The Swedish Radio Choir: ...a riveder le stelle
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The Swedish Radio Choir presents first performances of music by Mirjam Tally, Jesper Nordin and Johannes Pollack, as well as Jan Sandström’s Biegga Luohte and Ingvar Lidholm’s …a riveder le stelle at the Baltic Sea Festival. They are joined on stage by trumpeter Arve Henriksson, double-bass player Anders Jormin and Sinikka Langeland on the kantele.
The Swedish Radio Choir
For more than 90 years, the Swedish Radio Choir has contributed to the development of the Swedish a cappella tradition. Under the leadership of legendary conductor Eric Ericson, the choir earned great international renown. It is still hailed as one of the best choirs in the world. The choir members’ ability to switch between powerful solo performances and seamlessly integrating themselves in the ensemble creates a unique and dynamic instrument praised by critics and music lovers alike, as well as by the many guest conductors who explore and challenge the choir’s possibilities.
Permanent home of the Swedish Radio Choir since 1979 is Berwaldhallen, the Swedish Radio’s concert hall. In addition to the seated audience, the choir reaches millions of listeners on the radio and the web through Klassiska konserten i P2. Several concerts are also broadcast and streamed on Berwaldhallen Play, offering the audience more opportunities to come as close as possible to one of the world’s top choirs.
With the 2020–2021 season, Kaspars Putniņš begins his tenure as the tenth Music Director of the Swedish Radio Choir. Since January 2019, Marc Korovitch is the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir with responsibility for the ensemble’s continued artistic development. Two of the orchestra’s former Music Directors, Tõnu Kaljuste and Peter Dijkstra, were appointed Conductors Laureate in November 2019. Both maintain a close relationship with the choir and make regular guest appearances.
The Swedish Radio Choir was founded the same year as the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and the choir had its first concert in May 1925. Right from the start, the choir had high ambitions with a conscious aim to perform contemporary music.
Kaspar Putniņš, music director
Acclaimed Latvian conductor Kaspars Putniņš is the Swedish Radio Choir’s new Chief Conductor from the 2020–2021 season. He is also Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and has been permanent conductor of the Latvian Radio Choir since 1994. Putniņš is an experienced interpreter of polyphonic Renaissance works as well as the swelling emotions of the Romantic era, but his foremost goal has always been to promote new and outstanding choral music. Through close relationships with a number of Nordic and Baltic composers, he has contributed to raising the bar for performances and recordings of new choral works.
As a guest conductor, he appears with ensembles such as the RIAS Kammerchor, NDR Radio Choir Hamburg, Danish National Vocal Ensemble, BBC Singers, Tokyo Cantat and the Netherlands Radio Choir. He has collaborated with composers such as Maija Einfelde, Mārtiņš Viļums, Toivo Tulev, Lasse Thoresen and Gavin Bryars as well as initiated several drama projects in collaboration with visual and theatre artists. He has made acclaimed album recordings, such as works by Schnittke and Pärt with the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir on an album that was awarded both a Gramophone Award and Diapason d’Or.
Arve Henriksen, trumpet
Born in 1968, Arve Henriksen studied at the Trondheim Conservatory from 1987-1991, and has worked as a freelance musician since 1989.
He has worked with many musicians, including Jon Balke Magnetic North Orchestra/Batagraf, Edward Vesala, Jon Christensen, Marilyn Mazur, Nils Petter Molvær, Misha Alperin, Arkady Shilkloper, Arild Andersen, Stian Carstensen, Dhafer Youssef, Sidsel Endresen, Pekka Kuusisto, Christian Wallumrød Ensemble, Nils Økland, Karl Seglem, Per Oddvar Johansen, Iain Ballamy, Thomas Strønen, Gjermund Larsen, Svante Henryson, Mats Eilertsen, David Sylvian, Jon Hassell, Hope Sanduval, Laurie Anderson, John Paul Jones, Erik Honoré, Toshimaru Nakamura, Trygve Seim Ensemble, Jan Gunnar Hoff, Tord Gustavsen, Giovanni Di Domenico, Tatsuhisa Yamamoto, Gavin Bryars, John Potter, Johanna McGregor, Imogen Heap, Guy Sigsworth, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, Terje Rypdal, Maria Schneider, Kate Havnevik, Live Marie Roggen, Silje Nergaard, Odd Nordstoga, Kari Bremnes, Sondre Bratland, Jannis Anastasakis, Lars Danielsson, The Source, Vox Clamantis and many more.
Henriksen has played in many different contexts, bands and projects, ranging from working with koto player Satsuki Odamura to the rock band Motorpsycho via numerous free improvising groups with Ernst Reisiger, Sten Sandell, Peter Friis-Nilsen, Lotte Anker, Hasse Poulsen, Terje Isungset, Benoit Delbecq, Steve Arguelles, Lars Juul and Marc Ducret.
He has collaborated with the composers Peter Tornquist, Helge Sunde, Terje Bjørklund and Tõnu Kõrvits in cooperation with orchestras and chamber settings like Cikada String Quartet, Nidaros String Quartet, Zapp 4, The Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, Kristiansand and Trondheim Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, The Norwegian Wind Ensemble and Trondheim Soloists.
Arne Henriksen has worked together with video and visual artists like Anastasia Isachsen, Tord Knudsen and Lillevan. Henriksen has composed and commissioned music for festivals, films and documentary programs. He has a long discography counting over 140 records in total. Received together with Supersilent The Alarm Award 2004. He has been the artist in residence at Moers Jazzfestival 2006, OIOI-festival in Bergen 2008 and at Molde Jazz Festival 2009. From 2004-2006 he was a part of the European Jazz Launch project. He has received Norsk Jazzforums Buddy Award 2005. Radka Toneffs Memorial Award 2007, Paul Acket Award at North Sea Jazz Festival 2011 and DNB and Kongsberg Jazzfestival´s Musician Award 2011. He has been nominated to Nordisk Råds musikkpris 2009 and also nominated to European Jazz musician of the year 2009. In 2016 he became Doctor Honoris Causa at The University of Gothenburg. In 2016 he started his own record label Arve Music.
Anders Jormin, Double Bass
Anders Jormin was born 1957 in Jönköping, Sweden. After intense studies, he left Musikhögskolan in Göteborg with diplomas in double-bass and improvisation / pedagogy in 1979.
Today as a doublebass-player and composer, Jormin is a frequent and highly respected performer on the international concert scene. As a musician in great demand, he has recorded and toured with many of the legends in jazz. Among others : Gilberto Gil, Lee Konitz, Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Don Cherry, Charles Lloyd, Mike Mainieri, Joe Lovano, and Jack deJohnette, as well as Kenny Wheeler, Albert Mangelsdorff, Tomasz Stanko, Dino Saluzzi, John Surman, John Taylor, Marilyn Mazur, Arve Henriksen, Mark Feldman , Paul Motian, Joey Baron, Tom Rainey , Jon Balke, Vertavo string quartet , Ann-Sofi von Otter, Norma Winstone and Marilyn Crispell. For many years, Jormin was also a front figure in one of Scandinavias foremost ensembles, ”Entra”.
Jormin performs regularly all over Europe, USA/Canada, and Japan, but has also for shorter periods performed and studied ethnic music in Cuba and Mocambique. He is a member of the Bobo Stenson trio.
Sinikka Langeland, kantele
Sinikka Langeland was born in Kirkenær in southeastern Norway in 1961, and studied piano, guitar and contemporary folksong. In 1981 she discovered the kantele (traditional 39-string dulcimer), which would become her main musical instrument along with the voice. She has said: “My Karelian mother told me about the instrument when I was a child, and one day we went to Finland to find one for me. I had not heard it before I got one. First I played just for fun, but after a while I felt a real sense of bonding with the instrument.” The sound-world conjured up by Langeland’s canteles seems to carry archaic echoes older than ‘folk’ tradition.
After studies in Paris and Olso, she became absorbed in a research project to sift through archives of old songs and music from Finnskogen and expand her “folk” repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, and old melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as medieval ballads and religious songs. Langeland’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature.
In 2010 Sinikka Langeland received the Rolf Gammleng Prize and in 2012 the Sibelius Prize.
MIRJAM TALLY: Sky over the lake
A mysterious lake. Silence and emptiness. A solitary kayak passes near the dock in the dark. The faint rumble of a boat engine. The mysterious attraction of darkness and the silvery light of the moon. The wind’s eerie whispers, the long shadows of the trees, an oppressive silence. The world begins and ends in darkness, like a closed circle.
My work is a meditation on the effects of darkness on the mind. Dark thoughts appear in the presence of the night, soft whispers and faint memories prowl in a distorted reality. Maybe you catch a glimpse of the dark side of the moon, always in the dark, not visible from Earth. Of the dried-out lakes, always on the dark side, pierced by craters.
The text is an excerpt from the following poem by Ann Keniston:
sky over the lake, an emptiness
on an emptiness
the paler space
of sky retained
useless as the kayak passing in the near dark
close by the dock
not metaphor or ghost
though the rider casts a torch
forward, then passes back
into the dark
and her vanishing
continues, my wish
to feel her presence
shorn by me of touch, cheek
and lip removed or blurred
as if I didn’t know where
to look for her
or she’d grown invisible which I cannot bear
and require, as if I’d reached down
my cupped palms
toward the water’s surface
which is too far to touch.
JESPER NORDIN: first performance
JOHANNES POLLAK: Songs for an Impossible Future
JAN SANDSTRÖM: Biegga Luohte
The yoik (jojk) is a vocal expression that has been practiced by the Sámi since time immemorial. Sámi beliefs are based on animism and a relationship with nature. The yoik connects humans with animals and nature on a spiritual level. It is also a way of remembering. The person who practices yoik becomes part of the subject of the yoik: deceased family members, forgotten places and dramatic events are thereby saved in the shared memory.
Yoiks are traditionally carried out individually, and the melodies have traditionally been passed on from one generation to the next. Although sound is sometimes all that is needed to convey the meaning and mood, they often contain short words or sentences. Biegga luohte was originally a Christian yoik by the Sámi yoiker and priest Johan Märak. The title translates as “Yoik to the mountain wind”, and the text describes how the wind brings God’s blessing to the people of Sápmi.
Now the wind blows
lo, lo, lo, lo …
the Holy Spirit bringing
a message from God
to the people
Jan Sandström, born in Vilhelmina, has been interested in different aspects of Sámi culture, including the yoik. He was commissioned by Erik Westberg’s vocal ensemble and the Barents International Center for Choral Music to compose an eight-part movement for choir, tenor soloist and drum based on Biegga luohte. It includes the sound of the ceremonial drum, the call of the reindeer herder to his dog and the mating call of the snow grouse, which, according to Sámi tradition, is the bringer of messages and greetings.
The eight-minute-long first performance of Biegga luohte took place at the London Guildhall in December 1998. A five-minute version was later composed for the Uppsala choir Allmänna sången and entered into a competition.
INGVAR LIDHOLM: ...a riveder le stelle
Ingvar Lidholm’s music presents us with stirring harmonies and the eternal questions. This may be especially true for his choral compositions, which he developed from the age of twenty in collaboration with Eric Ericson and his chamber choir.
Lidholm borrowed a passage from the end of “Inferno”, the first part of Dante Alighieri’s major epic poem La Divina Commedia/The Divine Comedy, where Dante has followed his guide Virgil through the circles of hell before emerging via a hidden path … a rivider le stelle/to see the stars again and is moved by the promise of Heaven. These words, and the stanzas leading up to them, are the subject of Lidholm’s fourteen-minute-long choral piece.
The work was first performed by the Swedish Radio Choir and Eric Ericson’s Chamber Choir in 1974 with the solo parts sung by Marianne Mellnäs. It is a seminal contribution to the Swedish choral canon.
This is a tour de force in terms of drama and tonality, and although the melodic and harmonious elements are more prominent here than in Lidholm’s earlier work, it is full of tricky intervals, tonal clashes and major rhythmical and dynamic contrasts.
The altos and sopranos begin fortissimo and with frequent glissandi on the vowel “A”. The text is introduced by the basses on ma la notte resurge (but night is rising once more), after which the sopranos and altos join in. On this resounding start follows a milder, more sonorous polytonal section as Dante and Virgil are moving closer to the light.
After a general pause halfway through the piece, the wanderers are approaching the gates of Heaven. The light they encounter is reflected in shimmering chords consisting of up to 32 voices, then suddenly, like a strange homecoming, the choir strikes an unexpected, harmonious C-sharp chord on a rivider le stelle.
The soprano solo does not appear until the end. Accompanied by long, drawn out chords, a wordless, poetic melody rises towards the bright, open sky.
About the concert
The ethereal sound of Arve Henriksen’s trumpet, Anders Jormin’s flowing double bass and Sinnika Langeland’s meditative singing and kantele-playing have previously been heard in several successful collaborations. When the trio now joins the Swedish Radio Choir and Kaspars Putniņš in a concert of contemporary Swedish music rooted in folk music, we can look forward to a genre-bending, partly improvised, journey on a musical theme that celebrates the immeasurable dimensions of nature
“We have lived in an anthropocentric world since the Enlightenment, ignoring nature’s potential with its rich variety of colours and shapes. Art is, like nature, a place where we can achieve emotional wisdom that goes beyond the intellect,” says Kaspars Putniņš.
Composer Mirjam Tally has worked with changes in the landscape in her choral/orchestral work Från ljus till mörker (From light to darkness), a musical journey through the seasons taking the Sami tradition as the starting point. In her new choral work Sky over the Lake, commissioned by the Swedish Radio Choir, she has made a musical adaptation of the poem “Dock” by the American poet Ann Keniston. In a few moving lines it describes the unfathomableness of nature and our fumbling attempts at existing in unison with it.
Jesper Nordin, who often borrows inspiration from traditional folk music, has based his most recent choral work on the language of traditional mountain pasture stock farming. The ancient vocal technique kulning is a theme with variations that runs through this first performance for the Swedish Radio Choir.
The British poet Tom Hiron’s poetry connects with all that is unfathomable and wild. His poems often balance on the edge between the abyss and the light. When the composer Johannes Pollak was commissioned by the Swedish Radio Choir, he chose Hiron’s unpublished poem “Songs for an Impossible Future”, which is about an unyielding determination to turn despair into hope and make things grow in the dust.
Mats Larsson Gothe’s choral work The Pigeons is based on Håkan Sandell’s poem “Duvorna”. Having lost their grandeur and resorted to “mocked shabby clowns”, the pigeons long to yet again fly in the wild, expressed by Larsson Gothe through vigorous vocal polyphony.
Yoik singing, which creates an emotional bond between humans, animals and nature, is at the heart of Jan Sandström’s choral work Biegga luohte from 1998. The title in the Sami language translates as Yoik to the Mountain Wind. It is based on a Christian yoik by
The concert concludes with Ingvar Lidholm’s seminal … a rivider le stelle from 1974, a dramatic, emotional journey that goes from darkness of hell to the joys of heaven in Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia. In combination with Lidholm’s shimmering music it is possible to believe in a world where the wonders of nature offer a sense of light and hope.
Text: Anna Hedelius
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