"Messiah Project" Pairs World Premiere, Handel original

  • Mar 29, 2009
[caption id="attachment_2847" align="alignright" width="220" caption="Sven-David Sandström"][/caption]Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström is not one to consider new projects lightly. He has composed for the BBC, Pierre Boulez, and the Concertgebouw. One of Sweden’s foremost composers, he founded a composition school on the Baltic Isle of Gotland, and was on faculty at Indiana University for ten years. In 2005 he wrote a Magnificat for Helmuth Rilling’s Internationale Bachakademie. For his most recent work, a joint commission of the Oregon Bach Festival and the Bachakademie, he has taken on the most-performed choral work of all time—Handel's Messiah. To mark the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death, the OBF and Rilling's Bach academy commissioned Sandström and directed him to base his Messiah on the same biblical text as the original—Charles Jennen's poetic libretto from more than 260 years ago. Scored in a manner close to the original, for chorus, orchestra, and four soloists, Sandström's Messiah will receive its world premiere July 9 in Eugene. Three nights later, Rilling will conduct the Festival forces in Handel’s original. The European premiere will occur at the Rheingau Music Festival at Kloster Eberbach August 28, followed by performances at the Festival young.euro.classic in Berlin September 1, and at the Musikfest Stuttgart on September 6. The Stuttgart concert will be recorded for release as a CD. The public’s first sampling of Sandström’s work took place April 27 in the OBF 2009 season preview at the Wildish Theatre in Springfield. A crowd of about 200 took part in a sight-reading sing along, and compared parts of Sandström to Handel. You can hear excerpts of Sandström’s music in our listening room.

Sandström Background

After brash beginnings, his music has evolved into a form that blends originality and accessibility. Born in 1942, Sandström had his first breakthrough with the vast orchestral work Through and Through, premiered in 1972 by the Swedish Radio Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt and subsequently performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. His early music uses serial techniques and is often dense and highly dissonant. His expressive and controversial Requiem Mute the Bereaved Memories Speak (1979) achieved the stature of a religious redemption. Dealing with humankind¹s ability to forget its crimes, with scenes from World War II used to illustrate its point, it is one of the most powerful compositions of the twentieth century. More recently, his work has incorporated tonality and has drawn on influences from jazz and popular music. In Act II of his opera Jeppe, the chorus sings the line "O Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz" in harmony based on the original Janis Joplin melody. Great expression and orchestral color characterize Sandström's Messiah of the 21st century. Corresponding to his artistic credo, modernity and accessibility do not represent a contradiction. "My music," he wrote, "should be understandable on first hearing and should touch people." The concert will take place Thursday July 9 at 7:30 pm in Silva Concert Hall. Handel’s Messiah is the OBF finale July 12 in Silva Hall at 4 pm.