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Listening Room: Sven-David Sandström

  • Nov 25, 2010
Sandström audio excerpts

Messiah preview

The Messiah, by the Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström, was commissioned by the Oregon Bach Festival and the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart to commemorate the Handel anniversary year 2009. Sandström has a diverse catalog of more than 200 works in the forms of chamber music, opera, concertos, oratorio, and ballet. Born in 1942, he 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) 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. Concert detailsSandström biography

Music excerpts

Magnificat (Academic Chamber Choir Uppsala, Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble, Stefan Parkman, conductor)
Composed in 2005, the Magnificat is one of the few works by Sandström to use an orchestra appropriate for the works of Bach and Handel. Most of his works inspired by the famous composers use only the forms and texts with a large, contemporary orchestra and chorus.
The High Mass: Kyrie Eleison (MDR Chorus and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Herbert Blomstedt, conductor)
Like with his other Bach-inspired compositions, Sandström’s The High Mass from 1994 uses the structure of Bach’s B Minor Mass as a starting point on which to build his original style utilizing a massive array of forces. In this movement, he portrays the fear of the supplication “Lord, have mercy” through jumbled chorus lines until they crash together in harmony and hope.
The High Mass: Cum Sancto Spiritu (MDR Chorus and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Herbert Blomstedt, conductor)
As with the Bach B Minor Mass, Sandström uses the last portion of the Gloria celebrating the Holy Spirit to work the full ensemble into a climactic frenzy.
A cradle song – The Tyger (Eric Ericson Chamber Choir)
An early choral work (1978), the cradle song uses text from William Blake to create both comfort and tension, as Sandström started to write in a more tonal and romantic style than in his earlier pieces.
Freedom Mass: Gloria (Allmänna Sången/Linnékvintetten, Cecilia Rydinger Alin, conductor)
While Sandström has set the Latin text for the mass on multiple occasions, the Freedom Mass of 1996 only uses the Latin as a link to selected poems by Tomas Tranströmer. In this excerpt, a joyful brass introduction leads to the proclamation of “Gloria” and a celebration of freedom and openness.
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (Torleif Thedéen, cello, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Leif Segerstam, conductor)
A milestone in Sandström’s career, the Cello Concerto from 1988 represents the composer at his most Romantic, a fact that endeared him to audiences if not the academic music establishment. Not a simplistic or derivative work, the concerto shows how he uses whatever style most suits his need to engage an audience, sometimes using modern techniques alongside more traditional themes as he shifts from section to section.
Concertpieces for percussion and orchestra (Kroumata, percussion ensemble, Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, John Storgärds, conductor)
While most known for his choral repertory, Sandström has produced many works specifically for the Swedish percussion ensemble Kroumata, exploring this under-represented repertory.
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