Agnus Dei, American Bach Choir, American Bach Soloists, Amsterdam, Arvo Pärt, Brahms, chorus, Concertgebouw Orchestra, consonance, dissonance, Jeffrey Thomas, John Tavener, Komm Jesu komm!, Mendelssohn, motet, Sven-David Sandström, Through and Through, tone color, William Byrd
Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström enjoyed an international breakthrough in 1972 when his orchestral work Through and Through was performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam two years after its premiere in the composer’s homeland. From that point, leading musical assemblages worldwide have performed his compositions, making him one of Sweden’s leading composers. Within contemporary choral music, Sandström’s music occupies a unique position that is both firmly rooted in the traditions established by predecessors like Bach, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, yet also rigorously twenty-first century modern.
American Bach Soloists first performed one of Sandström’s works an all-choral program that presented different approaches to consonance and dissonance in works by William Byrd, John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and others. On that occasion, Jeffrey Thomas and the American Bach Choir performed Sandström’s Agnus Dei, and it made a terrific impression on audiences and critics. San Francisco Classical Voice commented, “The final piece, Sven-David Sandström’s Agnus Dei, was the clearest example on the program of a contemporary composer’s upsetting the traditional hierarchy of consonance and dissonance. Because the choir performed the piece with such virtuosity and ease, however, the difference in dissonance treatment in this piece seemed like just another change of color. The slow collapsing of the dissonant final chord into triadic consonance was exquisite.” Jeffrey Thomas adds, “I think that everyone who heard our performances of Sandström’s Agnus Dei, and certainly every singer who participated in those concerts, has never forgotten the experience.”
Sandström’s deep admiration, even love, for Bach’s music is undeniable as his output of vocal music includes a series of six motets composed after Bach’s originals. During upcoming concerts, Jeffrey Thomas will direct the American Bach Choir in Bach’s Komm, Jesu, komm! (BWV 229) as well as Sandström’s 2005 setting.