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Sven-David Sandström - Choral Music
Eric Ericson Chamber Choir

Hear My Prayer
April and Silence
Étude No 4 as in E-Minor
A Cradle Song - The Tyger
A New Heaven and A New Earth
Agnus Dei

Phono Suecia PSCD 139

In Sweden Sven-David Sandström (not to be confused with Jan Sandström, composer of the Motorbike Concerto popularised by Christian Lindberg) is renowned as composer in all genres, and especially of choral music, recorded here by the virtuoso Eric Ericson Chamber Choir conducted by the its eponymous founder.

He is always conscious of the limitations of non-professional hobbyist singers, but those distinctions have begun to blur with many superb 'amateur' choirs to be heard world-wide. However, Sandström, whilst keeping in mind that most choirs depend upon non-professional hobbyist singers, of which he counts himself one, he has never been afraid to test the limits.

His setting of Etyd No 4, as in E-Minor by Tobias Berggren, about Holocaust victims, is as elaborate and demanding as were the large choral works of Richard Strauss in their time. Many poems that inspired Sandström are well known; Hear my prayer extends Purcell's unfinished anthem with adventurous harmony of today. He knows that limitations become blurred with the passage of time; A Cradle Song and The Tyger from William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience is treated like 14C motets with two simultaneous texts. The Ericson choir reacted with 'everything from giggling to dismay' at first, but gradually came to value it. It is given in English, but needs the poems in front of you for full understanding. Here, all the texts are given in English as well as Swedish.

A thoroughly recommendable choral CD by a distinguished and always open-minded exploratory composer.

Freedom Mass
Ave Maris Stella & Ordinary Mass and Psalm
Allmänna Sången & The Linné Quintet

Caprice Records CAP 21721

Sven-David Sandström's Freedom Mass (1996) is a worthy addition to the several operas and choral works I have welcomed from Scandinavia which acknowledge practicalities by using a small group of instruments to accompany singers, not without dramatic effect.

One which comes immediately to mind is Karlsen's St John's Passion which I have urged ought to be taken up in UK, being eminently suitable to bring some bracing northern fresh air into UK church concerts.

Sandström's Freedom Mass sets poems of the later 20 C compiled by Margareta Jonth, which carry powerful resonances and are arranged in the usual Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Agnus Dei sequence. Two organs, a leading brass quintet and clarinet give arresting background support and often take centre stage, and Cecilia Rydinger Alin is in charge of the splendid Allmänna Sången.

The Ordinary Mass is more conventional in manner and idiom, but choir conductors should certainly explore the Freedom Mass for including in their concerts.

© Peter Grahame Woolf