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CD: AmazonUK

Lars-Erik LARSSON (1908 - 1986)
Senhöstblad (Late Autumn Leaves) (including Intimate Miniatures, op.20) (1940) [21:13]
String Quartet No.1, op.31 (1944) [21:20]
String Quartet No.2, Quartetto alla serenata, op.44 (1955) [18:30]
String Quartet No.3, op.65 (1975) [10:23]
Stenhammar Quartet (Peter Olofsson, Per Öman (violins); Tony Bauer (viola); Mat Olofsson (cello))
rec. 13-14 September (Senhöstblad and 1st Quartet); 17-18 May (2nd Quartet); 11 August 2008 (3rd Quartet), Studios 2, 9 and 3, Swedish Radio, Stockholm. DDD
DAPHNE 1035 [72:11]
Experience Classicsonline

Calle Friedner's notes begin with the comment, 'Lars-Erik Larsson is one of the best-loved Swedish composers …' and nothing could be more true. The glorious Pastoral Suite, op.19 (1938) is as well known, and it is as well appreciated as his contemporary Dag Wirén's marvellous Serenade for Strings, op.11 (1937). But there's much more to this composer than that delightful morsel - and over the years recordings of most of his output has been made available to us, including his three Symphonies, the twelve Concertinos for every orchestral instrument (except tuba) plus one for piano with string orchestra not to mention the beautiful Förklädd Gud (A God in Disguise) for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra, Op. 24 (1940). There's also the glorious Violin Concerto, op.42 (1952) which was recorded by André Gertler in the 1950s, and never bettered. His later works, such as the orchestral Due auguri, op.62 (1971), display a more difficult voice but repeated hearings show them to be the masterpieces they so obviously are.

Larsson studied at the Stockholm Conservatory and with Alban Berg in Vienna, hence his more austere later pieces. This disk is a very good introduction to Larsson's music, if you don't know it, for it covers almost his whole career and shows his various styles. Intimate Miniatures is known as a four movement Suite for either String Quartet or solo piano and it has been recorded in both versions. This new disk, however, contains a six movement suite, two pieces having been recently discovered, hence it contains the Intimate Miniatures we know but with extras. It's a delightful, totally unpretentious, work, the movements depicting various occasions from a quiet day in September to the time when autumn turns into winter. Despite the obvious light quality of the subject matter the work does contain a superb, and very thoughtful, slow movement.

With the 1st Quartet we enter a different world - this is much more serious fare, but the language is still very approachable. The tone of the first movement seems, at the outset, to be serious but there is much fun to be had as the music progresses. The slow movement displays a Nielsenesque turn of phrase - odd in this composer whose music sounds quite unlike any other - but it's there and it is a lovely passionate song, with a lighter middle section. The finale, although marked molto vivace has quite a Mozartean sense of fun and the music is frothy and very light-hearted.

The 2nd Quartet is a more mature work, indeed it's more serious, with a gorgeously deeply felt slow movement, but it's not without a sense of lightness when necessary - the first movement is especially delightful in this respect. The 3rd Quartet is a different prospect entirely. In three tersely constructed movements, the language is more intense than what has gone before. But this is not to say that this music is difficult, it's obviously the same voice as the other works but it speaks with much more maturity.

If you haven't yet made the acquaintance of the music of this interesting Swede this is a really good starting point. The music is, superficially, easy to listen to but has sufficient quirks and twists and turns to keep you wondering what is going to happen next. The Stenhammar Quartet plays magnificently and the recording and presentation are excellent.

Bob Briggs

see also review by Rob Barnett




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