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Songs of the Heart
Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908-1987)
Hjärtats sångar
, Op 27 (“Songs of the Heart”, 1942) [11:32]
Ture RANGSTRÕM (1884-1947)
Melodi
(1917) [1:40]; Paradisets timma (“The Hour of Paradise”, 1924) [2:21]; Pan (1924) [2:29]; Vingar I natten (“Wings of the Night”, 1917) [1:16]; Bön till natten (“Supplication to Night”, 1924) [2:38]
Adolf WIKLUND (1879-1950)
En solvisa
(“A Sun Song”) [1:39]; Som mandelblom… (“Like Almond Flower…”), Op 12 No 3 [2:59]; Serenad, Op 11 No 2 [1:49]; Silkessko over gylden læst (“Silken Shoe on a Golden Tree”) [3:13]
Hugo ALFVÉN (1872-1960)
Saa tag mit hjerte
(“So take my heart”, 1946) [2:50]; I stilla timmar (“In quiet hours”, 1940) [3:04]; Skogen sover, Op 28 No 6 (“The forest is asleep”, 1908) [3:01]
Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867-1942)
Fyra Visor i Svensk Folkton
, Op 5 (1892) [7:25] (När jag för mig själv i mörka skogen går [1:51]; Ditt namn jag hade skrivit [1:08]; Som stjärnorna på himmelen [3:13]; Bland skogens höga furustammar [1:13])
Emil SJÖGREN (1853-1918)
6 Lieder auf Wolffs Tannhäuser
, Op 12 (1884) (Du schaust mich an mit stummen Fragen [3:46]; Jahrlang möcht'ich so dich halten [2:17]; Wie soll ich´s bergen, wie soll ich's tragen [2:56]; Hab´ein Röslein Dir gebrochen [1:19]; Vor meinem Auge wird es klar  [2:28]; Ich möchte schweben über Thal und Hügel [2:20])
Leif Aruhn-Solén (tenor); Viktor Åslund (piano)
rec. A-Studio, SAMI, Stockholm, October 2005. DDD
STERLING CDA1653-2 [67:16]



The song cycle may have first taken shape, at least in the form in which we know it today, in Germany in the late eighteenth century - well before Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte in 1816, the first truly integrated cycle. However it was flourishing in many other countries by the end of the nineteenth, Sweden not least.
 
Tenor Leif Aruhn-Solén presents three complete cycles in his programme for Sterling, with extracts from two more as well as eight stand-alone songs, by six of the most lyrically-minded of Swedish composers.
 
The disc’s title comes from the opening set, Hjärtats sånger, composed by one of the most refined musical minds Sweden has produced, Gunnar de Frumerie. The texts of these six delightful songs are all by his favourite poet, Pär Lagerkvist, a poet beloved of and much set by many Nordic composers, Vagn Holmboe not least. Indeed, according to Stig Jacobsson in the booklet about half of de Frumerie’s 100+ songs set verses by Lagerkvist. Listening to Hjärtat sånger the bond between poet and composer is manifest. The cycle is wide-ranging in mood and texture, from the gentle opening items, När du sluter min ögon (“When you close my eyes”) and Det blir vackert där du går (“You make everything beautiful”) to the more intense central pair, the volatile Saliga väntan (“Blessed it is to wait”) and Ur djupet av min själ (“From the depths of my soul”). The latter is the emotional heart of the work, a subtle musing on the fleetingness of life and love, succeeded by the most ardent of the songs, Du är min Afrodite (“You are my Aphrodite”), in which passion spills out. The concluding Som en våg (“Like a wave”) restores the calm and quietude of the cycle’s beginnings, apt for a poem about rest.
 
Ture Rangström wrote well over twice as many songs as de Frumerie, the best of which have found a place in the core repertoire for Nordic singers. Of the six composers represented on this disc, his is the largest song discography. Aruhn-Solén presents five songs, two from the 1917 set of five to poems by Bo Bergman, Vingar i natten and Melodi, two from set composed seven years later to words by the same poet, Paradisets timma and Bön till natten, plus the standalone Pan — one of the most recorded of the songs in this programme, at least in terms of currently available versions. Aruhn-Solén opens with Melodi, its swift, rippling textures catching the essence of Bergman’s text to perfection.
 
Paradisets timma is more impassioned, striking a well-judged contrast before the mysterious, almost withdrawn atmosphere of Pan. Vingar i natten is the most excitable of the group, blustery and dynamic like the restless bird it portrays. Bön till natten brings the group to a close, a graver, more lyrical utterance of some depth.
 
Note that the order of the texts in the booklet, as with the groups of songs by Alfvén and Wiklund, are not in the order presented on the disc. The sequence for the completed song cycles is correct.
 
The four songs given here of Adolf Wiklund are all premiere recordings. Wiklund was sparing in his output as a composer, mostly in small forms, songs and piano pieces, although ironically the only other works of his currently available are the two piano concertos and the symphonic poem Summer Night and Sunrise. The sun is the subject of the first song, En solvisa, or rather the metaphor of Måtte Schmidt’s brief (five-line) verse. Both Serenad and Som mandelblom… set verses by Bertel Gripenberg whose poetry Sibelius also set.The texts are unremarkable but Wiklund’s settings have charm. The last, and longest, of this group is Silkesso over gylden læst, a winsome setting of a short verse by J. P. Jakobsen about newly-discovered love. The poet sings of the girl’s sweetness and purity, yet the final line hints of the passion to come: “Only her eyes are dark …”

In contrast to Wiklund’s rather cautious lyricism, the three songs by Hugo Alfvén are more assertive in their expressive profile. The much-recorded Skogen sover is from a set of seven songs from early in his career and it is not hard to see why it has exerted such appeal down the years. Both I stilla timmar and Saa tag mit Hjerte date from the last decades of his long life and show how his nationalist, late-Romantic style evolved. Saa tag mit Hjerte, which Aruhn-Solén sings first, is perhaps the most beautiful song on the entire disc, a real love song, full of ardour and heartfelt passion: that Alfvén was 75 when he wrote confirms how brightly his expressive candle was still burning.
 
The fortunes of Wilhelm Peterson-Berger’s music have ebbed and flowed over the years. He was undoubtedly a capable composer, best suited to smaller forms as several of his symphonies confirm. A noted and abrasive critic, his own works were not infrequently vilified by other composers he had previously attacked but the best of his music, particularly songs and piano pieces, has proved strong enough to survive in the Nordic repertoire. The Fyra Visor i Svensk Folkton are studies in writing in a folk-like idiom to gentle verses by ‘H’— Helene Nyblom. As so often with folk texts - and unlike the consistently positive lines set by Wiklund - H’s deal with the loss of a loved one, in the case of När jag för mig själv (“When I walk by myself”) of a childhood friend, though it is unclear whether the friend has died, moved away or even been in the imagination only. In the following brace, the causes are certain: in Ditt namn jag hade skrivit (“I had written your name”) the object of desire has taken “back/The heart you once gave” and the poet will carry her “grief until … laid in my grave” while in Som stjärnorna på himmelen (“Like the stars in the sky”) death has deprived the poet of her lover. The concluding Bland skogens höga furustammar (“Among the tall woodland pines”) has a happier inspiration; poet and friend have moved to the forest and can look forward to the future.
 
The final set may just be the best, Emil Sjögren’s 6 Songs from Wolff’s Tannhäuser. Sjögren’s sensitively conceived music has made an impact on disc recently, in Caprice’s issues of his complete violin-and-piano works, which included some song transcriptions. The Tannhäuser story fascinated him sufficiently to created two - most unWagnerian – song-cycles from treatments of it, the first in 1880 to texts by the Dane Holger Drachmann and four years later the present set extracted from the 540-page epic by Julius Wolff, whose poems Sjögren set elsewhere. Stig Jacobsson hails this as one of this composer’s most admired works and I would certainly agree — it is one of the finest pieces I have encountered of his, ranking with the best of the violin sonatas.
 
Leif Aruhn-Solén proves a highly sympathetic interpreter of the repertoire, slightly outside that in which he has made his name: operas and oratorios from Monteverdi to Mozart and Rossini, although he has appeared in some later works. His voice is quite small in scale but capable of some power when required, as for instance in De Frumerie’s Du är min Afrodite, Rangström’s Vingar i natten or Alfvén’s Saa tag mit Hjerte. Better in the upper registers, he is audibly taxed at the lower end of his range, as at the end of the first song, Du schaust mich an mit stummen Fragen, of Sjögren’s Tannhäuser songs. Viktor Åslund provides sensitive accompaniments throughout and the recorded sound is exemplary.
 
Guy Rickards

 



 


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