The Swedish Radio Choir

The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s former chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.”

Radiokören. Foto: Kristian Pohl.

Radiokören. Foto: Kristian Pohl

Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.

The Swedish Radio Choir gave their very first concert in May 1925. From the start high standards were set by the choir’s first chief conductors, Axel Nylander and Einar Ralf. From an early stage there was also a clearly stated ambition to perform new Swedish choral music. When Eric Ericson took over the leadership in 1952 the choir’s international repute soon grew. He not only wanted the audiences but also the singers to become familiar with the finest and most important choral music from the whole world, and with his advanced choice of repertoire and ambitious aims he established the Swedish Radio Choir’s reputation as a fantastic vocal instrument.

Eric Ericson’s legendary sound ideal and artistry attracted such composers as Paul Hindemith, Frank Martin, Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland, who came to Stockholm to hear their works performed. When Arthur Honegger heard the Swedish Radio Choir sing his works, he is reported to have said that it was the first time that he heard his choral music as he had imagined it. Swedish composers such as Lars Edlund, Ingvar Lidholm and Sven-Erik Bäck also wrote choral music of a kind that had not previously existed, spurred on and inspired by the new techniques made possible by this unique ensemble.

The ability of the choir members to sing solistically one moment, and the next moment to blend into the choir’s complex weave of sound, creates an instrument with a broad field of activity and a wide range of expression, from the most delicate to the most powerful. Leading orchestral conductors, such as Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s own chief conductor Daniel Harding, have all given widely acclaimed concerts with the Swedish Radio Choir. Apart from the choir’s own concerts and regular collaborations with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra they also appear with several other leading Swedish orchestras.

At the Music Export Prize ceremony in 2010 the Swedish Radio Choir was awarded a special honorary prize by the Swedish government with the following citation: “Many a Swedish choir has harvested international success over the years but few have placed Swedish choral music on the map as has the Swedish Radio Choir for more than half a century”. And it certainly has! Regular tours are an important part of the choir’s schedule. Their 90th jubilee celebrations included two notable tours: in the spring they toured Italy with Bach’s complete motets and in the autumn they travelled to Japan and gave concerts in Hyogo, Karuizawa, Miyazaki and Tokyo. The tour ended with a concert in Tokyo City Opera Hall to a full house of 2 000 people.

The choir has also been acclaimed for its recordings and was described as “the world’s foremost ensemble for contemporary music” at the Cannes Classical Awards. In November 2015 the CD “Mass & Motets” with sacred choral music by Johannes Brahms was awarded the Netherlands’ oldest music prize, the prestigious Edison Klassiek. In 2011 the multi-award-winning album “Nordic Sounds” with music by Sven-David Sandström was awarded the Diapason d’Or for best recording of the year by the French music magazine Diapason.

In an article in the British magazine The Gramophone in January 2011, a panel of experts nominated the twenty best choirs in the world, and they were full of praise for the Swedish Radio Choir: “For all its discipline, its clarity of attack, its gently feathered phrase endings and its occasional bursts of terrifying power, there is no mistaking its sound: warm, sweet, balanced, and, most importantly, flawless without sterility or hollow perfection.”

In November 2017 the Swedish Radio Choir appeared at the Lincoln Center in New York City together with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the conductor Thomas Dausgaard in Beethoven’s Missa solemnis. In April 2018 they performed Mozart’s Mass in C minor with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Daniel Harding at three sold out concerts and Der Tagesspiegel wrote: “The choir is rightly considered one of the finest of its kind.”

During the 2018–2019 season the Swedish Radio Choir and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra performed several epic works for chorus and orchestra, including Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht and Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem. The choir celebrated its previous chief conductor, Eric Ericson, with a jubilee concert totally in tune with his unique spirit, featuring pioneering new music and key works from the choral repertoire. Their collaboration with Jacob Mühlrad continued with the première of his multifaceted new work Time in November 2018. During the season the Swedish Radio Choir also premiered exciting new music by Ylva Skog, Malin Bång, Lisa Streich and the highly topical Raminta Šerkšnytė. In April 2019 a barrier-breaking concert took place with the award-winning vocalist Ane Brun and the conductor Hans Ek.

During the 2019-2020 season, the Swedish Radio Choir will make a tour to Japan as well as an European tour together with Nina Stemme as soloist in Beethoven’s Fidelio. A recruitment process is underway for the position of the choir’s chief conductor. Since 2019, Marc Korovitch has been the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir.

How It All Began

In May, 1925, the Swedish Radio Choir had its very first concert. Right from the start, the bar was set high by the choir’s first Music Directors, Axel Nylander and Einar Ralf. Early on, there was also an explicit ambition to perform new, Swedish choral music. When Eric Ericson took over leadership in 1952, the choir’s international reputation evolved. He wanted both singers and listeners to experience the best and most important choral music from across the world, and with progressive repertoire choices and high ambitions, he made the Swedish Radio Choir known as a fantastic vocal instrument.

Read more about the Swedish Radio Choir’s History