Norwegian singer-songwriter Susanna Wallumrød Concluding her exploration of the poetry and persona of French poet-bohemian Charles Baudelaire (1821-67), a literary enfant terrible who constantly shook his fist at authority, whose poetry has been set to music by everyone from Claude Debussy to Ali Akbar Khan, and his uncompromising life and art influenced the music of The Doors and Bob Dylan. Baudelaire & Orchestra is the last part in the trilogy that arranges songs from the classic Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil, translated by Anthony Mortimer), written from 1840 until Baudelaire’s death in August 1867. This trilogy began with the solo albums Baudelaire & Piano and Elevation (released as a solo album and as a trio EP, all were released on Susanna Sonata, 2020, 2022)
Baudelaire & Orchestra features Susanna, focusing now only on her vocals, with Oslo’s forward-thinking Norwegian Radio Orchestra, known for its progressive approach, diversity and willingness to tackle challenging and contemporary music of all types. The music was arranged by composer-guitarist Jarle G. Storløkken, with contributions from composer Jan Martin Smørdal. The orchestra is conducted by famous conductor Christian Eggen, Susanna is also accompanied by Stina Stjern on cassette tapes, recorders and backing vocals (who also composed four songs and played in the Elevation EP) and Anita Kaasbøll on backing vocals The album was produced and mastered by Susanna’s partner Deathprod (aka Helge Sten).
When Susanna began this musical journey, she declared that her music, like much of Baudelaire’s work, probes the limits of desire, and confronts the simultaneous wonder and meaningless of existence. She sees Baudelaire’s 19th-century urban observations, frequently dipped into fantasy, sensuality, fevered imagings and eerie horror, still relevant to our 21st-century modern lives. Susanna’s dramatic delivery manages to radiate the seductive, even bestial yet subversive and morbid, emotional turmoil – Alchemy of Suffering as one of the poems is titled – that characterizes Baudelaire’s poetry. The new, thoughtful orchestral arrangements allow a sense of reserved detachment from the unsettling poems, while Stjern’s sonic ideas ornament these poems with fascinating noises. And like Baudelaire, Susanna succeeds in suggesting a similar experience of reading for the first time Baudelaire’s poetry, a feeling of «Beauty with an edge of strangeness. Sin as a swallowing abyss».
Susanna (vocals), Stina Stjern (cassette tapes, recorders, vocals), Anita Kaasbøll (vocals), Christian Eggen (conductor), Norwegian Radio Orchestra