SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Nordic Sounds 2 – Swedish Radio Choir/ Peter Dijkstra – Channel Classics

Beautiful sounds from the cold climes of Northern Europe, easily warmed by the brilliant performances.

Published on October 27, 2012

Nordic Sounds 2 – Swedish Radio Choir/ Peter Dijkstra – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 32812, 76:07 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Nordic Sounds 1 featured only the music of Sven-David Sandström; Daniel Coombs was much impressed with the first release in his review. That Sandström turns 70 this year, and among his many positions counts 10 years as Professor at Indiana University. On this disc with have another Sandström, Jan, 13 years younger than Sven-David, and for the life of me I cannot determine whether they are related or not; my research suggests no immediate connection, but I am not sure. Elder Sandström was once a favorite of Pierre Boulez, which gives you an inkling of what his early music was like; in 1980 he changed to a more accessible tonal idiom. Jan knew no such conversion, and seems to have always been rather tonally-inclined. According to some sources he is the most played Swedish composer in the world, made famous by such pieces as the Motorbike Concerto for Trombone. His contribution on this SACD amounts to three arrangements of improvised folk songs of the Sami people from Lapland, where the composer was born.

David Wikander wrote King Lily of the Valley and An evening, early in spring, two poems that have attained folk song status due to Wikander’s melodies. Wikander was organist and choirmaster of the Stockholm Cathedral for 35 years. Two folksong arrangements included here are Gjendine’s Lullaby and the traditional song Crystal so fine, both lovely examples of the art. The melancholy My favorite valley by Danish composer Jørgen Jersild is haunting and evocative, the composer having studied at one point with Albert Roussel.

The latest piece here is The Suitors, a 16-part work of great originality and color from a poem from the Kanteltar, considered to be a sister work of the great Finnish national epic Kalevala. The oddly modal and offbeat minimalist qualities of the work serve the fairytale aspects of the story, where a duck hatches a golden egg which births a Finnish daughter who them rejects every suitor before settling on the Pole Star, always in the same place in the heaven. Strange I know, but very colorful.

No Swedish choral collection would be complete without at least a couple of numbers from its most famous composer, Hugo Alfvén, who doesn’t disappoint with A maiden is in a ring and Evening, while the whole program wraps with Anders Hillborg’s wordless Muoayiayaoum, the title concealing a phonetic formula that causes the voices to open and close the vowels, producing a piece of terrific precision and crystalline clarity.

I found the whole production deliciously intoxicating in its varied and vivacious performances, the 33-member Swedish Radio Choir in glorious form supported by a finely-honed surround sound cloud that presents them in the very best light. An easy choice for choral aficionados, and others will like it as well.

Jan Sandström: Sloabbme-njunnje, Biegga Njunnjí, Biegga Luothe
David Wikander: Kung Liljekonvalje, Förvårskväll
Jørgen Jersild: Min yndlingsdal
Jaakko Mäntyjärvi: Kosijat
Hugo Alfvén: Och jungfrun hon går i ringen, Aftonen
Traditionals: Gjendines Bådnlåt, Kristallen den fina
Anders Hillborg: Muoayiayaoum

—Steven Ritter

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