Brahms, Britten & Stravinsky live at P2 and Play

Famed actor Stina Ekblad interprets Stravinsky’s tragic L’Histoire du soldat about a simple man tempted by the devil, who ends up losing everything. The Swedish Radio Choir and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra also performs music by two self-critical masters: Benjamin Britten’s choral suite A.M.D.G. and Brahms’ first symphony.

Stina Ekblad is one of Sweden’s most well-known and well-loved actors praised for her performances on the silver screen as well as the theatre stage. She also does narrated performances and interprets poems by authors like Edith Södergran. Ekblad performed L’Histoire du soldat by Igor Stravinsky and Swiss author Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz with musicians from Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra in Umeå coinciding with the work’s 100th anniversary. As before, she performs all three roles by herself: The narrator, the soldier and the devil. With simple but effective dramatic means, she moves between the roles in a manner that calls on the viewer’s own imagination. The work is performed in Swedish, translated by Erik Lindegren.

When Stravinsky wrote L’Histoire in 1918, many musicians served as soldiers in the First World War. Thus, he had to make do with a rather unique instrumental setup: violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone and percussion. The music is refined, complex and multifaceted, mixing up influences from tango, ragtime and jazz with typical Stravinskian sounds. The Russian solder Joseph – the plot is based on a Russian folk tale – is on his way home on leave. On the road, he meets the devil, who tempts him to trade his fiddle for an enchanted book that can give him untold riches. Too late, the soldier realizes his newfound wealth has cost him all his life’s true treasures: his faith, his self-respect, his love and his music.

Stravinsky also wrote wonderful choral music, both larger works such as the Symphony of Psalms and shorter sacred pieces like these two prayers: Pater Noster, the Lord’s Prayer, and Ave Maria. These were written after Stravinsky, in the 1920s, had reconnected with the Christian faith he grew up in. Benjamin Britten composed the choral suite A.M.D.G. in 1939, 25 years old. Even though it was supposed to be premiered later that year, it was not performed until eight years after Britten’s death, in 1984. Britten chose texts by English 19th century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who had joined the Jesuits at around the same age as Britten was when he set Hopkins’ poems to music. The title A.M.D.G. refers to the Jesuits’ motto: For the greater glory of God, Ad majorem Dei gloriam. The music appears simple, but on the other hand, conductor-composer Paul Spicer writes: “The choir that can perform the complete score successfully is confident, ambitious, has a good sense of humour and has sopranos and tenors capable of high tessitura work.” Perfect, in other words, for the Swedish Radio Choir.

Music lovers in general – and Brahms lovers in particular – are surely well aware of the labour pains of Brahms’ first symphony. He himself stated that it took 21 years for him to finish the symphony, from the early sketches in 1855 to the premiere in Karlsruhe in November 1876. A D minor symphony was begun as early as 1854, which however turned into his first piano concerto – still in the key of D minor. Brahms, just like Britten, was strongly self-critical and destroyed many of his earlier works rather than making them public. Regarding the C minor symphony, his internal anxieties were amplified by expectations from friends and the public that Brahms would continue Beethoven’s legacy. The end result is nevertheless spectacular, an extensive and rich orchestral work: A powerful musical experience all the way from the indomitable, pulsating opening – with some imagination I picture Brahms forcing himself to conquer his inner demons – to the triumphant conclusion with a musical tribute to Beethoven and his ninth symphony.

David Saulesco



dot 2019/2020





The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is a multiple-award-winning ensemble renowned for its high artistic standard and stylistic breadth, as well as collaborations with the world’s finest composers, conductors, and soloists. It regularly tours all over Europe and the world and has an extensive and acclaimed recording catalogue.

Daniel Harding has been Music Director of the SRSO since 2007, and since 2019 also its Artistic Director. His tenure will last throughout the 2024/2025 season. Two of the orchestra’s former chief conductors, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been named Conductors Laureate, and continue to perform regularly with the orchestra.

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra performs at Berwaldhallen, concert hall of the Swedish Radio, and is a cornerstone of Swedish public service broadcasting. Its concerts are heard weekly on the Swedish classical radio P2 and regularly on national public television SVT. Several concerts are also streamed on-demand on Berwaldhallen Play and broadcast globally through the EBU.


32 professional choristers make up the Swedish Radio Choir: a unique, dynamic instrument hailed by music-lovers and critics all over the world. The Swedish Radio Choir performs at Berwaldhallen, concert hall of the Swedish Radio, as well as on tours all over the country and the world. Also, they are heard regularly by millions of listeners on Swedish Radio P2, Berwaldhallen Play and globally through the EBU.

The award-winning Latvian conductor Kaspars Putniņš was appointed Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Choir in 2020. Since January 2019, its choirmaster is French orchestral and choral conductor Marc Korovitch, with responsibility for the choir’s vocal development.

The Swedish Radio Choir was founded in 1925, the same year as Sweden’s inaugural radio broadcasts, and gave its first concert in May that year. Multiple acclaimed and award-winning albums can be found in the choir’s record catalogue. Late 2023 saw the release of Kaspars Putniņš first album with the choir: Robert Schumann’s Missa sacra, recorded with organist Johan Hammarström.

Alan Gilbert är musikchef och hovkapellmästare på Kungliga Operan och chefsdirigent för NDR Elbfilharmonins Orkester i Hamburg. Dessutom är han förste gästdirigent för Tokyo Metropolitan Symfoniorkester och hedersdirigent för Kungliga Filharmonikerna, vilka han var chefsdirigent för 2000–2008.

På Kungliga Operan leder han säsongen 2023/24 uppsättningar av Strauss Elektra och Wagners Parsifal. Med Berlinfilharmonikerna kommer han denna säsong att tolka Arthur Honeggers oratorium Jeanne d’Arc på bålet. Med Elbfilharmonins Orkester kommer han bland annat uruppföra The Elements, en violinkonsert samskriven av fem tonsättare, med Joshua Bell som solist. Förra säsongen uruppförde Gilbert och orkestern ett beställningsverk av Lisa Streich som en del av Elbphilharmonie Visions, en nyinstiftad festivalbiennal som uppmärksammar den samtida musiken.

Som gästdirigent har han arbetat med bland andra Berlinerfilharmonikerna, Bostons Symfoniorkester, Gewandhausorkestern i Leipzig, Londons Symfoniorkester och Concertgebouworkestern i Amsterdam. Han har dirigerat operauppsättningar på Metropolitan och operahusen i Los Angeles, Zürich och Santa Fe. Nyligen gjorde han sin första scenproduktion på La Scala i Milano: en nyuppsättning av Gershwins Porgy and Bess; han debuterade på Dresden Semperoper med Schönbergs Moses und Aron; och han ledde Mahler Chamber Orchestra i George Benjamins Written on Skin på New York Philharmonic Opera. Han har tidigare varit musikchef för Santa Fe-operan och chefsdirigent för New Yorks Filharmoniker.

Alan Gilbert har gjort ett stort antal musik- och operainspelningar, varav flera belönats med prestigefyllda utmärkelser och hyllats av kritiker och lyssnare. 2005 valdes han in i Kungliga Musikaliska Akademien, 2014 valdes han in i American Academy of Arts & Sciences och samma år nominerades han till Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres av den franska regeringen.

Stina Ekblad är en av sin generations främsta skådespelare. Hon tillhör Kungliga Dramatens fasta ensemble och har där bland annat belönats med Svenska Dagbladets Thaliapris 2006 för sin rollprestation som titelrollen i Jean Racines Fedra. Denna säsong gör hon Ibsens Peer Gynt och Christine de Pizans Kvinnostaden på Dramaten. Bland hennes tidigare framträdanden kan nämnas Shakespeares Stormen, Strindbergs Spöksonaten, Kristina Lugns Idlaflickorna och Lars Noréns Som löven i Vallombrosa. 2018 gjorde hon bland annat berättarföreställningen Historien om en soldat med Emil Eliasson på Norrlandsoperan. Hon är ständigt hyllad och flerfaldigt prisbelönad, bland annat med en Guldbagge för Bo Widerbergs Ormens väg på hälleberget och förtjänstmedaljen Litteris et artibus samt flera stipendier. Hon anlitas ofta som recitatör av lyrik och spelade 1994 in en skiva där hon läser dikter av Edith Södergran. Hösten 1998 turnerade hon med Lukasevangeliet som uppmärksammad monolog. Bland hennes många tv- och filmprestationer kan också nämnas Fanny och Alexander, Pensionat Oskar, Tusenbröder, Borgen och Wallander.


Approximate timings

Approximate duration: 2 hrs 10 mins incl. interval