16th notes is what has attracted listeners to this; you've never quite heard anything like it. But he also can smooth things out to good effect, as in the "Quia respexit" from Bach's Magnificat in D major, BWV 243, or in the music from Handel's Messiah, HWV 56. Only in the final Exsultate jubilate, K. 165, of Mozart, does he seem forced into something that doesn't come naturally, but even that seems appropriate for this program that will surely be a one-off thing: who knows what Rykkvin will sound like in a year? The program benefits from sensitive accompaniment from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Nigel Short. The real display album from a boy soprano is a rather rare thing, and if that appeals to you, don't hesitate to grab this example.
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