Sven-David SANDSTRÖM (b.1942)
Nordic Sounds
Lobet den Herrn (2003) [7:41]
Ave Maria (1994) [8:39]
Hear My Prayer, O Lord (1986) [5:31]
Es ist Genug (1986) [9:05]
A New Song of Love (2009) [3:53]
Laudamus Te (1993) [7:42]
Agnus Dei (1981) [6:32]
Singet dem Herrn (2003) [13:45]
Swedish Radio Choir/Peter Dijkstra
rec. Swedish Radio, Stockholm, December 2009. DDD

Sven-David Sandström's name is not entirely unfamiliar to regular readers of MusicWeb International. As well as having featured several times in the last decade in the Seen And Heard pages - most recently here - his magnificent Messiah was reviewed here last year.
This SACD disc contains eight of Sandström's sacred choral works for mixed a cappella choir spanning a quarter of a century of creativity. The disc opens and closes with a motet, respectively Lobet den Herrn and Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, which complete a project of Sandström's, begun in 2003, to write six motets to the same texts and forces employed by J.S. Bach in his BWV 225-230. Like much of Sandström's works, these are virtuosic but instantly accessible and mellifluous.
The use of canonical works as musical inspiration or as a starting-point - as with Bach's motets, or Buxtehude's cantata BWV 24 for Es ist Genug, is one of eight special characteristics of Sandström's choral writing that have been identified by choral director James Kallembach. These occur repeatedly throughout the works on this disc - without ever detracting from the general attractiveness and memorableness of Sandström's music. The other seven, listed in the liner-notes by Per Bronman, are: non-language sounds, such as humming - sometimes giving the impression of accompaniment by double-basses, as towards the end of Es ist Genug or A New Song of Love - and tremolo, as in the opening of Singet dem Herrn; theatrical interaction of vocal groupings - as in the last section of Singet dem Herrn; extended vocal groups, often employing six voices instead of the more usual four; "layered repetition of rhythmic and melodic cells, creating a minimalist-sounding texture" - as in Lobet den Herrn; the use of extreme tempi or radical rallentandos or accelerandi - as in Laudamus Te or the opening of Ave Maria; and extreme tessitura - as in Singet dem Herrn.
According to Bronman, the Agnus Dei was so successfully received at its première in Stockholm in 1981 that there was almost a stampede by the audience to grab the sheet music from the choir! Regardless of the extent to which that story is apocryphal, there is no doubt that the expressiveness and imagination of Sandström's choral music, of which these works are typical, is outstanding.
From the 1950s to the 1980s the Swedish Radio Choir built up an international reputation under its musical director Eric Ericson, a reputation they are consolidating under Peter Dijkstra. On this disc they once again perform beautifully; the slight accent they sing with in the songs in English and German is barely distracting.
The sound quality on this SACD is superlative, even in normal stereo, and sends a message to the many labels that cut too many corners. The booklet too is everything one should be: well-written, intelligent, detailed notes, full song texts and technical information, limpid layout and a couple of unobtrusive photos. An excellent disc in every regard.
An excellent disc in every regard.