Fredrik Sixten Curriculum vitae
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born October 21th in Skövde, Sweden (1)
begins his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm (2)
Assistant organist – Västerås Cathedral (3)
Organist – Vänersborgs Church (4)
Artistic Director and Conductor of Gothenburgs Boys Choir (5)
Cathedral Organist – Härnösands Cathedral (6)
Cathedral Organist – Nidaros cathedral, Trondheim, Norway
Free composer, living in Trondheim, Norway
A fascination with the printed score and the creation of musical sounds has occupied Fredrik Sixten from his earliest years.
Born in 1962, Sixten later attendedthe Royal College of Music in Stockholm where he studied with ProfessorSven-David Sandström. Fredrik Sixten has held several important positions withinthe realm of Swedish church music and he is now the cathedral organist in Härnösand. Previously he was the conductor of Gothenburg’s boys choir between 1997 and 2001. His music is represented on several CD recordings and, as a conductor, one of his four CD’s went gold.
The last decade has seen a flowering of Sixten´s compositional output. Many important large-scale and occasional works that been created within thistime. A key factor in this recent surge of creativity is Sixten´s ability to work withinmany different formes and styles, yet remaning true to his basic aesthetic instinct.
Essential components of his style include a cognizance of traditional historicalforms, jazz influenced ideas, the work of twentieth-century French masters,and affinity for Swedish folk music. All of these elements are presented in afresh, contemporary language, a means of expression that appeals both to the connoisseur and layperson.
(Dr. James D Hicks, New Jersey, USA)
When Fredrik Sixten in 2004 wrote A Swedish St. Mark Passion for choir, soloists and chamber ensemble, he had been composing since the end of the 1990s. But the passion was a breakthrough (43 performances sofar) when he took up the grim narrative, with the gospel and newly written texts by Bengt Pohjanen. Ragnar Bohlin, principal conductor of the SanFrancisco Symphony Chorus, premiered and recorded the work in 2004, which led to continued collaboration: the CD Mysterium, with sacred choral music (including O Magnum Mysterium, Pie Jesu , Laudate Dominum, Sacrum Convivium and other works.) “The St. Mark Passion rests on three pillars: strong roots in Bach, Swedish folk music and an impressionistic modernism with quite bold harmonies – parts which would seem not to blend so easily. But Fredrik Sixten manages to pull it off. It is well written and has its origin in a sound knowledge of sacred music. Even though it is traditional in a way, it also seems new and fresh. He composes unaffectedly and many times with elements of surprise”, says Ragnar Bohlin. In spite of the fact that it is both musically and emotionally strenuous to learn, the St. Mark Passion, with its original voice-leading and rhythms, large choruses, simple hymns and intricate recitatives, has been performed many times, which is not a matter of course for a contemporary composer in Sweden.
Three years later Fredrik Sixten wrote his Requiem for choir, soloists and orchestra, with a synthesis of texts from the Requiem Mass and newly written poetry – thist ime as well by Bengt Pohjanen (translated into English by John Hearne). It was personal grief that gave rise to the work and the tone language is different from that of the St. Mark Passion. “The Requiem is the best contribution to Swedish church music in a long time. It is personal, penetrating and beautiful music that makes a deep impressionand is easy to take to heart” says Ragnar Bohlin, who also conducted the premiere of the Requiem. The third large-scale work for choir and orchestra, A Swedish Christmas Oratorio for solo soprano, two choirs and orchestra, was given its premiere in December 2009 in Gothenburg and on the Swedish Radio, here too a combination of gospel text and newly written text, thistime by the poet Ylva Eggehorn. Even though the ChristmasOratorio is a brighter story, Fredrik Sixten has sought the darker aspects. “I want to get away from that sweetnessand harmlessness that easily comes with Christmas. Even though it is a naivistic narrative, the background is anything but bright, with the child who was born to be sacrificed and then hung on the cross”, says FredrikSixten. He speaks of the complete darkness, of putting the outcasts in the front row and not forgetting that Mary and Joseph were also homeless, poor and rejected people on the run.
In both the Christmas Oratorio and the St.Mark Passion the recitatives are sung by a soprano.“Why shouldn’t women get to sing the gospel? Moreover, it opens up more possibilities, the voice of the soprano has a greater range than that of the tenor”, he says.
Fredrik Sixten has also composed for solo instruments, string quartet and, especially, for
a cappella choir. He is a composer who knows how voice, instruments and sentiment work together. There is a directness, a kind of honest simplicity, that enables one to understand what he wants to tell us. Even when melodies and harmonies take unexpected turns it is always singable.
Fredrik Sixten was born in1962 in Skövde and it was in church that he first encountered music; his father and grand-father were priests. But besides singingin the choir and blowing the organ he also played in various popbands; he wasinfluenced by both historicaland popularmusic. After finishing school he went straight to theRoyal Academy of Music in Stockholm, and today Fredrik Sixten is the organist at the Cathedral in Härnösand. With his feet firmly in the day-to-day musical practice,‘utility music’ also has a place in his heart. He sees it as a challenge to write music with a function, simple music but still with a bite. Too much of the music in the Swedish Church is overly banal in his opinion.
“What drives me on is that my music should be alive”, he says. “When I see that music is lacking, music that is needed, then I want to write it.”There are those who think he is too traditional. melody, of seeking out the difficulties in lifeand conveying something that chafes, the edge of melancholy and vulnerability which is needed.
But he sees the discussion about modernism and tonality as a meaningless question. “What is experimental music today? We have explored the tonal system now. One way of writing music for our time is unexpected combinations, where there are a great many unexplored possibilities.”The challenge is to get the audience to listen. Only then can he take them along with him tosomething they did not imagine from the start.But he will always be tonal, he maintains, although this does not keep him from twisting and turning around the concepts. He likes to introduce troublesome elements – he sometimes even speaks of ugliness as a contrast, of reflecting thebeautiful in the ugly, despite his affection for a lovely melody, of seeking out the difficulties in life and conveying something that chafes, the edge of melancholy and vulnerability which is needed.
The organ is a great source of inspiration. One of his large-scale organ works is Triptyk (2004), which is performed in both Europe and the USA. One musician
who has played it is Hans Fagius, organist and professor at the Royal Danish Music Conservatory in Copenhagen.“At first I thought it sounded familiar, almost like a pastiche, but it is a matter of his writing in a special tradition. It is very skillfully composed, technically advanced and the more I have played the work the more I like it. It is an excellent piece of music”, he says. A flirt with Bach, some say, and Fredrik Sixten does not deny it. But it is not a question of imitation– then one has not listened carefully – but rather a wink to the old master. And in the same breath Fredrik Sixten mentions Prokofiev, Poulenc and Prince.
Otherwise he thinks it is risky with musical references. He would rather speak of something in common that touches us. “I also try to market my music, something that is rather unusual in Sweden, but entirely normal in, for example, the USA. But I write music that I believe in myself, and then I have to put in a little work to get it performed. Life is too short to sit around and wait.”
Jenny Leonardz (Journalist at SVD)
Gehrmans/Sensus Composer Award
Gustaf Auléns Prize Fund
Scholarship from Axel Munthe´s Foundation for 3 weeks at Villa Saint Michele, Capri
Stockholm Music Association: “Composer of the Year” 2010