Sven-David Sandstrom returns to Bloomington

After nine years as a professor of composition at the Jacobs School of Music, Sven-David Sandström “retired” in 2008. He had been offered a three-year term as composer-in-residence at Storkyrkan, the main cathedral in Stockholm, and the church of Hässelby Villastad, outside of Stockholm, to compose music for all Sundays and holidays of the church year. The offer was irresistible: Sandström is convinced that musical renewal is crucial for the survival of the church.

On average, he composed two works per month–hymns, works for children’s choir, cantatas, motets, and instrumental music. He especially appreciated the closely knit community he experienced with the performers and audience. The working process was intimate, direct, and immediate—sometimes there would be as little as a week or two from the start to the performance—and this brought him closer to the historical ways of writing, and the simplicity and joy of the creative process.

During his stay in Stockholm, Sandström composed several other works: Missa brevis (2010) for soprano, choir, and orchestra, and two large-scale oratorios, Requiem (2010) for solo vocal quartet choir and orchestra, and St. Matthew Passion (2011) for nine soloists, choir, and orchestra. He also returned to composing for dance, something he had not done since the 1990s, with the hour-long ballet Seven days (2011), choreographed by Örjan Andersson for the Skåne Dance Theater and Malmö Opera Orchestra.

Now the project is finished, and Sandström has returned to Bloomington. The vibrant artistic and intellectual community at IU and, most importantly, the opportunity to work with a new generation of composition students at the Jacobs School of Music—not to mention an early mandatory retirement age in Sweden—made the move an easy decision.

As he turns 70 in October, he shows no signs of slowing down. To mark his birthday, he will attend the Swedish premiere of his Six Pieces for Piano Trio and Orchestra (2010), with Trio con Brio Copenhagen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm, give lectures, and, hopefully, pause to celebrate.

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