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Swedish Choral Music – New Perspectives Jan SANDSTRÖM (b. 1954)
1. Biegga Luothe (Song to the Mountain Wind) [4:40]
Karin REHNQVIST (b. 1957)
2. Ljusfälten (The Fields of Light) [1:31]
3. I himmelen (In Heaven’s Hall) [5:46]
Ale MÖLLER (b. 1955)
4. Glaspolskan (Glass Reel) [2:52]
Trad. (Arr. Hans Gardemar)
5. Slängpolska efter Byss-Kalle (Byss-Kalle’s Reel) [3:26]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871 – 1927)
Tre körvisor (Three Choral Songs) [10:56]
6. I. September [4:46]
7. II. I Seraillets Have [In the Seraglio Garden) [3:11]
8. III. Havde jeg, o havde jeg en Dattersøn, o ja! (If I had, oh if I had a grandson, oh yes!) [2:48]
David WIKANDER (1884 – 1955)
9. Kung Liljekonvalje (King Lily of the Valley) [3:26]
Trad. (Arr. Staffan Lindberg)
10. Slåttervisa efter Knis-Karl (Knis-Karl’s Harvest Song) [4:21]
Anders HILLBORG (b. 1954)
11. En midsommarnattsdröm (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) based on Visa vid midsommartid by Håkan Norlén and Rune Lindström. [5:13]
Herman PALM (1863 – 1942)
12. Under rönn och syrén (Beneath Rowan and Lilac) [3:08]
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872 – 1960)
13. Aftonen (The Evening) [4:03]
Adolf Fredrik LINDBLAD (1801 – 1878)
14. Med en barnbön på sin mun (With a Child’s Prayer on his Lips)(from Drömmarne) [3:31]
Trad. (Arr. Lena Willemark)
15. Bröllopsvisa efter Kirsten Bråten Berg (Wedding Song) [1:50]
Allmänna Sången/Cecilia Rydinger Alin; Improvisations by Anders Widmark (piano)(3, 6-8, 10, 12-14)
rec. University Hall, Uppsala, Sweden, March 2008
Sung texts and English translations enclosed.
BIS-CD-1714 [56:54]


Experience Classicsonline

Allmänna Sången, the Uppsala Student Choir, has a history going back more than 175 years. It started in 1830, then as a male choir. It was not until 1963 that it was reorganized into a mixed choir. It has however been a central part of music life in Uppsala for many decades and several important musicians have been involved with it. The most famous is perhaps composer Hugo Alfvén, who was conductor for more than a decade just after WW2. Cecilia Rydinger Alin, has been conductor and artistic leader of the choir since 1988. Since autumn 2008 she has held the same position in the male choir Orphei Drängar, also in Uppsala.

The present disc is a kind of juxtaposition between the old and the new in Swedish choral music. Here are some of the leading composers born in the 1950s, side by side with established masters from the 19th century. But even their works are presented in a new light – more about that in a while. There are also several examples of songs and tunes from the Swedish folk music treasury chest, smartened up with modern clothes – but the folksy origin is clear enough.

Jan Sandström of Motor Bike Concerto fame – not to mixed up with Sven David Sandström, whose opera Batseba was premiered just before Christmas (see review) – has gone back to the old Lappish culture in Northern Sweden and their yoiks. These are songs of ancient origin and are used to express feelings about specific situations. They relate to experiences, things, animals and people and phenomena in natural or spiritual worlds. Often they are built on short motifs that are repeated - the range is limited, seldom more than a sixth. On the other hand the rhythms are well developed and differentiated. The best known example of yoiks being employed in art music is probably Wilhelm Peterson-Berger’s Symphony No. 3 Same Ätnam. Sandström’s piece focuses on the rhythmic and repetitive elements and is a fascinating study in minimalism.

Karin Rehnqvist’s Ljusfälten, a setting of a poem by the Finland-Swedish poet Edit Södergran, is exactly what the title, The Fields of Light, says. Thus we catch a sense of shimmering lights in an immobile landscape. The poem speaks of ‘powers’, ‘Earth’s stormy night’ and ‘Unyielding my power waits’ yet the music describes the inner landscape of the poet: ‘My bright horizons stand / above Earth’s stormy night’. It is an evocative composition, just one and a half minutes long. I himmelen, is a hymn from the Swedish hymn-book. It opens with a fluent solo improvisation on the melody. It is followed by something reminiscent of kulning, the old herds-maids’ way of communicating with their friends at distant chalets as well as with their cattle. It entails the use of high-pitched, vibrato-less tones of a penetrating quality. Gradually the choir joins in but the kulning is retained above the chorus as a descant. Anders Widmark’s piano is woven into the fabric.

Then follow two polskor. Polska has been a popular dance-form among the country-people for many years and exists in many variants. It is usually in ¾-time. Its origin is supposed to be Polish. These two are strongly contrasted. Ale Möller’s – he is one of the leading exponents of folk music in Sweden – Glaspolska is slow and gently rocking, The traditional Slängpolska – ‘slänga’ meaning ‘throw’ – is fast and lively.

Most Swedish choir-singers are familiar with Stenhammar’s Three Choral Pieces, settings of poems by Danish J P Jacobsen. Here they are performed practically straight by the choir but to this is added Anders Widmark’s inventive and pliable improvisations. Not always does he stick to the mood and atmosphere of the original but sails away on a contrapuntal road of his own. The third piece, Havde jeg, o havde jeg en Dattersøn, becomes a swinging march in his reading – and it works well with the choral setting. The only notable change of the original is that note values are altered: short chords instead of long, unbroken lines.

Wikander’s Kung Liljekonvalje is another classic and it is performed just as written: Nordic choir-singing at its best. The traditional Slåttervisa with fine solo singing by Per Wickström is a rhythmically fresh version with a kind of outdoor atmosphere. Anders Hillborg has chosen a well-known Swedish song as the cantus firmus, sung with extremely long note-values. The rest of the choir surround it with cluster-like chords and heart-rending shrieks. This makes Leif Hasselgren in his booklet notes think of ‘the rueful aftermath of the midsummer festivities complete with the soprano voices illustrating a flight of wild birds crossing the empty morning sky´ - a quick-witted observation.

Under rönn och syren is one of the most beloved spring songs in Sweden. It is always sung on the last of April in front of the bonfires that are lit all over the country to celebrate Spring’s defeat of the long Winter. It here becomes a free piano improvisation of immense beauty. Alfvén’s choral master-piece Aftonen maybe loses something of the contemplative mood and nobility but , thanks to Widmark’s extemporisation, gains life and exuberance.

Adolf Fredrik Lindblad was one of the foremost Swedish composers during the mid-19th century. He wrote two symphonies, an opera and lots of chamber music. In those days however, his fame rested primarily on his more than 200 songs. Several of these are still sung. The choral piece on this disc is from a song-cycle for mixed choir and piano. It is a beautiful piece of music in the prevalent Central European mould of the time.

The concluding Wedding Song, arranged by another important figure on the Swedish folk-music scene, Lena Willemark, makes for a captivating return to the rural tradition. Here, though, the frieze costumes are exchanged for modern wash-and-wear dresses.

The performances are beyond reproach. Readers with an interest in choral music at large or Swedish music in general and with a taste for something spicier than usual will have their fill. New wine in old bottles – and already matured.

Göran Forsling 



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