While Sweden is responsible for some irritating pop acts, such as ABBA, Roxette and Ace of Base, it is also the home country of some great classical ensembles. This weekend, the Swedish Radio Choir joins up with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir in two unforgettable performances.

Paul Wong
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir look like they could try out for Fox”s next version of “”Temptation Island.””<br><br>Courtesy of UMS

One of Europe”s oldest radio choirs, the 33-person Swedish Radio Choir has become one of the world”s leading vocal ensembles. The Choir was originally led by Eric Ericson back in 1952, and since then has earned a reputation for versatile repertoire. Performing works from Renaissance madrigals to modern Swedish works, they have earned a number of awards, including the Midem Prize for their recording of Schnittke”s “Psalms of Repentance.”

In Friday”s performance, the choir will team with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of conductor Manfred Honeck. Honeck, who has previously traveled to Ann Arbor with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, made his conducting debut in 1994 at the Salzburg Mozart Festival. Traveling all over the world, Honeck finds that American orchestras are equally as prolific as their European counterparts.

“The musicians here are really at the highest level of education,” Honeck said. “It”s fantastic to see how they follow the conductor.”

Four talented opera singersRussian soprano Marina Mescheriakova, mezzo-soprano Nadja Michael, tenor Marco Berti and bass-baritone John Relyea, will accompany the two ensembles in a powerful rendition of Verdi”s “Manzoni” Requiem. The piece will be performed in honor of the 100th anniversary of Verdi”s death, and carries a special significance to conductor Honeck. In trying to decipher the meaning of Requiem”s words, he sent a letter to the Vatican about the meaning of the Latin and had it appraised.

“In every word, there”s something behind,” Honeck said. “It has a stone-like sound, and its fantastic because you have lighter strings but it must be cold. And I understand now much more what Verdi meant.”

On Saturday, the Swedish Radio Choir will accompany the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir, with a program that includes works of Ligeti, Lidholm, and Richard Strauss. Eighty-two-year-old founder Ericson is making a rare return to the stage from retirement with this performance.

Ericson, considered the world master in the field of choir conducting, founded the group in 1945 under the name of the Stockholm Chamber Choir. Consistently on the cutting-edge of a cappella singing, the EECC has toured extensively in Europe and Canada, and has been the recipient of prestigious awards, including the Edison prize. Together with the Swedish Radio Choir, they have made several recordings with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, including Beethoven”s “Missa Solemnis” and Verdi”s “Quattro Pezzi Sacri.”

An important figure in Friday”s concert, Honeck is excited to be involved in an all-star performance. Honeck said that the most rewarding aspect of conducting is “the possibility to use all the colors of the orchestra with my own expression it always makes me happy to see that the music gets so alive.”

This weekend, Ann Arbor will also be alive, resonating with the enchanting sounds of Sweden”s foremost musical groups.

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