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Lille Bror SÖDERLUNDH (1912–1957) Kosteliga ting (Precious Things)
Torsten Mossberg (tenor) Anders Karlqvist (piano)
rec. Olaus Petri Church, Stockholm, 2000
Sung texts with English translations enclosed STERLING CDA1657-2 [58:16]
Lille Bror Söderlundh was born in Kristinehamn in the province of Värmland into a musical family. He learnt to play the violin and after he had passed his lower grammar school exam in 1929 he went to Stockholm where he studied the violin privately with the leader of the Royal Opera House Orchestra. For several years he earned his living as a restaurant musician and met and socialized with musicians, artists and authors at Café Cosmopolite and other places in the Klara district. In the middle of the 1930s he started to set poems to music, primarily poems by his friends. These songs soon became popular, they were recorded by himself and other singers and were often heard on the radio. Lille Bror received commissions to write music for revues and cabarets, for the theatre and for films. In the early 1940s he left Stockholm and settled in Leksand in the province of Dalarna (Dalecarlia). He became deeply involved in the musical life in the region but continued to be in demand for various compositional tasks and also wrote classical music. This included ballets, an often played concertino for oboe and strings and a violin concerto influenced by Bartók. In the 1950s he was engaged as conductor for the symphony orchestra in Borlänge and also for the Borganäs Choir in the same town. The last two years of his life he was employed as head of the municipal music school in Borlänge. He died after a heart attack at the tender age of 45.
When I moved to Dalarna in the mid-1960s I came in contact with his choral music, singing in both a male voice choir and a mixed choir. Later I sang in Lille Bror’s Borganäs Choir for many years and was also chairman of the choir for ten years. After that I was chairman of the Borlänge symphony orchestra for twenty years. I was even chairman of the now discontinued Lille Bror Söderlundh Society. In other words, Lille Bror’s music is very close to my heart, so it was a great pleasure to receive this disc with no fewer than 31 songs by him, several of which I believe to be otherwise unrecorded.
The poems span several centuries, from Shakespeare (early 17th century), via Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht (18th century), Gustaf Fröding (19th century) and early 20th century (Strindberg). The majority of the poems are roughly contemporaneous and Lille Bror knew many of the poets. He was discriminating in his choices and several of the poets belong to the Swedish Parnassus, including two Nobel Prize winners: Karlfeldt and Lagerkvist. The provenance of the songs varies a lot. Marie vaggsång is film music, written for Himlaspelet, premiered in 1942; The Shakespeare songs were composed for a production of Twelfth Night at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm in 1946. Alf Sjöberg was the Director of both Himlaspelet and Twelfth Night. It is Cuba and Ballad of a silent town were written for early 1940s revues with political bias against dictators and violence. The silent town is Copenhagen; it was written only months after the German occupation of Denmark. Several of the songs are rather ballads to be sung to guitar accompaniment, while others belong more to the traditional art song category. Whichever category they are typical of Lille Bror Söderlundh’s very personal tonal language. His musical credo was: “Really, there is nothing else but folk music to follow; it is the only thing that one has within one. A man who betrays the folk music that is in him, will betray himself; without folk music, nobody becomes a real composer.”
This doesn’t mean that he copies folk melodies. However that is where the roots lie. Rather like Bela Bartók he creates his own musical landscape. He studied briefly at the Academy of Music in Stockholm in the mid-1930s but never completed his studies. Instead he picked up influences from various musicians he met. He seems to have had a few lessons from Ernest Ansermet, who visited Stockholm in the 1930s. His friend Seth Karlsson told me how he and Lille Bror could spend a whole night playing records of Bartók’s music over and over again. The sum of these influences is the art of Lille Bror Söderlundh, his unique melodic inspiration and an unerring ear for harmonies. He often helped songwriter colleagues with harmonization of their songs and ballads.
The title of this collection – 31 songs out of a total of around 160 – is Kosteliga ting (Precious things) and that is exactly what we have here. We should be aware that Torsten Mossberg and Anders Karlqvist have deliberately avoided the most well-known songs, which are available in excellent recordings already. The Ture Nerman setting Den vackraste visan is an old friend to most Swedes and so are the three Nils Ferlin settings: Inte ens en grå liten fågel, Vilse and En valsmelodi. That said, I’m sure anyone with an interest in Swedish songs will make new acquaintances that will be added to their list of favourites. The opening song, Tre kosteliga ting has a melody that sticks and cries out to be reprised immediately. The beautiful poem Det är vackrast när det skymmer (tr. 3) by Pär Lagerkvist’s (his name is spelled in several ways in the booklet notes but this is the correct form) is given congenial musical garb. Emil Zilliacus appreciated Lille Bror’s setting of his Jag var ett spelande vatten (tr. 4) and wrote a letter of thanks, wanting him to set more of his poems. August Strindberg's late Villemo (1909) has attracted several composers – Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, Ture Rangström and even Dag Wirén; Lille Bror’s ascetic version can stand comparison with theirs. Gunnar Ekelöf – close friend to Lille Bror – is regarded as one of the most important 20th century poets in Sweden. Sång is an early example of surrealism and Lille Bror stresses the strangeness with surprising intervals.
The Shakespeare songs, in particular the last of them, belong among his best works and the Rune Lindström setting Marie vaggsång is lovely. In Det är Cuba, min fröken we hear tango rhythms, while the dance rhythms in Ragnar Jändel’s charming Vårbarn are more Scandinavian homespun. This repertoire is indeed multiplex.
Torsten Mossberg and Anders Karlqvist are not full-time musicians. Mossberg is a doctor, and Karlqvist a physicist, but both have devoted themselves to music-making for many years. Mossberg has a warm lyrical tenor voice with agreeable tone. He is careful with nuances and his enunciation is excellent. He never over-interprets the songs but sings them naturally and with sympathy. Karlqvist is also a sympathetic accompanist and together they are excellent advocates for Söderlundh and his music.
Track Listing 1. Tre kosteliga ting (Three precious things) (Ingegerd Granlund) [2:41]
2. Önskan (A wish) (Ingegerd Granlund [1:22]
3. Det är vackrast när det skymmer (It is prettiest at dusk) (Pär Lagerkvist)[1:59]
4. Jag var ett speglande vatten (I was a mirroring water) (Emil Zilliacus) [2:37]
5. Jag vill vara tårar (I wanted to be tears) (Erik Blomberg)[1:25]
6. Prästkrage säg … (Moon-daisy, little brother …(Gunnar Ekelöf) [2:17]
7. Sång (Song) (Gunnar Ekelöf)[1:32]
8. Villemo (Villemo) (August Strindberg) [1:49]
9. Den tysta kärleken (The silent love) Hedvig Charlotta Nordenflycht)[1:03]
10. Narrens första visa (The clown’s first song) (William Shakespeare/transl Ivar Harrie)[1:09]
11. Narrens andra visa (The clown’s second song) (William Shakespeare/transl Ivar Harrie) [1:57]
12. Narrens sista sang (The clown’s last song) (William Shakespeare/transl Ivar Harrie) [2:15]
13. Marie vaggsång [A cradle song for Maria) (Rune Lindström)[0:54]
14. Mars (March) (Ture Nerman)[1:09]
15. Över gatan (Over the street) (Ture Nerman) [1:24]
16. En vårprinsessa (A spring princess) (Ture Nerman) [1:33]
17. Den vackraste visan (The loveliest song) (Ture Nerman)[1:53]
18. Preteritum (Preteritum) (Ture Nerman) [1:38]
19. En sommar har gått (A summer has passed) (Nils Magnus Folcke)[1:52]
20. Eget hem (My home) (Nils Hasselskog)[3:01]
21. Det är Cuba, min fröken (It is Cuba, my miss) (Staffan Tjerneld)[2:21]
22. Balladen om den tysta staden (Ballad of the silent town) (Staffan Tjerneld)[3:16]
23. Per Skotte (Anders Österling)[2:27]
24. Kurbitsmålning (Kurbits painting) (Erik Axel Karlfeldt) [3:33]
25. Skojare (Blackguard) (Gustaf Fröding) [1:34]
26. Vårbarn (Spring child) (Ragnar Jändel) [1:48]
27. Inte ens en grå liten fågel (Not even a grey little bird) (Nils Ferlin)[1:05]
28. Vilse (Astray) (Nils Ferlin) [1:36]
29. Över tusen hav (Over a thousand seas) (Nils Ferlin) [0:56]
30. En valsmelodi (A waltz melody) (Nils Ferlin) [3:12]
31. Sista visan (The last song) (Erik Asklund) [0:54]