Hillborg's Sirens Beguiles the Critics


The latest all-Hillborg release from BIS records has a received a rapturous reception from critics both in the UK and abroad. 

Composed between 2010 and 2014, as commissions from orchestras such as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, the works recorded here testify to the widespread international interest in the music of Hillborg. Two purely orchestral works, Beast Sampler and Cold Heat, frame the brief and emotionally concentrated song O dessa ögon for soprano and strings, and demonstrate Hillborg's expert handling of the forces of the large symphony orchestra, often described by him as a 'sound animal'.

Sirens, the closing and culminating work on this disc, is also Hillborg's largest work to date in terms of both scoring and duration, and its emotional depth is unmatched in his output. Inspired by the dangerous yet alluring sirens in Homer's Odyssey, Hillborg has constructed a score and libretto in which the sirens two soprano soloists and a large mixed choir with increasing desperation attempt to manipulate Ulysses.

Performing this colourful programme is the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, one of Hillborg's faithful musical companions, joined by the sopranos Ida Falk Winland and Hannah Holgersson and two of Sweden's foremost choirs, the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir and the Swedish Radio Choir. As on a previous disc of Hillborg's music, the acclaimed Eleven Gates (BIS-1406), the performances are led by three different conductors: the eminent trio of Sakari Oramo, David Zinman and Esa-Pekka Salonen, dedicatees of the works they conduct here.




Beast Sampler was well received at last year’s Proms and you can hear in its glacial coolness and spatial breath why it might have stilled a hot Royal Albert Hall… Hillborg can really yank you into the narrative with his text setting and there are copious moments in the ensuing dreamscape that linger in the mind.’

Gramophone (Andrew Mellor), February 2016

‘If your mental image of contemporary music is of something hard-edged and indigestible, this CD will come as a pleasant surprise… Hillborg weaves elaborate soundscapes, sometimes made from scattered points of sound, like an audio version of a pointillist painting, other times from vast clusters which can sound uncannily like electronic music. Out of these clouds a clear simple chord will sometimes appear, like a shaft of sunlight on an overcast day… All three conductors] know how project the emotional heat lying under the music’s diaphanous surface… Sirens is an affecting piece which, like Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde before it, shows music’s power to evoke the dark connection between sex and death.’

The Daily Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 9 January 2016

Sirens beguiles… the hypnotic score builds from pulsating pedal notes to a ghostly reverie… the zippy Beast Sampler boasts a wild tangle of blaring sonorities’

The Times (Neil Fisher), 5 February 2016



‘Hillborg makes wonders with the standard tools of contemporary music. Clusters, glittering spectral chords and whirling patterns from the winds  make the orchestra a surrealistic being which draws the listener into its hypnotic world… Care-free combination of musical means liberates the form, as in Cold Heat, in which the giant bellows yield to the carnival of strings and percussion and then return more frightening than before… The main work on the CD, Sirens, lasting half an hour, is however different, silent and beautiful in a cold manner. ‘

Helsingin Sanomat (Jukka Isopuro), 13 January 2016