Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Fancies for choir and piano (1974) [13.34]
Tyinnat Silke (1978) [2.51]
Ten Epigrams (1952) [4.59]
Piano Sonata No. 2 (1956) [9.49]
Variations on Korsfararsang fran 1100-talet (1988) [13.56]
Sonata for solo flute (1955) [9.19.
Symphony No. 12 Sinfonia da Camera [15.38]
Skaraborgs Vokalkvartett
Lars Hägglund (piano)
Henrik Löwenmark (piano)
Blåsarkvintetten Arion
Bo Nyberg (flute)
Musik i Västs Kammarensemble/Petter Sundkvist
rec. Sept and Dec 1994, Göteborg, Sweden. DDD
PROPRIUS PRCD 9122 [70.46]


Sven-Eric Johanson, a composer in his sixties, stares out at us with wild hair and Dali-esque waxed moustachios, from the cover of this 1995 issue from Proprius. We are not given his date of birth as far as I can tell from the Swedish-only notes. He has written prolifically including twelve symphonies and the Saga of the Rings (after Tolkien). His range can perhaps be perceived from these pieces from which we may guess that he has a quirkily humorous and certainly effective approach to writing for voices as in the nine Shakespeare Fancies which are for four voices and an audaciously adventurous piano which makes light of fragments of Grieg's Spring in Lovers Love the Spring and in other songs with Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. These English language settings remind me of Geoffrey Bush's pacy and lively vocal settings as in the wonderful Summer Serenade (try it on Chandos) and Hesperides.

The nine Shakespeare songs are Sylvia; Under the greenwood tree; Blow blow thou winter wind; Fancy; O mistress mine; Lovers love the spring; Winter; Dirge; Hark hark the lark. These songs have most recently been recorded on a Danacord collection of Shakespeare settings although there a full choir is used. Here the definition and word enunciation is more sharply etched.

After two choral works of the 1970s Proprius proffer two works for solo piano from the 1950s. The Ten Epigrams (each separately tracked) are brief lively Schoenbergian essays, terse, tending to a sort of liquid free-flowing impressionism mostly dreamy with a single outburst in the tempestuous little Eighth Epigram. The Sonata is an unforgivingly discontinuous exercise declaring unreservedly its credentials from the 'plink-plunk' school. The Epigrams are more approachable. The Sonata for solo flute occupies the same territory as the Epigrams and in the third movement even tries its hand at levity.

Leaving the Schoenbergian domain Johanson sweeps forward to the demure and flavourful Variations on a Crusaders' theme for wind quintet. These are banded as a single track. These demonstrate harmonic complexity but are highly melodic with flavours of Iberian medieval instrumental ensembles mixed with Stravinsky's Symphonies for Wind Instruments - nothing more intimidating than that. The Variations end with the softly rounded crusaders' theme stated in melodious harmony bringing the Variations full circle.

The Johanson symphonies include No. 1 Sinfonia Ostinata (1949), No. 5 Etemenanki (Elements Symphony) and No. 8 Frödingsymfonin for soli, chorus and orchestra. The Twelfth Symphony, dedicated 'in memoriam Arnold Schoenberg' is designated by the composer as a 'chamber symphony'. It is in four movements and especially in the outer movements tramps dissonant foothills combining a sun-dappled atmosphere with the lyrical warmth Johanson seems to have found since the 1980s and with which he has always been in touch in his vocal works. Solo instrumental lines emerge and float free in neo-Baroque concerto grosso style. In the third movement allegro scherzoso a helter-skelter chase is painted in chatter and rattle.

A switch-back ride through the wildly varied realms of a Swedish composer just as home in tangy Schoenbergian motley as in the modern zany choral tonalism.

Rob Barnett


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