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Monday, November 12, 2007

Stockholm 2007 - Week 1

Week 1

After arriving late Thursday and spending the weekend getting oriented and over jet-lag, we jumped into the week.

Monday we attended a shortened RK (Radiokören = The Radio Choir) rehearsal, a bit of pre-prep for a later production led by one of the basses in the choir, since they were having a day and a half of auditions, and talked with our friend Eva Wedin (who's been a member of RK since 1978). We also met Arne Lundmark, the manager of RK (with whom I'd only corresponded with via email). Arne was a long-time member of Eric Ericson's Chamber Choir and also teaches voice at the Conservatory.

That evening we had a lovely dinner at Eric Ericson and Monica Spangenberg's apartment. While Eric is showing his age (he's 88!) much more than the last time we saw him--he walks much more slowly and hesitantly now and sits while conducting, even in concert--he's still vitally interested in all things choral. It was wonderful to see them both and we had a marvelous dinner and conversation.

Wednesday we met with Eva in the Radio library (she's also the librarian for RK), where I spent MANY hours in the summer of 1990 and fall of 1996 doing research for my dissertation. We had a little work to do to get prepared for my rehearsals with RK in March and then went out to lunch with Eva. Interesting to hear more about her background, since she sang in the conservatory chamber choir with Eric as a student, began work with Eric's Chamber Choir, then with the Radio Choir, so she has a rather extraordinary choral experience! One of the reasons the Radio Choir is so good (besides the level of voices) is that it includes people like Eva with enormous experience with the repertoire--you can imagine what she's sung over those years.

That afternoon was the first rehearsal with RK and the Radio Orchestra for Schumann's 'Das Paradies und die Peri', led by the orchestra's brand-new Music director, Daniel Harding. Harding's only 32 and a true Wunderkind, having Simon Rattle for a mentor in his mid-teens and being chosen as assistant conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic by Claudio Abbado when he was only 20 (and made his conducting debut with Berlin when he was 21!). He's a phenomenal conductor, very demanding and musical, and hopefully this will be a very good partnership for both Harding and the Radio. The advertising for this opening concert was amusing, with catchy posters around with a slick photo saying "The Name is Harding, Daniel Harding" (a la "Bond. James Bond"). At the concert all the ushers were wearing black t-shirts with Harding's photo on the front and catchy sayings on the back.

Wonderful soloists, too, especially tenor Christophe Prégardien (unbelievable--gorgeous, effortless sound and SO musical--look for any of his recordings) and alto Ingeborg Danz (who often sings with Rilling in Eugene). RK was augmented to 48 and sounded spectacular (believe me, with 48 such singers, it's not a problem to balance a full orchestra!). We met Sven-David Sandström, one of Sweden's finest composers, at the end of the rehearsal, since he's in Sweden this year (he's on sabbatical from Indiana University) and was waiting to pick up his wife, who plays in the orchestra. It was nice that S-D remembered me and we had a nice conversation. We ended up seeing him each day after the rehearsals and had a long conversation in the lobby before the concert. He is amazingly prolific, with a lot of new choral works these days, including a set of works based on the Bach motets (they use the same texts). I'll be working with the Radio Choir later on a couple of his pieces, including his recent 'Singet dem Herrn,' which is virtuosic and has an absolutely gorgeous middle section. He also said, "I just finished an opera." Don't know where he finds the time!

Thursday was another rehearsal for the Schumann and more chats with various members of RK. Friday morning was the dress rehearsal, which went quite well, Harding not letting up in the slightest. He had the strings play with very little vibrato, pushed for detailed phrasing, and constantly worked to get them to listen to the singers (solo and choral). He also spent time describing the story in an amusing way. After that, we met Gary Graden, conductor of the St. Jacob's Chamber Choir and a long-time friend, for lunch to begin to catch up. In 2002 when Eric and I did two sessions at IFCM in Minneapolis on Swedish choral music, Jacobs was the demonstration choir (and in Uppsala the following November). Gary also guest conducted Pro Coro Canada last season. Friday evening was the Radio concert, which went beautifully.

Saturday was Eric's concert in Adolf Fredriks Church with his Chamber Choir (which not that long ago celebrated its 60th anniversary). The choir has considerable young members, but also some whom I recognize from my first visits in 1989 and 1990. A varied sacred program, it included music by Rachmaninov (exerpt from the Vigil), Penderecki (Stabat Mater), Pärt (Magnificat), Holst (Nunc dimittis), Vaughan Williams (Kyrie & Gloria from Mass in g minor), Tavener (The Lamb and The Tyger), Bäck (one of the motets), Bruckner (Ave Maria), Olsson (Jesu celsior corona), and Brahms (Der Heiland Reiss). The choir has a powerful sound (much like RK--one of the things you notice when you hear them in person--you can't compare to listening to a CD) and was particularly good in the Penderecki and Bäck. The concert went very well and Eric seemed very happy. A good audience, too, with a very long ovation and encore of Rachmaninoff Bogoroditse devo. We sat with Gary and talked later to composer (and former member of Eric's choir) Thomas Jennefelt and Gunnar Andersson, who was for many years the Producer of RK (he was recording the concert for Eric). Afterwards, we went out for a drink with Gary and Josep Vila Casañas, a conductor from Barcelona who came with several of his students especially for Eric's concert and were flying back to Spain at 7 the next morning. Josep studied in Stockholm in '95-96 and also knows Gary very well. All in all, a lovely afternoon and evening.

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