Swedish choral director Eric Ericson dies aged 94
21 February 2013
Eric Ericson 1918-2013
The renowned Swedish choral director and teacher Eric Ericson has died at the age of 94. Originally trained as a church musician at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Ericson went on to further study at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and in Germany, the UK and the USA. Founder, in 1945, of the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, he was principal conductor of the Orphei Drängar choir at Uppsala University from 1951 until 1991, and choirmaster until 1982 of the Swedish Radio Choir which he also founded in 1951. Among his awards was the Nordic Council Music Prize (1995) and Sweden’s Polar Music prize (1997). The number of works by Swedish composers premiered by Ericson and introduced to an international audience was huge, as was his collaboration with composers such as Penderecki and Henze; Ligeti’s Drei Chorphantasien was dedicated to Ericson and his choir. Ericson was a prolific recording artist.
'It was not he who created choir singing but he refined it. He has been an era in himself,' said friend and colleague Gustav Sjökvist, who took over the Radio Choir from Ericson, and now runs his own chamber choir. Highlighting how difficult it was to try to introduce new ideas, because Ericson himself had most often managed it before him, Mr Sjökvist added, 'He was constantly pushing the boundaries, he was a very inquisitive person. He was also a great humanist, which you become when you are meeting and working with people all the time as he did.'
In a published interview, Ericson explained how his career had started: ‘I probably got this fascination for singing in parts, polyphonic composition, more or less with my mother's milk. As is the case with many other choristers in Sweden, I grew up within the Free church. Especially when you are the son of a pastor, ceremonial music becomes a natural part of the family's everyday life. On top of that I happened to have a music teacher at high school in Visby, who had a great dedication to choral singing. His name was Siedberg, and he worked within the Swedish Choir League. He was very talented, and had studied in Berlin as well as in Salzburg. Thanks to him I was propelled into the boys' choir at the cathedral. Already as a boy I found string music a little primitive, it was more fun to sing in parts - allegedly I led a choir of juniors at twelve ...’
Sally Groves receives Leslie Boosey Award
18 February 2013
Sally Groves, champion of contemporary music
The prestigious Leslie Boosey Award has been awarded to Sally Groves, London Head of Contemporary Music for Schott Music International, for her outstanding contribution to the furthering of contemporary music in Britain.
Gove U-turn on EBacc
7 February 2013
Education Secretary Michael Gove has abandoned his plans to replace GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate in 2015.
This major U-turn is a result of opposition to his plans by MPs across the political spectrum, including deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, as well the exams regulator Ofqual. Apart from running the risk of falling short on EU regulations, the EBacc proposals drew strong criticism for encompassing English, maths, science, languages and history or geography while completely ignoring all the arts and other subjects, which would have been perceived as ‘second-class’.
Mr Gove nevertheless intends to restructure GCSEs, to reduce the amount of course-work that contribute to the overall grades.
Composer Felix Mendelssohn commemorated with English Heritage plaque
6 February 2013
Dmitry Sitkovetsky unveils Mendelssohn commemoration
The regular London visits of Felix Mendelssohn - composer of
the oratorios Elijah, St Paul and Die erste Walpurgisnacht,
as well as a significant body of organ music - have been commemorated with the
installation of a 'Blue Plaque', at the behest of conservation and historic
buildings organisation English Heritage.
The plaque was officially unveiled on 4 February by violinist/conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky and is attached to 4 Hobart Place, a Grade II listed building near Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster.
The house is the former home of the Hanoverian embassy secretary, Karl Klingemann. Mendelssohn was at the height of his fame during a series of visits to Britain, stayed four months in total over five separate periods.
During his stays in Hobart Place he conducted the Philharmonic Society on numerous occasions and gave many organ recitals. It was from this building he left to dine with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which he did not enjoy, and Charles Dickens, which he very much did. It was back to this address that he rushed back to give his account of his audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1842.
At his death in 1847 Mendelssohn was widely regarded as Europe’s greatest composer, with one biographer suggesting he was the first composer to be internationally mourned. An obituary in The Times asserted that he 'loved England as heartily as his own home'; memorial concerts were held across the country and a Mendelssohn scholarship was endowed in London the following year.
Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican Centre, former BBC Proms director and member of the blue plaque panel, said a key factor in Mendelssohn being widely accepted in the UK was largely down to its enduring choral tradition. 'It was a major factor in the 19th Century, which enabled him to have his works done well here, and as we know they then became accepted into the warp and weft of the English choral tradition in a very major way; Elijah absolutely stood at the centre of that.'
Mendelssohn loved London and his links to the city were strong. Writing about the city he said that there was 'no question that that smoky nest is my preferred city and will remain so. I feel quite emotional when I think of it.'
A plaque was first mooted over a century ago; the case was only recently revived at the suggestion of an English Heritage historian who works on the Blue Plaques scheme. Asked why it had taken over a century for Mendelssohn to be honoured, Sir Nicholas explained that, 'The people at that time who owned the building didn't want a blue plaque on it and the file simply mouldered away until Howard Spencer had a new discussion about it and revived the idea.'
In the year 2016, English Heritage will celebrate 150 years of commemorative plaques, in spite of swingeing cuts in its funding. 'Because there is a huge backlog of nominations for the scheme, there won't be any new nominations for the next couple of years, but plaques will continue to go up,' Sir Nicholas added.
30 January 2013
Toby Young, Kerry Andrew and Stef Conner have won the Incorporated Society of Musicians’ (ISM) inaugural competition for young composers with original works for voices inspired by the music of Benjamin Britten to celebrate the composer’s centenary this year.