Born in Borensberg on the 30th October, 1942. Between 1968 and 1972 he studied composition with Ingvar Lidholm at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, where guest professors such as György Ligeti and Per Nørgård also had an important influence on him. Sandström himself was a professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm from 1985 to 1995 and and then he held the position of prorector at the College until 1998. From the autumn of 1999 he is Professor of Composition at the School of Music, Indiana University, USA.
It is an almost impossible task to present a complete picture of the various phases of Sandström's creative development and his enormous output, which covers a wide variety of genres. He made his breakthrough with Through and through (1972), a work which received international acclaim when it was performed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam in 1974. The music that he wrote in the 70s is mainly instrumental, characterised by a wealth of detail and often extremely complex. Culminations for orchestra (1976) is an example of this style. Choral music has always had a special attraction for Sandström (he was a member of the Hägersten Motet Choir for twenty years); A Cradle Song/ The Tyger (1978) is an important choral work. His requiem mass, De ur alla minnen fallna - Missa da requiem (Mute the Bereaved Memories Speak, 1979) for soloists, chorus and orchestra met with a huge response when it was first performed in Sweden in 1982, not least on account of the poet Tobias Berggren's radical text.
During the 80s Sandström wrote a large number of works for the stage, including several ballets in collaboration with the choreographer Per Jonsson, of which Den elfte gryningen (The Eleventh Dawn, 1988) is an example. Over a period of twenty years the composer has also developed a close collaboration with the Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, which has resulted in works such as Drums (1980) and Kroumata Pieces (1995). The 80s also witnessed another change of direction for Sandström as a composer: he began to write in an extrovert neo-romantic style which manifested itself in his Cello Concerto (1988) and in the Piano Concerto (1990).
An impressive work from recent years is the ninety-minute-long High Mass (1994) for soloists, chorus and orchestra which presents a synthesis of his creative ideas. It had happened before and now it happened again: his music triggered off a debate in the Swedish press about the role of art music and its relation to audiences. Sandström has written music that has appealed to a wide audience, and this apparent adaptability seems to have a provoking effect in certain art music quarters. However, it is easy enough to recognise the composer Sandström in each of the different phases: the music reflects his strong determination to say what he wants to say and is always extremely expressive; only the outward characteristics change.
In 1997 Sandström wrote the oratorio Moses for the 300th anniversary of Oslo Cathedral, and the large-scale opera Staden (The City) to a libretto by the poet Katarina Frostenson.
Sandström has received several awards, including the Christ Johnson Prize (Through and through) in 1974, the Nordic Council Award in 1984 (Missa da Requiem), the Buxtehude Award in 1987 and the Christ Johnson Major Award in 1995 (High Mass).
Tony Lundman Photo Lars Torndahl