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Altfiol

Knut HÅKANSON (1887 - 1929)
En gång i bredd med mig (One day, beside me)
Songs and piano works
see end of review for track listing
Gabriel Souvanen (baritone), Solveig Wikman (piano)
rec. Dal Segno Studio, May 2011
sung texts with English translations enclosed
ALTFIOL I VÄST AIVCD006 [74:50]

Experience Classicsonline



 
Knut Håkanson is probably an unknown name to international readers but even Swedish readers probably may raise an eyebrow or both. I believe, though, that to many Scandinavian choir-members the name will ring a bell: Brusala, a setting of a poem by Erik Axel Karlfeldt, is in the standard repertoire. It is a masterly composition. Why isn’t he better known?
 
There may be several reasons. One is that he was an outsider, who walked his own path off the beaten track. Another is that he lived most of his life in the provinces, not in Stockholm or Gothenburg where the music establishments were. He also suffered from weak health and spent long periods in hospital. He died when he was only 42.
 
Brusala was written during a short period of intense activity just before his death on 13 December 1929. His creativity also brought forth three sets of solo songs and the Ten Variations and Fugue Op. 37 recorded here, which is a true masterpiece.
 
On this disc we can follow Håkanson’s development from the late-romantic language of the songs Op. 1, written during the first decade of the 20th century to the late piano works where he combines Swedish folk music with Bach-inspired polyphony. Hearing the Twelve Two-Part Inventions (trs. 20-31) from 1925 made his composer colleague William Seymer call him ‘a Bach in Swedish broadcloth’. It’s elegant and cleverly constructed though by necessity quite simple. Most of the individual parts are very brief and all draw on melodies from the vast treasury trove of fiddle tunes from various parts of Sweden. This is entertaining music. His magnum opus, the Ten Variations and Fugue, op 37, is more than that. Here the inspiration flows and there is power and intensity. One is flabbergasted at his ability to transform the rather simple basic theme, a popular folk song that Gabriel Souvanen sings without exaggerated artfulness as the opening number.
 
Midsummer Garland and From the Sylvan Temple are inspired by Swedish nature and six of them allude to poems. The Sylvan Temple was a guest chalet which he had built high up on a hill close to his home near Borås in south-west Sweden. There he could sit in peace and compose, secluded from the world around him. He lived for shorter periods in bigger cities but he always longed to go back to his Sylvan Temple. ‘Give me the solitude of the countryside, by the road of the waterfall in the conifer woods, in the shade of “the Temple” beneath a starlit sky’, he wrote. Scandinavian nature has been an important source of inspiration for many Nordic composers. We need only mention Grieg, Peterson-Berger and Sibelius. Håkanson can be added to that list.
 
As a song composer Knut Håkanson was very discriminating in his choice of poems. Two of his favourites were Karlfeldt and Ola Hansson, the latter ‘the poet who has most intensely and spiritually taught me to comprehend the nature of poetry and dream’, he once wrote. Without being an epigone he also, in this capacity, follows the likes of Grieg, Sibelius, P-B and Stenhammar. He considered his songs an important part of his oeuvre, wrote around one hundred, which were frequently performed at the time. Kirsten Flagstad sang several of them during her recitals.
 
Solveig Wikman has for quite some time been one of the foremost Swedish pianists. She is often found together with her husband Bertil as a piano duo. She was born in Borås, close to which town Håkanson also lived for many years. She has been active as chamber musician, accompanist and soloist. Her playing is characterized by great clarity and technical command. Gabriel Suovanen has been busy in opera houses in Finland and Sweden for more than a decade but he is also a renowned recitalist. His warm tone and verbal excellence make him well suited to Håkanson’s songs. The concluding piece, the setting of Karlfeldt’s Slottstappning (Château bottled) is magnificently sung with wit and intensity. His tone is a little grittier here than I remember it from earlier, but these are good readings even so.
 
The technical quality is splendid. The liner-notes by Solveig Wikman - in Swedish and English - are exemplary.
 
This disc represents a laudable initiative by the little record company Altfiol i Väst and the two artists to bring Håkanson’s music to a wider audience. It is to be hoped that other musicians will follow suit. Knut Håkanson’s music is worth a renaissance.
 
Göran Forsling
 
Track listing
1. En gång i bredd med mig (One day, beside me) [1:20]
2. Ten Variations and Fugue on a Swedish Folksong, Op. 37 [12:53]
From Five Songs, Op. 1
3. Lutad mot gärdet (Leaning on the fence) [1:40]
4. Som blommornas doft (Like the fragrance of flowers) [2:30]
5. De väntande (Those who wait) [2:18]
6. Midsommarkransen (Midsummer garland) [5:03]
De bägge viljorna och andra dikter av Ola Hansson (The two wills and other poems by Ola Hansson) Op. 4
7. De bägge viljorna (The two wills) [3:10]
8. Du livets eviga röda flamma (Eternal red flame of life) [3:47]
9. Dragspelet vinade (The accordion whined)[1:33]
Skogstemplet (The sylvan temple) Piano-miniatures, Op. 13
10. Vårbräckning (Break of spring)[2:20]
11. Björken susar (The birch whispers)[1:44]
12. Forsen (The rapids) [2:20]
13. Prinsessan och Bergtrollet (The princess and the mountain troll)[1:19]
14. Myggen dansa över ån i sommarkvällen (The mosquitoes dance above the brook in the summer evening) [2:10]
15. Beväringen tågar förbi (The conscript marches by) [2:02]
16. Det förgångna (The past) [1:08]
17. Stormnatt (Stormy night) [3:22]
Två dikter av Ernst Norlind (Two poems by Ernst Norlind) Op. 22
18. Någon har kysst min panna (Someone kissed my brow) [2:55]
19. Ögat skall slockna (The eye will grow dim) [2:33]
Tolv små tvåstämmiga svenska inventioner (Twelve small Swedish two-part inventions) Op. 26
20. Gånglåt från Norrland (Marching-tune from Norrland) [0:46]
21. Polska från Sörmland (Polska from Sörmland)[1:31]
22. Polska från Dalarna (Polska from Dalecarlia) [1:16]
23. Polska från Småland (Polska from Småland) [0:52]
24. Polska från Sörmland ”Tyska klockorna” (Polska from Sörmland ”The German Bells”) [1:04]
25. Polska från Uppland (Polska from Uppland) [1:00]
26. Polska från Sörmland (Polska from Sörmland) [0:54]
27. Polska från Värmland (Polska from Värmland) [0:56]
28. Polska från Norrbotten (Polska from Norrbotten) [0:27]
29. Marsch från Uppland (March from Uppland) [0:36]
30. Polska från Gotland ”Sanda-polskan” (Polska from Gotland ”Sanda-Polska”)[1:20]
31. Polska från Västergötland (Polska from Västergötland) [0:44]
Two songs
32. Fall, fall, ymniga snö (Fall, fall, copious snow) Op. 23 No. 2 [2:39]
33. Slottstappning (Château bottled) Op. 40 No. 2 [4:09]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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