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Dag WIRÉN (1905-1986)
Sinfonietta Op. 7 (1933-34) [18.12]
Cello Concerto Op. 10 (1936) [16.43]
Romantic Suite from The Merchant of Venice Op. 22 (1943) [11.20]
Symphony No. 3 Op. 20 (1943-44) [25.37]
Mats Lidström (cello)
Sami Sinfonietta/Stefan Solyom
rec. Studio 2, Radiohuset, 19-23 Feb 2001 DDD
Musica Sveciae Modern Classics No. 16

Wirén's musical articles of faith were firmly founded on 'Bach, Mozart, Nielsen and absolute music'. So wrote the composer in 1945. This however did not present an obstacle to writing music that many listeners will associate with nature pictures such as the slowly heaving sea-swell in the first two movements of the Sinfonietta.

Wirén's most famous work is the Serenade for Strings (1937) from three years after the Sinfonietta. The Serenade's active darting-chaffing jerky-joky exuberance can also be heard in the Sinfonietta (the two molto allegros). The middle movement surely reflects the composer's experience of marine-scapes during his summer retreats to his holiday home on the Stockholm archipelago. The Sinfonietta is an adroitly balanced mix between play and poetry rather like the Moeran Sinfonietta of ten years later. The composer's only recording as conductor is of this work. It was issued in 1948 on Cupol 6013-4 and reissued on Phono Suecia PSCD 79 in 1995.

The compact Cello Concerto is from the same year as the Serenade. It is lively, personable and determined, exploring some sombre realms along the way; sometimes with a distinctly Baxian leaning. The chuckle and chatter of birdsong and of soloistic dialogue can be heard as it is in the Sinfonietta. It was written, as were so many of Wirén's cello works, for his friend since the Parisian days, Gustav Gröndahl. Gröndahl premiered it in Stockholm in 1939.


The Merchant of Venice Suite or Romantic Suite is from his 1943 incidental music for the play. It is in five movements, the first, third and fifth of which have the slow-dripping melancholia of Ma Mère l'Oye and of Nino Rota's romantic andante mood. The darting second movement picks up on the theatre music of his idol, Sibelius, while the fourth is rollickingly chipper, along the lines of Pulcinella. This is lovely music, deeply appealing in a wan Scandinavian way and making an intriguing cross-reference with Nystroem's music for the same play.

The Third Symphony was composed as the Second World War was reaching its closing phase. It is dedicated to the composer's parents and is somewhat redolent of the classical athletic Sibelius in the Third and Sixth Symphonies. As with all his music the language is tonal with chamoix smooth acerbities from Stravinsky. Listen for the Sibelian modelling in the lively woodwind solos in the first movement. After an almost morose adagio comes a shatteringly active allegro molto with a rather pompous triumphant tone.

Wirén wrote only 44 works and rather like Howard Ferguson simply stopped composing in 1972. He would not say why.

Rob Barnett

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