Who is Nils Lindberg?
Many listeners will want a few facts
about this composer before opening their
purses. He is, according to the ‘blurb’
a jazz legend in Sweden, however he
is somewhat less well known further
afield. He has few CDs in the catalogues.
Lindberg was born in 1933 and began his
varied career in the 1950s. He has good
antecedents – his uncle was the ‘romantic’
composer Oskar Lindberg. Lindberg ‘neveu’
is a composer, an arranger, a band leader
and an accomplished pianist. Forever
the eclectic writer, he has made a speciality
of ‘fusing’ classical, Swedish folk
and jazz. Readers who are 50-something
may remember an album from the 1960s
called Sax Appeal - it strikes
a vague chord in my brain. This was
the composer’s breakthrough into vinyl.
Lindberg did a number of gigs with big
names in the jazz world – including
Duke Ellington although he refused to
go on the road with the great man. In
recent years his most successful and
popular album has been the Seven
Dalecarlian Paintings dating from
1973. I have not heard this work – but
understand that it is an arrangement
of old Swedish folk music for a variety
of musical forces including jazz combo,
big band, orchestra and string quartet.
In 1993 Lindberg composed and performed
an acclaimed Requiem.
In the Christmas
Cantata Lindberg uses his own ‘big
band’ along with a ‘chamber’ choir,
soprano and baritone soloists. The text
is in English, which obviously opens
the work to a much wider range of listeners
than would be able to understand Swedish.
The words are derived from a number
of British Christmas carols and the
nativity story as written in the King
James Version of the Bible. I note with
amusement the accompanying text states
– ‘lyrics from St Matthew’ etc!
Many favourite carols
are here in somewhat modified form;
Ding Dong Merrily on High, The
Sussex Carol, God rest you merry
gentlemen and Merry Christmas.
Most of the music for the carols is
based on the traditional melodies tailored
to suit the composer’s style. However
he uses a tune from the town of Mora
in the Dalarna region of Sweden; this
is used to set the words of the Christopher
Wordsworth hymn Sing, O Sing This
Blessed Morning. So there is
a kind of anchoring in his native soil.
Most of the ‘recitative’ is set to original
music which well balances the better
known tunes. Here jazz seems to be to
My overall impression
is that this is an interesting and fun
work. It is always fascinating to listen
to ‘fusion’ music although this style
of composition can often become unbalanced.
My impression of this work is that the
‘big band’ and jazz combo part is the
best. In some ways I would have liked
to listen to them playing without the
interruption from the soloists - for
the jazz is really ‘cool.’ And talking
of the two soloists, they tend to be
‘popular’ or ‘jazz’ singers rather than
classical. So the soprano, for example
has a pleasant, but not powerful voice.
I imagine that microphones would be
a sine qua non for them in the
concert hall! The chorus is more Mike
Sammes or ‘Sing Something Simple’ rather
than Finzi Singers or the Tallis Scholars.
This relatively short
CD also includes three brief Swedish
Folk Songs set for choir by the
composer. These are much more subtle
than the Cantata and may well
survive it in posterity.
I did like the Cantata
and was pleased to have the opportunity
to listen to a work much removed from
my preference for a normal diet of English
Cathedral Music and Renaissance Choral