Music for the Solitude of the Soul

In Sibelius’ fourth symphony, the national romanticism has given way to a more austere, introspective sound inspired by the dramatic Finnish wilderness. The Swedish Radio Choir performs Purcell’s comforting funeral music to Queen Mary. Acclaimed opera singer Ann Hallenberg sings Mahler’s Der Einsame im Herbst, an orchestral Lied painted in the muted colours of autumn, and Erbarme dich from Bach’s St Matthew Passion. An eagerly awaited concert with music director Daniel Harding.

The concert was broadcasted live in Swedish Radio P2 and on Berwaldhallen play Friday June 5 at 7 pm.

The English language has two words for being alone. “Loneliness” is the involuntary kind that can chill you to the bone. “Solitude” is the kind you seek yourself, that can be both liberating and healing. After ten weeks in quarantine in a locked-down Paris, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s music director Daniel Harding knows a bit about both. He describes this concert with the word “solitude”, a programme encompassing sorrow and anxiety but also acceptance and peace.

In 1910, Jean Sibelius walks through the Karelian forests. He wants to create something new and needs inspiration. He stands alone for hours by the famous Imatran rapids, trying to perceive a fundamental tone in the thundering waters. The symphony he begins composing that same autumn begins with a strong, low C in strings and bassoons – is this perhaps the tone of the rapids?

Simultaneously, Sibelius works on a setting of one of the most famous horror poems, if such a genre exists, of his day: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. That project was never finished, but some of its music lives on in the symphony and the poem’s sombre, supernatural mood contributes to the symphony’s dark landscape with tritone intervals and reduced orchestral forces.

The narrator’s terror at the raven’s hoarse, relentless “nevermore” may echo Sibelius’ own anxiety. He lived in constant fear that the cancer, which had been removed from his throat, would return. “The fourth symphony represents a very integral and profound part of me; indeed, I am glad to have written it”, Sibelius wrote.

To be “alone but not lonely” is legendary soprano Jessye Norman’s description of Das Lied von der Erde. When Gustav Mahler composed it in 1908, he had just lived through a year of terrible personal tragedies. And yet, Das Lied von der Erde does not deal only with sorrow and parting, but also acceptance. Mahler had found comfort in translator Hans Bethge’s volume of ancient Chinese poetry rendered into German, which he used for his six songs. He called his work a symphony, even though the format is reminiscent of chamber music.

Ann Hallenberg, who has conquered the world with her warm and virtuosic mezzo voice, sings about Der Einsame im Herbst, the lonely one watching bluish fog creeping over a lake, wondering if the autumn of the heart will ever end. Will the sun of love no longer dry these bitter tears?

Even though her repertoire is large and varied, Ann Hallenberg is perhaps most well-known for her interpretations of 18th-century music. Embraced by Sibelius’ symphonic streams, she sings one of music history’s most beloved arias: Erbarme dich from Johann Sebastian Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

32 years before Bach turned his faith into immortal music in the St Matthew Passion, another of music history’s greatest composers unexpectedly died. Henry Purcell passed away 35 or 36 years old of an unclear cause of death. He composed music for the funeral of Queen Mary II in March 1695. Half a year later, two of those pieces were performed at his own funeral. As the choir sings: “In the midst of life we are in death.”

And, enveloped by the music, Tomas Tranströmer describes solitude, in this concert through the voice of beloved film and theatre actor Krister Henriksson. When Tranströmer walks across the frozen fields of south-eastern Sweden, he feels, much like many of us, a desire for time to himself. Here, translated into English by Robert Bly:

“I have to be by myself
ten minutes every morning,
ten minutes every night,
– and nothing to be done!
We all line up to ask each other for help.”

Janna Vettergren



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.

Daniel Harding is Music and Artistic Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, with whom in 2022 he celebrated his 15-year anniversary. In the 2014/2015 season, he devised and curated the celebrated Interplay Festival, featuring concerts and related inspirational talks with renowned artists and academics. As Artistic Director, he continues this type of influential programming. Harding is also Conductor Laureate of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom he has worked for over 20 years, and Music Director of Youth Music Culture, The Greater Bay Area in China. The 2024/2025 season will be his first as Music Director at the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome.

Harding is a regular visitor to the world’s foremost orchestras, including the Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Dresden and the Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala. In the US, he has appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony. A renowned opera conductor, he has led acclaimed productions at the Teatro alla Scala Milan, Wiener Staatsoper, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and at the Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg Festivals. He was Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris, the Anima Mundi festival of Pisa, and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Daniel Harding tours regularly with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, performing at prestigious venues all over Europe and the world, and has recorded several acclaimed and award-winning albums with the orchestra. His tenure as Music and Artistic Director will last throughout the 2024/2025 season. “It is increasingly rare that the relationship between a conductor and an orchestra not only lasts for more than a decade, but keeps growing,” he says about working with the orchestra.

In 2002, Harding was awarded the title Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government, and in 2017 nominated to the position Officier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2012, he was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music. In 2021, he was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Daniel Harding grew up in Oxford, England, and played trumpet before taking up conducting in his late teens. He is also, since 2016, a qualified airline pilot.

Swedish mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg regularly appears in major opera houses and festivals, including Teatro alla Scala Milan, Teatro la Fenice Venice, Teatro Real Madrid, Theater an der Wien, Opernhaus Zürich, Opéra National Paris, Théâtre de La Monnaie Brussels, Netherlands Opera Amsterdam, Bayerische Staatsoper München, Staatsoper Berlin, Salzburg Festival, Salzburg Whitsun Festival and Edinburgh Festival. She has recorded more than 40 CD and DVD. At the International Opera Awards in London in May 2016 her solo-CD “Agrippina” won the award for “Best Operatic Recital”. This was her second win in the category, having also won in 2014.

Her operatic repertoire includes a large number of roles in operas by Rossini, Mozart, Gluck, Handel, Vivaldi, Monteverdi, Purcell, Bizet and Massenet. She has performed with orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre national de France, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, Russian National Orchestra, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the Danish Radio Orchestra.

Upcoming highlights include the title role in Agrippina at the Drottningholm Festival, Dejanira in Hercules at the Handel Festival in Karlsruhe and Galatea in Aci, Galatea e Polifemo at Opéra de Lyon. Concert highlights will include Beethoven‘s Missa Solemnis with Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Haydn’s Il ritorno di Tobia at the Müpa Festival Budapest, Berlioz’ L’enfance du Christ and Handel’s Donna, che in ciel, both under the baton of Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

Krister Henriksson’s initial rise to fame came with the title role in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Stockholm City Theatre in 1973. There, he later performed roles including Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello, Baron Tuzenbach in Chekhov’s Three Sisters, the title roles in Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre and Göran Tunström’s Chang Eng. From 1993 he has been engaged at the Royal Dramatic Theatre where he has appeared as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, Captain Adolph in August Strindberg’s The Father and more recently the title role in Hjalmar Söderberg’s Doctor Glas. He is set to appear in Tröstrapporter by Jacob Mühlrad and Alex Schulman.

He has performed in a number of film and TV productions since the 1970s. In 1992, he got a starring role in beloved Swedish tv-series Rederiet. He became a household name the year after thanks to the leading role in acclaimed Swedish thriller miniseries Den gråtande ministern. He is most widely known today for playing detective Kurt Wallander in more than 30 films inspired by Henning Mankell’s novels. He has received several awards, including two Guldbagge Awards for Best Actor in a leading role.

Approximate duration: 1 hr 30 mins