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Jussi Björling
Romantic Songs

Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960)

Jag längtar dig
Så tag mit hjerte

Bland skogens höga furustammar
När jag för mig själv I mörka skogen går

Till havs*

Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871-1927)

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Säv, säv, susa
Demanten på marssnön

Kung Heimer och Aslög


Land, du välsignade
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)

Guds lov I naturen [Six Songs Op.48 Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur)
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)

O helga natt (Julsång)
Jussi Björling (tenor)
The Royal Orchestra/Nils Grevillius
Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Stig Westerberg *
Recorded Stockholm, 1957-59
Functions as CD Rom with music, comments, photos and translations


Naxos has been steadily and chronologically working its way through the Björling discography but there is plenty of room in an admittedly crowded market for these late songs and ballads recordings. One says late but as he died aged only forty-nine much is "late." Many of these romantic pieces were featured in Björling’s Swedish concerts and as was so often the case he was partnered by The Royal Orchestra and his old colleague Nils Grevillius (except for the Nordqvist where he teamed up with Stig Westerberg).

It’s a pleasure to start with the two Alfvén songs, the first Jag längtar dig an exercise in legato and corresponding stentorian power (and a successful battle to keep up pitch at the end). The second, Så tag mit hjerte, gives us Björling’s effulgent head voice. The string writing in Petersen-Berger’s När jag för mig själv I mörka skogen går is delightfully, and very lyrically, conceived, whilst by contrast (and this is despite the romantic profile a disc of contrasts) Till havs (the Nordqvist) is punchy and turbulent. The stirring anthem Sverige comes from the pen of Stenhammar and Sibelius’ Säv, säv, susa [Sigh, Rushes, Sigh] shows the voice is not too big to encompass intimacy of gesture and refinement of sentiment – beautifully shaped singing. There is balladry and the bardic too, as one might expect – sample the harp bardic Kung Heimer och Aslög, the adamantine drama of the Beethoven and there’s some can belto in the final piece, Adolphe Adam’s O helga natt. He does use a head voice that strays dangerously close to a croon in Tonerna and to be frank Land, du välsignade is a pop piece accompanied by a big bash on the cymbals. Sometimes, too, the recordings can be a touch raw but nothing to disperse the pleasure.

There’s an attractive booklet and English translations are provided, along with some atmospheric photographs. Used as a CD-ROM you get even more, as noted above and that includes biographical and archival material of real value to Björling admirers.

Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Rob Barnett

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