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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Knut HÅKANSON (1887-1929) and Josef ERIKSSON (1872 -1957)
Oss tonsättare emellan (Between Us Composers)
Gabriel Suovanen (baritone), Solveig Wikman (piano), Klarakvartetten (Dieter Schönning, violin, Wiveca Rydén Mårtensson, violin, Johanna Fridolfsson, ciola, Lena Bergström, cello)
rec. Gothenburg Opera, no dates given
Liner notes and sung texts with English translations enclosed

A while ago I reviewed a disc from the same label with music by Knut Håkanson, a composer who, even in Sweden, is known merely through a handful of choral compositions. This previous disc was instrumental, at least for me, in restoring his reputation and shows a creative genius whose life was cut short far too early. The direct reason for this new disc is the issue of a book about Håkanson and his close friend Josef Eriksson, focusing on their correspondence 1913–1929, the latter being the year of Håkanson’s demise.

Josef Eriksson was fifteen years older and survived him by some 28 years. He lived in Uppsala where he got his diploma as organist and singer and later also achieved his diploma as a music teacher. He composed for male choir, mixed choir, piano and string quartet and his songs were performed by top-drawer singers like John Forsell, legendary baritone (who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden and the Vienna State Opera and several other stages) and later Director of the Royal Swedish Opera. Birgit Nilsson also recorded one of his sacred songs.

The two Karlfeldt songs are beautiful and catch the mood of the poems. Few Swedish poets have so explicitly described the scents, the sounds and views of the Swedish landscape and so many composers have been fascinated by his oeuvre. Most well-known is no doubt Wilhelm Peterson-Berger but many others, including Josef Eriksson and Knut Håkanson have been inspired to some of their best works. Kerstin Hed’s Spel-Olle’s gånglåt was set to music by a David Grufman and went to the top of the single charts in 1963 – in a typical dance-band version. Eriksson’s setting from 1929 is much closer to the sunny summer feeling of the poem and the melody with its allusions to rural fiddle music fits like a glove. Till Rosina is a serenade from a play, simple and true — it certainly isn’t Rossini’s Rosina — Gabriel Souvanen is the singer as he was on the previous Håkanson disc. He treats the songs lovingly and with deep involvement, and the signs of wear on his voice can easily be accepted.

Bukolika — the spelling is Eriksson’s own Swedification of the conventional “bucolica”, which refers to Virgil’s (70–19 BC) collection of pastoral poems — for string quartet offers some thrilling sonorities. Eriksson had obviously adopted some fresh harmonic ideas, even though new impressions were slow to reach Scandinavia at the time, in the midst of WW1. The pastoral elements are maybe difficult to discern but it is charming music anyway. A work to return to.

The three songs by Håkanson were also included in the previous disc – in the same recordings as far as I can hear; the timings are identical – and it was a pleasure to return to them. The two pieces for violin and piano are well wrought and attractive. The elegy should be able to make its way on the international market – why not as an exotic encore for an open-minded violinist – even more so the Romans, which has some similarities with Aulin’s Water Colours, though in a more advanced harmonic language.

Back to Josef Eriksson and his six songs Op. 9 from 1911, the same year as the Karlfeldt songs that opened this programme. It is good to have them and I am deeply indebted to all involved for digging this repertoire up from oblivion’s garden and making it available for the general public. While the singing isn’t exactly sophisticated in the general sense of the word, there is deep commitment and honesty and that is something for which we should be grateful.

The concluding Ad tenebras from 1921, was originally written for piano but Håkanson advised him to rewrite it for string quartet. Later he also made a version for string orchestra, which Håkanson conducted – one of many proofs on their close relations. It is great music and it would be interesting also to hear the orchestral version.

The playing of Klarakvartetten is highly accomplished and Dieter Schönning makes the most of the two pieces for violin and piano.

Anyone interested in composers standing to one side of the mainstream in Swedish 20th century music should derive a lot of pleasure from this disc. The pleasure would be even greater if those concerned invested also in the previous disc, where Ten Variations and Fugue Op. 37 stands out as a true masterpiece.

Göran Forsling
Track listing
Two songs from Four songs Op. 6 (1911) (Tx E. A. Karlfeldt)
1. Vårlåt (Spring song) [2:17]
2. Långt borta i världen(Far away in the world) [2:53]
Two songs from Songs and Ballads Op. 47 (1929)
3. Spel-Olles gånglåt (Spel-Olle’s marching-tune) (Tx K. Hed) [2:53]
4. For Rosina(To Rosina) (Tx M. Nordlund) [2:22]
Bukolika, Suite for string quartet Op. 27 (1917)
5. Alla marcia [3:16]
6. Faun and nymph [5:58]
7. Menuett [5:31]
8. Pastorale [3:15]
9. Alla marcia [3:27]
Two poems by Ernst Norlind op. 22 (1924)
10. Någon har kysst min panna (Someone kissed my brow) [2:55]
11. Ögat skall slockna (The eye will grow dim) [2:33]
From De bägge viljorna (The two wills) and other poems by Ola Hansson Op. 14 (1913-1915)
12. De bägge viljorna (The two wills) [3:10]
13. Elegy, for violin and piano (1919) [5:31]
14. Romans i folkton (A folklike romance) (1910) [8:16]
Six songs op. 9 (1911)
15. Nu faller natt över havet (The night descends on the sea) (H. Johnsson)[2:54]
16. Gullevi (A. Fjelner) [3:12]
17. Nocturne (E. Kléen) [1:36]
18. Det faller ett gulnat löv(A golden leaf falling) (E. Kléen) [2:17]
19. Jungfru Margits vårvisa (Virgin Margit’s spring song) (E. Kléen) [1:51]
20. Över dina händer lutad (Leaning over your hands) (A. Österling) [1:47]
21. Ad tenebras (At twilight) for string quartet (1921) [6:53]



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