EARLY SUMMER CONCERT WITH THE SWEDISH RADIO CHOIR
Sofie Jeannin, chief conductor of the BBC Singers and previously of the French Radio Chorus, leads the Swedish Radio Choir in a delightful early summer concert. The programme also features choir music by the Swedish composer Ingvar Lidholm as well as lyrical works by the Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti and the English composer Frederick Delius.
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.
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.