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Nils LINDBERG (b. 1933)
Arrangements of Swedish Folk Tunes from Dalecarlia: Kom min vän (Come my friend) (choir); O Gud, som allt med vishet styr (O God who wisely governs all) (choir); O Gud, som allt med vishet styr (O God who wisely governs all) (organ); Så går en dag än från vår tid (So a day passes from us) (choir); Så går en dag än från vår tid (So a day passes from us) (organ); Befall i Herrens händer (Commit to the hands of the Lord) (choir); Befall i Herrens händer (Commit to the hands of the Lord) (organ); Den signade dag (Oh blessed day) (choir); Den signade dag (Oh blessed day) (organ); Har du din lampa redo (Keep your lamp in readiness) (choir); Har du din lampa redo (Keep your lamp in readiness) (organ); I himmelen, i himmelen (In heaven, in heaven) (organ); I himmelen, i himmelen (In heaven, in heaven) (choir); Mitt farväl jag blandar med kärlekens gråt (My farewell I mix with tears of love) (organ); Jag står på bruderätten min (I maintain my bridal right) (organ); Den signade dag (Oh blessed day) (organ)
Uppsala Cathedral Choir/Milke Falck; Andrew Canning (organ)
Recorded on March 20th – 23rd 2004 in Järna Kyrka, Dala Järna, Dalecarlia, Sweden
PROPRIUS PRSACD 2032 [47:44]

The folk music of Sweden, and especially that of the province of Dalarna (Dalecarlia) in the heart of Sweden, as those of us who live here like to call it, has long been the source of inspiration for composers, arrangers and musicians. The "spelmansmusik" (traditional folk music performed mainly by fiddlers but also on a variety of other instruments) is especially strong and alive in Dalecarlia. Composers like Oskar Lindberg (the uncle of Nils Lindberg), Erland von Koch, Edwin Kallstenius and, internationally most well-known, Hugo Alfvén have borrowed, quoted and reworked traditional tunes from the province. In the 1950s and 1960s jazz musicians also found their way to this inexhaustible source: Jan Johansson, Bengt Hallberg, Georg Riedel and most consistently Nils Lindberg. Descending from a family of musicians with their roots in Gagnef, situated some kilometres south of Lake Siljan, Nils studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. There his teachers were Lars-Erik Larsson and Karl Birger Blomdahl – one traditionalist and one modernist. He soon became well-known as a jazz pianist and gradually started to incorporate folk music elements in his jazz compositions and improvisations. For some years he also collaborated with Duke Ellington as pianist and arranger. His interest in choral music is of a later date but during the last fifteen years or so he has written a lot of both large scale choral works and small but exquisite a cappella compositions. His setting of Shakespeare’s Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, has become a "standard" song with Swedish choirs. I have also seen it on international record releases.

On the present disc he has picked and chosen some of the finest tunes from the rich treasure-trove of the sacred songs of Dalecarlia. Most churches in bygone days had their own local melodies to the texts in the official hymn book and they were often more elegant, more ornamented than the heavier, maybe more doom-laden hymn book versions. There is a certain similarity to the fiddlers’ way of embellishing their tunes. Since organs were rare, at least in the small churches, the hymns were performed a cappella, normally in unison.

The tunes are mainly from the parishes around Lake Siljan: Malung, Siljansnäs, Leksand, Orsa while the very last melody, a variant of Den signade dag (O blessed day), which earlier on in the programme is presented in a version from Orsa, comes from Nils Lindberg’s home-parish Gagnef and is actually collected by his uncle Oskar.

The tunes, or rather hymns, are arranged with a cautious hand to make sure that the melodies get their due. These are beautiful, often melancholy tunes, which probably can sound exotic to listeners unfamiliar with the idiom, but I know that people from Eastern Europe often feel an affinity with the Dalecarlian music, even with the Scandinavian music at large. Somebody cleverly said that we all belong to the same "region of melancholy". Often Lindberg starts the songs in unison and then gradually adds chords but his harmonic language is unobtrusive: it never dominates the melodies, it only serves to emphasize them. Everything is beautifully written – and executed by one of the best church choirs in Sweden. For authenticity reasons the recordings were made in the Church of Dala Järna in western Dalecarlia, a church with beautiful, open acoustics and indeed suitable for this specific music. The recording, in surround sound 4.0, catches all this very well and knowing this church – I have even sung there myself – I can assure readers that this is the way it sounds there.

For all the beauty of these melodies a full CD with mainly slow to middle tempo songs might be too much of a good thing, and Nils Lindberg has wisely chosen to intersperse the choir’s contribution with organ pieces, in many cases with elaborations of the same tunes that the choir has just sung. And here he uses quite a different language, where he doesn’t shy from using harsh harmonies, and Andrew Canning, who at present is assistant organist at Uppsala Cathedral, makes the most of these challenging settings.

The juxtaposition of these two elements: the choir in a "traditional" national romantic idiom and the organ in a bold "modernistic" style, builds bridges between and across the centuries in a most refreshing way. I do urge readers to try this disc for the sake of the programme, for the sake of the composer/arranger, who is one of the most distinctive voices in present day music life in Sweden, and for the performance by the choir and the organist. All this in a brand-new state-of-the-art recording by Proprius, who have been famous for 35 years for sonic excellence, especially in recording choirs and organs.

Göran Forsling

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