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Soul and Landscape: Scandinavian songs by Rangström, Stenhammar, Sjögren and Nystroem
Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884-1947)

Melodi (Melody) (Bo Bergman) [1'26] Sommarnatten (Summer Night) (Johan Runeberg) [2'14] Den enda stunden (The Last Hour) (Johan Runeberg) [2'03] Vinden och trädet (The Wind and the Tree) (Bo Bergman) [1'44] Flickan under nymånen (The girl beneath the new moon) (Bo Bergman) [2'26] Pan (Bo Bergman) (No. 3 of 'Fem ballader') [2'33]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)

Adagio Op. 20 No. 5 (Bo Bergman) (1903) [2'46] Melodi (Melody) (Bo Bergman) 1917, op posth [1'57] I skogen (In the Forest) (Albert Gellerstedt) 1885 [2'11] Månsken (Moonlight) (Bo Bergman) Op. 20 No. 4 (1904) [1'56] Flickan knyter i Johannenatten (Midsummer Eve) (Johan Runeberg) Op. 4 No. 2 (1893) [1'52] Dottern sade till sin gamla moder (The daughter asked) Op. 8 No. 2 (Johan Runeberg) (1895) [1'16] Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte (The girl comes from meeting her lover) (Johan Runeberg) (1893) Op. 4 No. 1 [4'58]
Emil SJÖGREN (1853-1918)

Sechs Lieder Aus Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op 12: Du schaust mich an mit stummen Fragen [4'10] Jahrlang möcht' ich so Dich halten [2'19] Wie soll ich's bergen, wie soll ich's tragen [3'21] Hab' ein Röslein Dir gebrochen [1'10] Von meinem Auge wird es klar [3'09] Ich möchte schweben über Tal und Hügel [2'47]
Gösta NYSTROEM (1890-1966)

Själ Och Landskap (Soul and Landscape) (Ebba Lindqvist) (1950): Vitt land (White Land) [3'13] Önskan (The Wish) [2'13] Bara hos den vars oro (Only with you) [2'26]
På Reveln (On the Reef) (1949): På reveln (On the Reef) (Anders Österling) [2'34] Otrolig dag (Special Day) (Einar Malm) [1'16] Havet sjunger (Singing of the Sea) (Ebba Lindqvist) [2'21]
Det enda (That is all there is) (Ebba Lindqvist) from 'Sinfonia del mare' (1948) [3'51]
Miah Persson (soprano)
Roger Vignoles (piano)
Rec. 29-31 October 2001 DDD
HYPERION CDA67329 [66.31]

These songs track from the nineteenth century Schumann-accented songs of Emil Sjögren all the way to the Nystroem's icy-clean lyricism half way between Mediterranean warmth and Baltic shiver. The years spanned by these songs run from the 1880s to 1950.

Rangström wrote upwards of 250 songs. He had a strong tenor voice. His lyricism is not weighed down by the German lieder tradition despite having studied with Pfitzner. The songs are gently contoured and do not, at least in these six cases, claw at the operatic heavens (unlike a number of the songs by Sibelius). Notable examples are the playful Vinden och nymanen and the extraordinary Pan. Robert Layton is mildly dismissive of Rangström's symphonies and has been consistent in that since the 1970s when reviewing the EMI issues of the first three of the four in Gramophone. This is a pity as the Third in particular is a spectacularly imaginative work if more picturesque than symphonically epic.

The Stenhammar songs are pleasingly contoured and fashioned around directly-speaking German models (closer to Brahms' folk songs settings than to the ambivalences of Wolf and Schoeck). I Skogen is however completely personal - a truly lovely song (tr. 9). Dottern Sade has a rippling Schubertian Röslein eloquence. Stenhammar's setting of Runeberg's Flickan kom ... (tr. 13), in which Stenhammar is at his most emotionally complex, precedes the equivalent Sibelius setting by seven years.

Sjögren's Six Tannhauser songs stand out beside the Stenhammar and Rangström for the composer's bright gift for the supremely singable line. There is something Viennese about these songs although the notes point us towards Grieg. You need to hear the delicious Du schaust (tr. 14) prefiguring Weill's most famous song, the pony trot troubadouring of Hab' ein röslein (tr. 17) and the rocking serenade of Von meinem Auge (tr.19). Sjögren's violin sonatas are on a Swedish Society Discofil disc.

The psychological and harmonic palettes broaden and deepen for the Nystroem songs; not that he ever drifts into the atonal. Nordic regret, dramatic protest, bleached landscapes and the most touching tunefulness characterise these songs. The composer weaves and melts from accidie to emotional defiance to heroic statement and retreat into the ‘consolation’ of loneliness and the company of the wide seas. Both cycles take the sea as the backdrop and as a metaphor for desolation and comfort. Nystroem was much taken with the French scene. His songs might be compared with those of Duparc though completely purged of any Wagnerian accents. Roger Vignoles takes the far from insignificant piano parts with the utmost discretion and delicacy. In these Nystroem songs there is little call on him to surge or orate heroically although there are passing moments of this type in Havet sjunger (tr. 25) and Det Enda (tr. 26). Det Enda is the song that appears in the centre of Nystroem's orchestral Sinfonia del Mare. If you are searching around to win new friends for Scandinavian songs and for Nystroem in particular then go straight to this last track. It shows Nystroem at his most instantly appealing and probing. It is a truly haunting and touching song and will resonate long in the memory. You can also hear this in its true setting in two other recordings: Swedish Society Discofil (in which Elizabeth Söderström is outstanding) and more recently in one of Yevgeny Svetlanov's last recordings - this time for Phono-Suecia (

If you prefer to hear more Nystroem songs there are two all Nystroem collections:-

Daphne (Charlotte Hellekant)

Intim (Gunvor Nilsson)

Hyperion, time after time, strike just the right note with their forays into the unknown or hardly known. Design details in the case of this disc are impeccable and in step with the music. Full texts and translations are given. Robert Layton (who richly merits the decorations he has received from the Scandinavian governments for services to their music) provides the notes. I have pillaged these shamelessly. It is not like Hyperion to omit to tell us where these songs were recorded though that is exactly what they have done here; not that the sound and ambience is in any way deficient.

Miah Persson is a young Swedish singer. She moves from the vocal attributes of girlish innocence to a more care-worn angry-amber passion without apparent effort. Hyperion chose well. It is no surprise to read that her operatic roles have included Susanna and Pamina as well as Sophie (Rosenkavalier), and Frasquita (Carmen). This is her debut recital album. She can rest glowingly assured that she could hardly have had a better calling card. I do hope that Hyperion will want to record her again. Unfeigned pleasure.

Rob Barnett

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