The Swedish Radio Choir

Ragnar Bohlin, Guest Conductor

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Thirty-two professional singers form the Swedish Radio Choir – which has been recognized since the 1960s as one of the great a capella choirs of the world, frequently engaged by the foremost international conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti and Valery Gegiev for concerts, tours and recordings. It is unique in its mastery of the full spectrum of choral repertoire in all its breadth and depth, from Bach and Palestrina, through the Romantics, to Strauss, Ligeti and contemporary composers.

Founded in 1925, the world took note of the Swedish Radio Choir in 1952 when Eric Ericson became its principal conductor, molding it into the flexible choral instrument that it remains today. Ericson transformed  the choir into an ensemble capable of performing advanced choral repertoire — works by such composers as Richard Strauss and Max Reger as well as music of its own day. Arthur Honegger heard his own choral music sung for the first time the way he had imagined it, and began spreading word that this choir could sing practically anything. The Ericson sound became legendary. Many composers found the Swedish Radio Choir to be the ideal instrument for their music: composers such as Ingvar Lidholm, Sven-Erik Bäck and Lars Edlund; György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki. The works they wrote specifically for this choir count among the classics of choral repertoire in Sweden and internationally. Eric Ericson retired after more than thirty years’ service, but he has been welcomed back many times as Conductor Emeritus.

Each successive Music Director since Ericson has impressed his individual stamp on the choir and brought new colors and skills. In the 1980s Anders Öhrwall shared his specialist understanding of Baroque music. Gustaf Sjökvist premiered works by Sven-David Sandström, Tomas Jennefelt and Hans Gefors, while also presenting programs with Lill Lindfors, songwriter Olle Adolphson and other guest artists from the popular sphere. Tõnu Kaljuste, the first non-Swedish director. brought repertoire from Eastern Europe including the music of Arvo Pärt and Alfred Schnittke, while Stefan Parkman presented a series comprising all of Bach’s major works. Peter Dijkstra was named Music Director of the choir in 2007.

Since its first sensational tours to Berlin and Venice the Swedish Radio Choir has carried on a rich and varied schedule of international activities. It is regularly invited to participate in international festivals and concerts. Its work with Riccardo Muti and Claudio Abbado in the 1980s resulted in a series of acclaimed concerts and recordings. This year the choir has toured in Italy, The  Netherlands and Nordic countries. It took part in a festival in Rotterdam and The Hague, joined forces with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev and other important ensembles and conductors. Next year will bring tours in Italy with Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra among others and in 2010 they return to North America under the direction of Ragnar Bohlin.

The choir is well represented on CD and DVD with performances of both a cappella and major symphonic works on such labels as Deutsche Grammophon, EMI,  SONY and Virgin Classics. The Swedish Radio Choir’s vision is to deploy its exceptional sonic range to place its own special imprint on the a cappella and symphonic choral repertoires. It is an ensemble in which each individual voice finds its place in a unified artistic expression. 

Ragnar Bohlin began his tenure as Chorus Director of the San Francisco Symphony in March 2007. Born in 1965, he served as choirmaster of Stockholm’s Maria Magdalena Church and holds a masters degree in organ and conducting and a postgraduate degree in conducting from the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Mr. Bohlin studied with the renowned choir director Eric Ericson and studied piano with professor Peter Feuchtwanger in London on a British Council scholarship. Through a Sweden-America Foundation scholarship he visited choruses throughout the United States. He studied singing with the great Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda and has performed as tenor soloist for concerts and oratorio. With Stockholm’s KFUM Chamber Choir, the Maria Magdalena Motet Choir and the Maria Vocal Ensemble, Mr. Bohlin has toured internationally and won numerous prizes in international competitions. He has prepared choruses for some of the world’s foremost conductors including Herbert Blomstedt, Valery Gergiev, Esa Pekka Salonen, and Alan Gilbert.  Mr. Bohlin has appeared regularly on Swedish radio with the Swedish Radio Choir, the Maria Vocal Ensemble, and the Maria Magdalena Motet Choir and has worked frequently with The Ericson Chamber Choir, the Royal Philharmonic Choir and the Opera Choir of Stockholm. With the Maria Vocal Ensemble and special guests Rigmor Gustafsson and Lena Willemark, Mr. Bohlin recorded a CD of new jazz music by composer/pianist Elise Einarsdotter who set texts by great poets including E. E. Cummings. In October 2007, Mr. Bohlin conducted the world premiere of a new requiem by composer Fredrik Sixten, broadcast on Swedish Public Radio.  Bohlin's CD recording of a Saint Mark Passion by the same composer and another recording,  “Mysterium,” featuring mainly a cappella music, were released in Sweden in spring 2008. He has taught at the Royal Academy in Stockholm and in February 2008 was Visiting Professor at Indiana University. In October 2008 he will conduct and record a performance with trombonist/composer Christian Lindberg and the Swedish Radio Choir. Ragnar Bohlin was awarded the prestigious Johannes Norrby-medallion for expanding the frontiers of Swedish choral music.

 

“He had particular; fine assistance from the chorus, which seems to be flowering under the leadership of its new director, Ragnar Bohlin.”

- San Francisco Chronicle – May 23, 2008

 

Bohlin proceeded to lead Poulenc’s masterpiece entirely from memory and with enormous passion and conviction. The San Francisco Symphony Chorus was in rare form, performing with excellent diction, a wide range of tone color, and exquisite balance.” 

- San Francisco Classical Voice - June 6, 2008

 

DISCOGRAPHY:

BeethovenMissa Solemnis, Vienna Philharmonic, LevineDG435 770-2

BeethovenSymphony No. 9, Berlin Philharmonic, AbbadoSony SK 62634

BlomdahlAniara, WesterbergCaprice CAP 22016

BlomdahlDanssvitEhrlingCaprice CAP 21424

BrahmsEin Deutches Requiem, Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado, DG437 517-2

BäckMotetsPhono Suecia PSCD 10

Dallapiccola: Il Prigioniero, Swedish Radio Orchestra, Salonen, Sony B000002BZZ

Dofta, dofta, vit syrénMusica Sveciae MSCD 609

Eliasson: Canto del Vagabondo, Caprice CAP21402

Gefors: Christina-scener, Phono Suecia PSCD 73

Hæffner: Electra, Schuback, Caprice CAP 22030

HallénEtt JuloratoriumAnderssonSterling CDS 1028-2

Hambraeus: Motets, BIS CD-1048

HammerthStockholmskantatSegerstam, Phono SueciaPSCD 121

HaydnCreation, Berlin Philharmonic, LevineDG445 584-2

JennefeltDichterliebe, Phono SueciaPSCD 68

Julens Sånger och HymnerSjökvistSkivbolaget SBCD 507

LarssonDet ljusa landetParkmanPhono Suecia PSCD 714

LidholmA riveder le steleEricsonPhono Suecia PSCD 35

Lindberg: Requiem, Phono Suecia PSCD 78

LindbergO mistress mineBlue Bell ABCD 032

MellnäsPorträttPhono Suecia PSCD 22

MozartRequiem, Berlin Philharmonic, MutiEMI 7 49640 2

MozartRequiem, Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado, DG 463 181-2

Nielsen: Fynsk foraar, Swedish Radioj Orchestra, Salonen, Sony B0000028XK

NilssonBalthasar, Phono SueciaPSCD 40

Pärt: Credo, Swedish Radion Orchestra, Salonen, DG B000GZQZ4E

PärtOrient OccidentECM Records 472 080-2

RabeBasta, NilssonPhono Suecia PSCD 67

RachmaninovVespersVirgin Classics VC 5 45124 2

Rosenberg: Johannes uppenbarelseCaprice CAP 21429

SandströmRequiem, Caprice CAP 22027

SandströmThe High MassCaprice CAP 22036

SchnittkePsalms of RepentanceECM 453 513-2

SchnittkeRequiem, Caprice CAP 21515

SchumannScenes from Goethe's Faust, Berlin Philharmonic, Abbado, Sony S2K 66308

StenhammarKantater, Sewdish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sterling CDS 1023-2

StenhammarSerenadSalonenMusica Sveciae MSCD 626

StravinskyLes Noces, EhrlingBIS BISCD 400

Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, SalonenSony SK 48057

Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Salonen, Warner 398422352-2

Swedish Highlights: Caprice CAP 21340

VerdiQuattro pezzi sacri, Berlin Philharmonic, MutiEMI 7 47066 2

VerdiRequiemBerlin PhilharmonicAbbadoEM 5 57168 2

PRESS COMMENTS:

 

Brahms Requiem, Rotterdam Philharmonic / Valery Gergiev, De Doelen Concert Hall:

“Star among stars was the fabulous Swedish Radio Choir which sang as close to perfection as one could wish for. Gergiev was visibly excited and stimulated by the amazing possibilities of this extrra  which reacted to each tiny movement of his fingers, each blink of his eyes. The first two movements, for choir and orchestra, were miracles of balance and concentration. The audience was extremely silent and witnessed a blending of timbre in choir and orchestra which had to be heard to be believed.”

- Musicweb-International.com  - May 24, 2008

 

Durufle “Requiem;” Faure “Requiem.” Fredrik Malmberg, BIS Records

“The Swedish Radio Choir is an ensemble whose reputation walks miles in front of it, and I have yet to hear them in a bad performance. The same holds true here, and they deliver a wonderful performance of both works, sounding for all the world as if they lived in France instead of Sweden.”

- Audiophile Audition - November 21, 2007

 

Fauré Requiem, Rachmaninoff Liturgy, Mostly Mozart / Louis Langrée:

“The choir sounded superb, revealing the serenity of Fauré’s calmly unfolding, beautiful melodies and floating, enchanting harmonies, with the gentle voices balanced against the robust tension of the strings. Members of the choir were also immaculate in excerpts from Rachmaninoff’ Liturgy. They sang with perfect balance, precisely controlled dynamic shadings and elegantly tapered phrase endings.”

- New York Times – August 10, 2007

 

“This is something that far transcends beats and barlines. This is hypnosis.”

- Expressen – March 8, 2006

 

Brahms’ German Rquiem, Royal Albert Hall, London:
“Even more striking than the refined playing of the Swedish Radio Orchestra was the flawlessly shaded singing of the Swedish Radio Choir. Their first hushed pianissimo instantly had one's ears pricking. The power of the choir was impressive, more incisive and cleanly projected than with choirs twice the size.”

- The Guardian – August 18, 2003
 

Rachmaninoff Vespers, Virgin Classics:
“The Swedish Radio Choir makes a fantastic interpretation of this wonderful sacral classic! This is the best recording I've ever heard for chambersized choirs! 

- www.amazon.com - August 11, 2002
 

Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado:
“The Swedish choir's singing is nonpareil.”

- Fanfare Magazine – March / April 2001

 

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado:

“A reverential performance, with very fine choral forces. Abbado, daringly taking his Berlin orchestra to the home of the Vienna Philharmonic, gives a suitably loving, almost reverential reading. Abbado prefers professional choirs from Sweden to any German-speaking group, and they reward him with singing of the utmost strength, concentration and euphony, all sections ideally balanced.”

- Gramophone – September 2000

 

Mozart Requiem, Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado:

“It has virtues that are very much Abbado’s, and to which the restrained baroque elegance of Salzburg Cathedral makes a deeply satisfying and appropriate backdrop. It helps that the chorus is not enormous, and very clean-cut in its delivery, so that the textures emerge clearly enough even in the cathedral acoustic, which comes over very naturally in the surround-sound recording.”

- Gramophone – August 2000

 

Hambraeus: Apocalipsis cum figuris secundum Dürer, BIS Records:

“The performances seem remarkable in their ability to fuse life into what would seem to be unpromising material. I enjoyed it enormously. The recording quality is stunning.”

- Fanfare Magazine – May / June 2000

 

Virtuoso Choral Music, Clarion Records:

“Anyone who really appreciates choral music--especially 20th-century choral music--must make this collection a priority acquisition. If you were around in the 1970’s and you cared about such repertoire and choir performances then you may have owned (or lusted after) these recordings by the incomparable Swedish Radio Choir. Surely these are among the most outstanding performances of any body of important work in any genre, and the mastering of these recordings for this CD issue is nothing short of superb.”

- www.classicstoday.com

 

Alfred Schnittke's Psalms of Repentance:

“Kaljuste's Swedish Radio Choir is one of today's top contemporary music ensembles. Its technical virtuosity and exemplary interpretive skills serve this marvelous and moving music very well.” 

- www.classicstoday.com

 

Amazon.com's Best of 1999: “Schnittke attains a new level of severely controlled beauty in the a cappella Psalms of Repentance, given here in a superb recording by the Swedish Radio Choir.” 

- amazon.com Editorial review

 

Amazon.com essential recording: “This is a tour de force for any choir, and Kaljuste's Swedish Radio Choir shows here why it is one of today's top contemporary-music ensembles. Highlights include the beautiful, otherworldly Sixth Psalm, and the final Psalm No. 12--an ethereal, wordless prayer, a masterpiece of choral writing and choral singing.”   - amazon.com Editorial review

 

“A splendid performance by the Swedish Radio Choir.”

- New York Times

 

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