Swedes go British for BBC Proms debut

One of Sweden's leading orchestras, Camerata Nordica, will perform the world premiere of one of Great Britain's favourite contemporary composers, Benjamin Britten, at this year’s prestigious BBC Proms.

Swedes go British for BBC Proms debut

“The BBC Proms are often described as the world’s greatest musical festival, and they are quintessentially British, so it is a particular honour for Camerata Nordica to be invited to perform an all-British programme for its Proms debut,” Sofie Haag, Founder and Managing Director of From Sweden Productions, told The Local.

The world-first performance will take place on August 31st in London’s Cadogan Hall as part of the renowned classical music festival that will see over 90 concerts performed over a two-month period in the British capital. Camerata Nordica’s performance of Elegy for strings will go towards celebrating Britten’s centenary year.

Both Stockholm-born Haag and the orchestra she represent are “elated” that their hard work and determination has opened the doors to the prestigious hall, and about the prospect of performing to a world-wide audience.

IN PICTURES: Camerata Nordica

The piece the Swedish orchestra will perform next month was written by British composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten in April 1928 when he was only 14 years old but has never been performed on a public stage. Britten, who died in 1976, is perhaps better known for his epic War Requiem and Simple Symphony.

The highly anticipated debut performance is almost sold out but will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (including online) for those unable to attend. Directed by Norwegian violinist, Terje Tønnesen, and consisting of hand-picked musicians from all over Europe, the ensemble has already performed in the USA, Poland, Argentina, Latvia to name but a few. But this will be their BBC Prom debut.

“It is something we are extremely proud of,” Kjell Lindström, General Manager for Camerata Nordica told The Local. “We are overwhelmed, delighted and deeply honoured to be given this wonderful opportunity,” he said in a recent press release.

Part of the orchestra’s appeal is that, as a camerata, they perform without a conductor and uniquely, they also play standing up.

“Camerata Nordica has an exceptional energy. It’s a string ensemble that performs without a conductor, so the players need to be specially sensitive to each other as they play, and all the violin and viola-players perform standing up, which is very unusual,” Haag said. “There is a special rapport between the musicians – and also between the ensemble and the audience.”

With the subsequent tour being supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation, the Swedish Embassy in London, SEB and From Sweden Productions, the BBC Proms appearance is as much about showcasing brand Sweden as it is premiering recently discovered music.

“When it comes to exporting music, on a per capita basis Sweden is No 3 in the world, and it certainly punches above its weight when it comes to classical music,” Haag told The Local.

“They are the only Swedish orchestral ensemble appearing at the Proms this year, though the Swedish soprano Nina Stemme made a huge impact in the recent Wagner Ringcycle at the Royal Albert Hall.”

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What are the best concerts in Sweden this autumn?

Now that Sweden has lifted its audience restrictions for public events, The Local's Paul O'Mahony lists his recommendations for the best gigs to attend over the coming months.

Crowd at a music concert in Debaser, Stockholm
Crowds return to Stockholm venue Debaser after pandemic restrictions on events were lifted. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

Sweden’s musicians, concert promoters and venue operators have struggled to varying degrees through the pandemic. One surefire way to help get them back on their feet is to give organisers and artists the financial reassurance they need by pre-booking concerts. 

Of course these recommendations only apply if you feel safe attending large events; remember that you should stay home and take a Covid-19 test if you experience any symptoms that could be linked to the virus, even if vaccinated. And make sure to check with organisers if there are any specific coronavirus requirements you need to be aware of. 

Coming up: top gigs in Sweden over the next few months 

As a regular gig-goer, live music is the one thing I’ve missed most over the past year and a half. So it is with some excitement (and, I’ll admit, a degree of trepidation) that I prepare to go see Norwegian band Pom Poko this Friday at Hus 7 in Stockholm. Their melodic art-punk album Cheater sparked the year into life on its release in January. They’re also playing Plan B in Malmö on Saturday night

Plan B is also the venue when Squid hit Sweden with a thrilling dose of post-punk on October 15th. Tickets remain available for the show at the time of writing (an absolute steal at 120 kronor), though that’s sadly not the case in Stockholm where their October 16th gig at Melodybox sold out a long time ago. (Although you can sign up to be added to a waiting list). 

Another artist well worth checking out in October is Gothenburg guitarist and singer Amanda Werne, better known as Slowgold. Her live shows are great and she is embarking on a Swedish tour on October 8th. 

Emma-Jean Thackray, one of the UK’s most interesting jazz artists, will be at Fasching in Stockholm on October 15th

For the best kind of sonic assault, Anna von Hasswolff’s band Bada are scheduled to play in Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg in late October. 

Have any of you ever seen Gothenburg electronic veterans Little Dragon live? I haven’t but might check them out in November when they swing by Malmö, Stockholm and Gothenburg

Amason are also heading out on the road for a Scandinavian tour in November. If you haven’t heard Amanda Bergman’s voice in a live setting before this will be a treat. 

The inimitable Sibille Attar released her superb second album A History of Silence at the start of the year and she’s finally getting the chance to play her eighties-inspired gems live at Slaktkyrkan in Stockholm on November 18th

Cassandra Jenkins long lurked in the background as a musician in touring bands for people like Eleanor Friedberger and Purple Mountains. But this year’s album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature has really established her as an artist to be reckoned with in her own right. She’s coming to Södra Teatern in Stockholm on November 26th

Always popular in this part of the world, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Sweden for dates in Stockholm and Gothenburg at the end of November

Wry Finland-Swedish indie outfit Vasas Flora och Fauna have some of the funniest (Swedish) lyrics and catchiest tunes around. They’ll be in Stockholm and Gothenburg the first weekend of December

UK experimental rockers Black Midi are also playing Stockholm and Gothenburg on December 4th and 5th. So prepare to travel if you want to catch both them and Vasas Flora and Fauna. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Bob Hund’s annual ‘week 48’ show also takes place on December 4th. But that has been sold out for ages so no decisions to make there. It is also worth noting though that Sweden’s hardest working band has also written a musical that’s going to be performed in Helsingborg (October-November) and Gothenburg (November)

Bonus: For a post-Christmas pick-me-up try to get down to Little Simz at Slaktkyrkan on January 14th if you’re in Stockholm. The UK rapper’s new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is one of this year’s best releases. 

Selected artists playing Sweden in 2022: Henry Rollins, Sarah Klang, Yann Tiersen, Mogwai, Pearl Charles, Wolf Alice, Lloyd Cole, Lord Huron, Future Islands, Josh Rouse + Vetiver, Tricky, Snail Mail, Porridge Radio, Aldous Harding, Shame, The Kooks, The War on Drugs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Kings of Convenience, Fontaines D.C., Alex Cameron, Lucy Dacus, The Divine Comedy, Mdou Moctar, Iggy Pop, Chubby and the Gang, Sparks, Belle & Sebastian, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Teenage Fanclub, Tindersticks, Suede, Viagra Boys, Pavement. 

For bigger arena shows, Ticketmaster covers a lot of the bases. Big-name acts with gigs in the offing include Ed Sheeran, Zara Larsson, Whitesnake and, lest we forget, ABBA

And that’s just a fraction of what’s going on. Tour schedules are busier than ever now that artists are finally getting back on the road. To keep track of what gigs are coming up I can recommend checking in with Luger, FKP Scorpio, and Live Nation. Follow your favourite venues too: sometimes they cut out the middleman and do their own booking and promotion. I also use the Bandsintown app, which comes with the added bonus of receiving messages from your favourite artists which let you pretend to be their friend. 

Enjoy the gigs, and stay safe! 

Paul O’Mahony is editorial product manager at The Local. In his spare time he plays the best new indie and alternative music as host of the Signals show on Nerve Music.