Allmänna Sangen: Femina Moderna

review femina x1 cong

This is an interesting album that combines modern choral work with the more traditional, as well as something in between, though the programme of recent works by Swedish and international female composers, and has a preponderance of modern works.

The newest piece is Anna-Karin Klockar’s Speeches, winner of the Allmänna Sangen and Anders Wall Composition Award, established to celebrate the mixed choir’s 50th anniversary. Sandskrift by Maria Löfberg also won the prize. Allmänna Sangen itself began as far back as 1830 as a male-voice choir at the University of Uppsala, but converted to a mixed choir in 1963.

The programme opens with Libby Larsen’s Songs of Youth and Pleasure, which sounds fresh and gives the CD a modern start; we’d make a wild guess she’s a fan of Tenacious D, as she has a piece called Hey Nonny No! and a lyric that includes “When the winds do blow/And the seas do flow.” (The D had “When the sun doth shine and the moon doth glow”). Of course, she may be parodying old madrigals.

Speeches is next and features Olympe de Gouges’s speech “Declaration of the Rights of Woman” as well as extracts from an 1870 court case of a man who sued another for killing his dog. The music is ornate and witty, men sounding like fools and the possibility of “man’s best friend” turning on a man (or possibly that men treat women better than dogs).

So far so modern, but Andrea Tarrodi’s Lume is a lovely piece, one that could be modern or 500 years old, while Anna Cederberg-Orreteg’s Jordnära sounds biblical for its epic sound.

Worth a mention is Karin Rehnqvist’s Tilt, which sees life as a pinball machine using words from an experimental play from 1962. The lyrics are random sentences (“On the train I was given some tickets which later proved completely useless”) while the music captures the nature of pinball, action followed by inaction. And, like life, it’s all balls lost at the end, no matter how well you play.

Closing piece, Clara Lindsjö’s The Find, is the most modern, almost the sound of a pop star doing a Radio One Live Lounge with added choir. The lyric, which she wrote, is better than any pop star’s, though. Slightly edgy, but witty and pleasurable.

Out now on BIS, 2224.

Femina Moderna

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