Do not be put off a programme by unfamiliar names. This is such a choral feast that one can only shake one’s head in wonderment that such lovely music is so little known outside Scandinavia. The Swedish Radio Choir’s reputation for flawless singing is as solid as ever and, under Peter Dijkstra’s direction, it has become a powerful though flexible instrument capable of tremendously warm and gilded singing.
Jan Sandström (of Motorbike Concerto fame) brings his customary fresh and stimulating creativity to three evocative arrangements of folksongs in the ‘yoik’ tradition, handed down through the Sami culture. They contrast nicely with a pair of earlier miniatures by Hugo Alfvén, who is still best known for his evergreen Midsummer Vigil.
Anders Hillborg offers some cutting-edge extended vocal techniques with an exploration of opening and closing vowels in a spellbinding piece called Muoayiyaoum (1983). This is a veritable tour de force in phonics, bell-tones and breath control, and anticipates eerily the Whitacre ‘Virtual Choir’ phenomenon by at least a decade. The longest (and most recent) work, Kosijat, by the Finnish composer Jaakko Mäntyjärvi, affords splendid opportunities for solos by six of the Swedish Radio Choir. The basses also give a spectacular display of their profundity.
However, for sheer harmonic pleasure, the highlight is undoubtedly Arne Lundmark’s luscious arrangement of the traditional air ‘Kristallen den fina’. This has become an instant Desert Island favourite.
Be amazed by 76 minutes’ breathtaking virtuosity, captured in a natural recording, devoid of gimmickry. Stunning.