Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quick Review- The Swedish Radio Choir

A bonus for anyone arriving today for the Central Division ACDA convention- a chance to hear one of the great a cappella choirs of the world- the Swedish Radio Choir, made famous by Eric Ericson, who is now retired but led them beginning in 1952. This evening's concert was ably led by Ragnar Bohlin.

The big pieces, I mean BIG HONKING PIECES,on the program were for double choir- the Bach Singet dem Herrn and the Frank Martin Mass for Double Chorus. These are pieces that punish a lot of the college and semi-professional choirs that decide to take them on in battle, and perhaps that is the problem-- the pieces may be just too hard for anyone but a choir like Swedish Radio to a) sing all the notes and rhythms, and b) make it beautiful and expressive...and not like a battle. I actually hate seeing college choirs try to do the Bach, it most often causes a death spiral of woe; I think especially for the men, whose parts are extremely intimidating.

But back to tonight- what was so lovely to listen to was something as simple as this choir's tuning of final chords, and to listen them sing cadences or ends of sections, whether simple or more complex. It was a revelation to hear them sonically rejoicing in the magic of a beautifully tuned third, or creating an exquisitely detailed cadence, listening to them was perhaps the equivalent of watching a world famous goldsmith at work. In addition to this sweetness there were also many moments of amazing intensity, during the Martin I circled on my program the word Crucifixus, which occurred in the Credo and I will bet 100 dollars is the exact midpoint (hehe- or Fibonnaci point) of the music of this mass setting, as if Martin was pointing to to that exact textual event from the moment the piece started, whether the audience would know it or not. The writing there was amazing, and the choir was right with Martin in its emphasis on this particular passage of the music.

The other pieces on the program fit in well for the most part. Very effective was the Mahler "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" arranged for choir. Here the choir showed what can be done with held tones- they reverberated soulfully, sounding like gorgeous violas and celli and not ever sounding strained like held tones often sound in the hands of lesser choirs. In addition, this arrangement also featured a passage with a high soprano solo- a line which went above a high C and even after that kept snaking around all over the place- a long,long,long line sung in one breath by one of the choir's sopranos (sorry, no name to share from the program).

Another successful piece, though some may not care for it, was Ander Hillborg's Mouyayoum, a bit of a minimalist soundsculptre adventure which I thought was far superior to the better known piece within the same soundworld approach, Lobet den Herrn by Sven David Sandstrom, sung earlier on the program.

Thanks Swedish Radio Choir for your craft and dedication AND simply delish music. You made technically difficult music sound gorgeous and amazing!

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