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Oskar LINDBERG (1887-1955)
Requiem, Op. 21 (1920-23) [38:50]
Four Choral Pieces a cappella: Pingst (Whitsuntide) (1911) [1:53]; På Allhelgonadagen (On All Saints Day) (1932) [2:31]; Bönens ros (The Rose of Prayer) (1921) [1:50]; Stilla sköna aftontimma (Calm, beauteous eventide) (undated) [2:46]
Florez and Blanzeflor, symphonic poem, Op. 12 (1913) [13:44]
Iwa Sörenson (soprano); Edith Thallaug (alto); Christer Solén (tenor); Erik Sädén (bass); Olle Johansson (organ)
Oratory Choir of Engelbrekt Church, Stockholm
Orchestra of Stockholm University College of Music/Hans Kyhle (Requiem)
Motet Choir of Engelbrekt Church, Stockholm/Hans Kyhle (four choral pieces)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Stig Westerberg (Florez and Blanzeflor)
rec. Engelbrekt Church, Stockholm, 2 November 1980 (Requiem); December 1980 (four choral pieces); Berwald Hall, Stockholm, 14 October 1986 (Florez and Blanzeflor)
STERLING CDS1013-2 [61:36]

Sterling have done much to promote the music of the Swedish composer Oskar Lindberg, having released several CDs of his music. He originated from Gagnef, a province of Dalecarlia, and imbibed its native folk music. Later, the spectacular forests of the area were to inspire him. A devotee of Sibelius and Rachmaninov, a signed photograph of the former had pride of place on his piano. He took to the organ from a very young age, and his father bought a small second-hand instrument and installed it in an upstairs room of the house. For a while Oskar deputized for an indisposed organist of Gagnef church. In 1903 he began formal studies of organ and composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. From 1914 until his death in 1955 he held the post of organist at Engelbrekt Church in Stockholm. Apparently he was also an expert on organ construction, even building his own which he installed in his summer house at Insjön.

It's significant that the Requiem has been recorded in the very church where the composer spent a large proportion of his working life. It's credited with being his most important opus, penned during the summers of 1920 to 1923. Written in a late Romantic style, it is scored in six sections and employs four soloists, choir and orchestra. Light, hope and reflection permeate the music. The work is performed from time to time in Sweden, but has suffered unjust neglect elsewhere. Hans Kyhle directs a compelling reading. The soloists are excellent, and the choir are well-rehearsed and sing with infectious enthusiasm. The third movement, marked Offertorium is an orchestral interlude. The Agnus Dei is tinged with melancholy, and the composer shows a deft hand at blending the soloists with the choir in this, the most beautiful section of the work.

Once again the Engelbrekt Church is the venue for the four a cappella settings, composed between 1911 and 1932; the last one is undated. Tuneful and immensely appealing, the choir sing them with heartfelt commitment and flawless ensemble. The acoustic is ideal, and these glowing accounts can be heard in luminous clarity. It's a pity that no texts are provided.

The symphonic poem Florez and Blanzeflor is based on Oscar Levertin’s romantic poem, charting the love of a young prince and princess. I was interested to discover that Wilhelm Stenhammar had also drawn on this source for his orchestral work of the same title; in his case he sets the text for baritone. Lindberg’s version is purely orchestral, and is a work of fervent potency. For me, Delius seems to hover in the background. It’s lush chromatic harmonies cast an erotic spell. Westerberg wrings every last drop of emotion out of this opulent and lavish score, building the climaxes up to a passionate intensity.

This is an immensely enjoyable and engaging disc, and constitutes a compelling case for Lindberg's music, which I would certainly like to explore further. Nick Strimple, in his book 'Choral Music in the 20th Century' describes Lindberg's music as 'characterized by irrepressible lyricism'. I couldn’t agree more.
Stephen Greenbank


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