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Songs of the Heart Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908–1987)
Hjärtats sånger [11:32] Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884–1947)
Songs Adolf WIKLUND (1879–1950)
Songs Hugo ALFVÉN(1872–1960)
Songs Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867–1942)
Fyra visor i svensk folkton [7:25] Emil SJÖGREN (1853–1918)
Leif Aruhn-Solén (tenor) Viktor Åslund (piano)
rec. A-studio, SAMI, Stockholm, October 2005
Sung texts with English translations enclosed STERLING CDA1653-2 [67:16]
Leif Aruhn-Solén has a solid musical hereditary disposition. His father was Christer Solén, leading operatic tenor, concert singer and lieder-singer, later also church musician. His mother Britt-Marie Aruhn was for many years one of the leading soloists at the Royal Swedish Opera and was in 1988 named Royal Court Singer. Leif has a busy international career and is in great demand for roles in baroque repertoire as well as in Mozart and Rossini. He also has a predilection for art-songs–Swedish and Nordic romances, German Lieder and French mélodies. On this disc he has chosen Swedish songs from a little more than a half-century, the earliest being Sjögren’s Tannhäuser-Lieder (1884), the most recent Hugo Alfvén’s Saa tag mit hjerte from 1946. Regarding the composers they are presented in reverse chronological order, beginning with Gunnar de Frumerie (b. 1908) and ending with Emil Sjögren (b. 1853).
The least well-known of these composers must be Adolf Wiklund. He was a brilliant pianist and conductor and devoted most of his time to those disciplines. As a composer he is best known for his two piano concertos, fairly recently issued in up-to-date recordings. His songs — he only wrote about a dozen — are attractive without being particularly memorable, but at least the last of them, Silkesko over gylden Laest!, a setting of a Danish poem by J.P. Jacobsen, has a grandeur that is quite irresistible. These four songs are heard here in first recordings.
Gunnar de Frumerie belonged to the same generation as Lars-Erik Larsson and Dag Wirén. He can be classified as a neo-classicist with romantic inclinations. His opera Singoalla (1940) is possibly his greatest work, but he was an assiduous song writer, and of his more than one hundred creations in this genre around fifty were settings of Nobel Prize Winner Pär Lagerkvist. Hjärtats sånger (1942) is among the most highly regarded of Swedish song-cycles. The seamless understanding between words and music is in a way comparable to Hugo Wolf’s setting of Mörike or Goethe. De Frumerie felt the same: “Pär Lagerkvist meant an enormous amount to me, and his poetry has always been a powerful source of inspiration for my vocal music … Pär Lagerkvist claims to not be musical but, when he recites his poems, he strikes the same tone that I do in my songs. I take pleasure in listening to him recite them, in how he emphasizes the words. And when I set his poetry, I try to capture an impression of an overall mood. Often I learn the words by heart, and often I let the first line determine the mood of the whole piece. And then I proceed, bit by bit.”
What Lagerkvist was for de Frumerie, Bo Bergman was for Ture Rangström. Of his 250 songs, 32 were settings of Bergman. “His painful irony, his unwavering pessimism and his often very melancholy and apparently commonplace, simple language lay like a warm, fruitful mould around the innermost poetry.” Four of the five songs on this disc are to poems by Bergman and they are among Rangström’s best. Melodi was written on 4 July 1917, the very day that Wilhelm Stenhammar composed his probably better known version of the same poem. It is a lovely song. Pan and Vingar i natten are often heard but my favourite is Bön till natten.
For international readers Hugo Alfvén is the best known of these composers. His colourful orchestral music–Midsummer’s Vigil in particular–is admired, but he also wrote fifty songs, many of which belong to the standard repertoire in the Nordic countries and many an internationally active Swedish singer has opted for Skogen sover, maybe as an encore. Jussi Björling sang it frequently, Nicolai Gedda as well and just over a year ago Camilla Tilling released a disc with Nordic songs, where the same song was included as a final dessert. Leif Aruhn-Solén sings it here with beautiful legato, softly, warmly and inwardly so as not to wake her–the forest and the beloved who has just fallen asleep. Saa tag mit hjerte, composed when Alfvén was approaching 75, is also a gem.
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger's idyllic piano pieces have retained their popularity and so have many of his 120 songs. They are structurally uncomplicated but they are melodically and rhythmically attractive and the Four Songs in Swedish Folktone could be mistaken for the genuine thing. The melodies stick at once.
Emil Sjögren had an international outlook that was probably wider than any of his contemporaries in Sweden. He studied in Berlin and lived in Paris for several years, and the 200 songs he composed were settings of texts by poets of fifteen nationalities. His Six Songs, Op. 12 were to verses from Julius Wolff’s 540-page-long verse epic about Tannhäuser. They are fresh and melodious and have retained their popularity across the years. One can feel an influence from Edvard Grieg. This cycle is an excellent conclusion to this admirable traversal of Swedish songs from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century.
Leif Aruhn-Solén is an expert guide during this expedition. His light, flexible, lyric tenor embraces the majority of the repertoire sensitively and idiomatically. He doesn’t make heavy weather of the more dramatic songs but lets the music speak without “over-interpretation”. His diction is excellent and his soft singing–as in Skogen sover–is enticing. Viktor Åslund is a flexible accompanist but, to my ears at least, the piano is balanced a mite too closely.
It should be pointed out that all the songs are performed in the order of the track-list on the CD back cover but those who follow the printed texts in the booklet will find that the Rangström, Wiklund and Alfvén songs appear in the wrong order within each group.
There is no direct dearth of recordings of the core repertoire of Swedish songs but this is another valuable contribution that should win new proselytes.
Track Listing Gunnar de FRUMERIE (1908–1987)
1. När du sluter mina ögon [2:15]
2. Det blir vackert där du går [2:09]
3. Saliga väntan [1:29]
4. Ur djupet av min själ [2:42]
5. Du är min Afrodite [1:06]
6. Som en våg [1:51] Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884–1947)
7. Melodi [1:40]
8. Paradisets timma [2:21]
9. Pan [2:29]
10. Vingar i natten [1:16]
11. Bön till natten [2:38] Adolf WIKLUND (1879–1950)
12. En solvisa [1:39]
13. Som mandelblom … [2:59]
14. Serenad [1:49]
15. Silkessko över gylden laest [3:13] Hugo ALFVÉN(1872–1960)
16. Saa tag mit hjerte [2:50]
17. I stilla timmar [3:04]
18. Skogen sover [3:01] Wilhelm PETERSON-BERGER (1867–1942)
Fyra visor i svensk folkton:
19. När jag för mig själv i mörka skogen går [1:51]
20. Ditt namn har jag skrivit [1:08]
21. Som stjärnorna på himmelen [3:13]
22. Bland skogens höga furustammar [1:13] Emil SJÖGREN (1853–1918)
23. Du schaust mich an mit stummen Fragen [3:46]
24. Jahrlang möchte‘ ich so dich halten [2:17]
25. Wie soll ich’s bergen, wie soll ich’s tragen [2:56]
26. Hab ein Röslein Dir gebrochen [1:19]
27. Vor meinem Auge wird es klar [2:28]
28. Ich möchte schweben über Thal und Hügel [2:20]