Friday, April 17, 2015

CCC 129 - Fredrik Sixten

This week we feature another choral composer on the Consonant Classical Challenge. Fredrik Sixten is a Swedish composer and organist of renown in the choral world. Like many choral composers (especially those who specialize in sacred music), Sixten seems primarily concerned with writing works that are practical to perform. And especially for groups that may be all or partially made up of amateur musicians, that generally means writing works that are tonally grounded and incorporate singer-friendly voice-leading.

That's not to say that Sixten's music is overly conservative. His harmonic palette is rich and varied, and his melodies are contemporary in structure and form. Although most of Sixten's output consists of choral works, including some major works for choir and orchestra. he has written a number of chamber works, as well as some important works for his own instrument, the organ. Sixten has said that he sees no conflict in being functional and writing new music.

Sixten's setting of "Behold the Lamb of God" for acapella choir shows just how effectively Sixten uses his forces. The harmonies are close-knit and thick, with major and minor seconds sounding against each other to add color and emotional nuance to the words.

The mult-movement Requiem for soloists, choir and chamber orchestra is a much more substantial work. Sixten uses his orchestral forces effectively, sometimes supporting the choral lines, but at other points acting independently.

A Spiritual for Peace seems to draw inspiration from Gregorian chant, but its treatment is anything but medieval. Sixten is very much a contemporary composer, and the work has some strong dissonances -- yet in the end, they all resolve to an expanded triad that just seems logical.

Do¨den ta¨nkte jag mig sa° uses much more conservative harmonies, but Sixten still accents important parts of the text with passing dissonances. Sixten cites Swedish folk music as one of his influences, and this work shows just how deep that influence runs.

I found Fredrik Sixten's music quite beautiful. His choral music is written in the modern tonal vernacular, on par with other choral composers in this series. In an interview Sixten said that his primary goal was to communicate with the listener, and I think he achieves that goal readily. He also noted that as he brings the audience along, he often goes off in unexpected directions. It's quite effective -- because while the twists and turns the music takes keep it sounding fresh and original, they never lose the audience in the process.

Recommended Recordings
Svensk Markuspassion

Fredrik Sixten - Requiem

Christmas I Juletid (Christmas Time)

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