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The Swedish Radio Choir’s History

Eric Ericson’s legendary sound ideals and artistry attracted Paul Hindemith, Frank Martin, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and others to Stockholm, where their pieces were performed. Arthur Honegger is said to have stated that when he heard the Swedish Radio Choir sing his pieces, it was the first time they sounded the way he’d imagined them. Swedish composers such as Lars Edlund, Ingvar Lidholm and Sven-Erik Bäck also wrote choral music of a kind that had previously not existed, spurred on and inspired by the new possibilities afforded by the unique ensemble.

The choir members’ ability to sing solo one moment, to then blend into the ensemble’s tightly woven sound the next, creates an instrument with great versatility and scope, from the fragile to the powerful. Prominent orchestral conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Valery Gergiev and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra’s very own Daniel Harding have all performed acclaimed concerts with the Swedish Radio Choir. Aside from its own concerts and regular collaborations with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the choir also appears with many other of the country’s leading orchestras.

At the Music Export Prize awards in 2010, the Swedish Radio Choir received the government’s special honorary award with the following motivation: ‘The Swedish choirs that have had international success over the years are many, but few have put Swedish choral music on the map for more than half a century like the Swedish Radio Choir.’ And how they have done it! Regular tours are part of the choir’s operations. As part of its 90th birthday, it made two journeys that garnered a lot of attention: to Italy with Bach’s collected motets in the spring, and to Japan with concerts in Hyogo, Karuizawa, Miyazaki and Tokyo in the autumn. The tour finished with a sold out concert at the Tokyo City Opera Hall in front of 2,000 audience members.

The choir has also been noted for its successful recordings, and has been called ‘the world’s best ensemble for contemporary music’ at the Cannes Classical Awards. In November, 2015, the Mass and Motets record with sacred works by Johannes Brahms was awarded the Netherlands’ oldest music award, the prestigious Edison Klassiek. The multi-award-winning album Nordic Sounds, with music by Sven-David Sandström was awarded French music publication Diapason’s Diapason d’Or award for best album of the year in 2011.

In January 2011, the Swedish Radio Choir was praised by British publication Gramophone in an article where a panel of experts named the twenty best choirs in the world. The magazine’s statement read: ‘In spite of discipline, careful phrase endings and sudden explosions of terrible strength, there is no mistaking the choir’s sound: warm, sincere, balanced, and, above all, flawless without sterility or hollow perfection.’

Fruitful collaborations are a cornerstone for the Swedish Radio Choir. Nana Forte, Martin Smolka, and Jacob Mühlrad are some of the composers who, during the present season, will be creating new and exciting works for the choir, which, in addition, has new guest appearances and much longed for return visits to Oman, Italy and Japan coming up. The choir also travelled to the US in November 2017 for a concert tour alongside the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, with which it has just recorded an album.

The choir also has its eyes set on the future. It works with children and young people at music and arts schools, and with El Sistema, to encourage and stimulate a new generation of listeners and performers. The composition students at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm write music that is performed by the Swedish Radio Choir, and the school’s conducting master’s students are given the opportunity to conduct the ensemble during their studies. These are unique and valuable opportunities for the students to work with a world-class vocal ensemble, and thus explore the choral medium in a challenging and stimulating way.