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Water Colours - A Swedish Song Recital by Anne Sofie Von Otter
Anne Sofie Von Otter (mezzo)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Stockholm, Sveriges Radio Berwaldhallen, May 2002. DDD
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 700 2 [72'56]


Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908 - 1986)

Kyssande wind
Fôr vilsna fötter sjunger gräset
Skyn, blomman och en lärka
Textes de Hjalmar Gullberg)
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960)

Pioner - Anders Österling
Saa tag mit Hjerte - Tove Ditlevsen
Gösta NYSTROEM (1890 - 1966)

Pa reveln - Anders Österling
Otrolig dag - Einar Malm
Havet sjunger - Ebba Lindqvist
Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884 - 1947)

En gammal dansrytm - Bo Bergman
En enda stunden - Johan Ludwig Runeberg
Gustaf NORDQVIST (1886 - 1949)

Sipporna - Karl Gustav Ossiannilsson
Jag ville vara t°arar - Erik Blomberg
Till havs - Jonatan Reuter
Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908 - 1987)

Hjärtats sånger opus 27 : - När du sluter mina ögon - Det blir vackert där du g°ar - Saliga väntan - Ur djupet av min själ - Du är min Afrodite - Som en v°ag (Pär Lagerkvist)
Bo LINDE (1933 - 1970)

Den ängen där du kysste mig - Viola Renvall
Äppelträd och päronträd - Erik Blomberg
Tor AULIN (1866 - 1914)

Och riddaren for üsti österland - August Strindberg
Fyra serbiska folks°anger: (Johan Ludvig Runeberg) - Till en ros - Vinter i hjertat - Hvad vill jag? - Domen
Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908 - 1987)

Nu är det sommarmorgon - Pär Lagerkvist
Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884 - 1947)

Serenad - Bo Bergman
Sköldmön - Karin Boye
Bo LINDE (1933-1970)

Är jag intill döden trött
Är det dyn akkra käraste barn
Tag mig
May we be happy
(Harriett Löwenhjelm)



Anne Sofie Von Otter is something of an emissary for Swedish song. Her wider fame has given her a credibility that no amount of special pleading could replicate. Her vocal virtues come ideally into play in this repertoire. Von Otter’s tone is steady of emission and she has an obvious intelligence coupled with a warm communicative humanity.

We know Larsson for his set of miniature concertos and the Liten-Serenade. Here however we have three songs, from nine, setting the verse of Hjalmar Gullberg. The range runs from the robustly brusque and gusty Kiss of the Wind to the more impressionistic and ecstatic The Grass Sings under the Feet - part Nystroem, part Fauré. The cloud, the flower and the Lark, in its skittering flight, recalls the playful songs of Mary Plumstead decorated with the icy filigree of Bengt Forsberg's piano.

Peonies is surprisingly sturdy for Alfvén and the language surprised me. This is a grave and strange song about the talk of the flowers. Pierrot is cold and glinting. Take my heart is more like the Alfvén we know with its Tchaikovskian romance - lovingly ardent.

Nystroem's Three Songs will inevitably touch on the sea. On the reef juxtaposes butterflies and the sea. The 'shore of eternity' is magically communicated by the piano with the eternal chime of the surf and the glister of the sun-flecked sea. The sing-song of Amazing Day recalls, in its cantilena, Michael Head's best songs. Finally The Song of the Sea relates to the Sinfonia Del Mare. It too is a setting of Ebba Lindqvist (1908-1995). With its Finzian melodic 'fall' it is the best song here; a prize alongside the Alfvén Saa tag mit Hjerte.

Then to Rangström. In En gammal dansrytm (An Old Dance) dance is a metaphor for sex - a joining together in pure delight. Von Otter relishes the song with glinting and devilish abandon. By contrast in En enda stunden (A moment in time) it is melancholy that is in the ascendancy carried by a slow tolling cantilena. A man and woman pass by; there could have been something between them yet they do not stop; the moment has passed.

Gustaf Nordqvist is a lesser known composer than all the others here. Sipporna (The Anemones) has the flowers playfully serenaded in nursery rhyme simplicity. However this pristine emotional world is left behind for the tragic sorrow of Jag ville vara tårar. Till havs (On the sea) has a Rachmaninovian torment and is remarkable for the triumph of the sung text on: ‘When the sea is singing green and white / Its loud song of freedom.’

We know Gunnar de Frumerie from his orchestral music and not so long ago several of his concertos were recorded on Caprice. His six Hjärtats sånger (Songs of the heart) are full of touching moments and emotional shading. The settings are variously peace filled and alive with honeyed chiming and noonday sweetness. From the depths of my soul is more mournful and reflective - a magical song. You are my Afrodite has about it the urgency of the ocean foam and its irresistible currents. The final song is also very much akin to Nystroem in its oceanic romance.

Bo Linde adds some modest dissonance in the midst of this overflowing sentiment. In Äppelträd och päronträd there is, not surprisingly, a more pastoral touch and a hint of the warmth and honey of the Canteloube Auvergnat songs. Tor Aulin, from a more distant generation, uses a Schubertian palette in recounting the Strindberg text describing a knight who rode to the Holy Land. Aulin’s four Serbian Songs set texts adapted by Runeberg. To A Rose conveys a rare mood in its constant fast piano chime: the anger of the woman separated from her lover. Housman-like country lovers’ passions and the playfulness and petulance of girls and cleverly flirting boys are in play throughout these four songs.

Back to De Frumerie for Nu är det sommarmorgon setting Pär Lagerkvist reflecting the optimism and strength invoked by in its by a bright summer morning. One can imagine Housman’s ploughman lad empathising with this. In the annals of Scandinavian song this one belongs amongst the laurel-wreathed. Nothing here is avant-garde - late romantic with a gentle measure of dissonance.

Rangström’s Serenade is a song of moonlight romance and the love of the old for the young. His Sköldmön is something of a Straussian scena; a militaristic tempestuous song of troll-slaying and death in heroic deeds.

Lastly come four songs by Bo Linde. I am tired to Death is notable for its blanched skeletal tone. Is it you, is it you most beloved child? has a chilling embrace with its theme of child bereavement of meeting the dead child and of listening for the beloved heartbeat. This and the other Linde songs have a wandering tonality that reminded me of my first encounter with this composer’s music: a 1977 broadcast of his Violin Concerto played by Karl-Ove Mannberg. Take me take me (Tag mig) is a song of death and the expectation of death - tender but bleak. Finally a song to which the words are in English: May we be happy has a Finzi-Hardy message: ending with the words ‘But tired and smiling we leave our toys when it’s over and life is done.’ Gloomy? A little, which we expect from this repertoire - but in fact the performance and the music deliver a quiet consummation of great beauty and a sense of old peace found anew. Congratulations to all concerned for having the courage to end the recital on a valedictory down-beat. It works!

These are magical songs magically communicated by both artists. It is a privilege to have access to such a well-chosen and artfully, yet naturally, interpreted anthology.

Rob Barnett

Anne Sofie Von Otter
Wings in the Night: Swedish Songs by Hugo Alfvén · Sigurd von Koch . Wilhelm Peterson-Berger . Ture Rangström · Emil Sjögren . Wilhelm Stenhammar

"Fridolins visor": Svensk Lyrik II, Hft. 1 No.5: Intet är som väntanstider (Karlfeldt) [01:50]
"Fyra visor i svensk folkton" op.5
No.1: När jag för mig själv [01:55]
No.3: Som stjärnorna på himmelen [03:40]
Sigurd von KOCH

I månaden Tjaitra (Sigurd Agrell) Minns du våren [02:55]
Af lotusdoft och månens sken (Sigurd Agrell) Exotisk serenade [01:04]

Visor och stämningar, op.26
No.1: Vandaren "Här ur mossiga klippans famn" (Vilhelm Ekelund) [01:49]
No.5: Det far ett skepp (Bergman) [01:34]
No.4: Jungfru Blond och jungfru Brunett (Bergman) [03:36]
No.9: En strandvisa "Är det ljuft att sköljas" (Fröding) [02:37]

Vingar i natten ("Det flyger en fågel svart") [01:15]
Afskedet ("År af skumma färder fick du pröfva") [01:57]
Pan ("Middagsstillhet och klöverånga") [02:29]

"Marits visor": 3 dikter ur "En glad gut" av B. Bjørnson, op.12
No.1: Kom bukken til gutten [01:16]
No.2: Solen skinner vakkert om kvaelden [01:33]
No.3: Holder du af mig [03:02]
Sigurd von KOCH

De Vilda Svanarna
Vårnattsregnet ("Det ljuva milda vårnattsregnet") (Bethge [Thun-Fu]) [03:24]
Människans lott ("På sommarns värme") (Bethge [Khong-Fu-Tse/Confucius]) [02:56]
De vilda svanarna ("Ack, ännu synes icke") (Bethge [Ly-Y-Han]) [02:01]

7 dikter, op.28 [Rudén 63] (Thiel)
No.6: Skogen sover [02:54]
No.3: Jag kysser din vita hand [04:39]
Karl Wilhelm Eugen STENHAMMAR

4 Dikter av Verner von Heidenstam, op.37 (von Heidenstam)
No.2: I lönnens skymning [02:23]
No.1: Jutta kommer till Folkungarna ("Det red en jungfru från Danemark") [01:26]

Gammalsvenskt ("Skytteln skall gå och väfstoln slå") [02:36]
Melodi ("Bara du går öfver markerna") [01:32]
Bön till natten ("Slut är dagens") [02:55]

"Fridolins lustgård": Svensk Lyrik II, Hft. 2 (Karlfeld)
No.4: Böljeby-vals ("Sjung, sjung i alarna") [02:59]
"Offerkransar": Svensk Lyrik III, Hft.2 (Österling)
No.2: Återkomst ("Så kom den stillhet åter") [02:07]

6 Lieder aus Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, op.12 (Wolff)
No.1: Du schaust mich an mit stummen Fragen [03:49]
No.4: Hab' ein Röslein Dir gebrochen [01:17]
No.6: Ich möchte schweben über Tal und Hügel [02:36]

"Fridolins lustgård": Svensk Lyrik II, Hft. 2 (Karlfeld)
No.5: Aspåkers-polska ("Varför sitta vi så still") [01:29]
Anne-Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano
Bengt Forsberg, piano
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 449 189-2 [73:35]

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