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Torbjörn Iwan LUNDQUIST (1920-2000)
Suites for Orchestra
Adventures of Nils Holgersson (1962) [38:18]
Gösta Berlings Saga (1966) [34:30]
Bel Canto Kören
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist
rec. 1-2 June 1962, Europafilm Studios; 3 December 1966, Swedish Radio Studios
STERLING CDS1117-2 [72:48]

By 1962, Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist was much feted as a composer of film scores, with sixteen already under his belt dating from 1954. He was to go on to write another twelve. This particular year he was approached to provide a score for the screen adaptation of Selma Lagerlöf's "Adventures of Nils Holerssohn", a best-loved children's classic. The story tells of a naughty boy who tortures animals and never listens to his parents. One day he wakes up as an elf, climbs onto a gander's back and flies away with a flock of geese. On his journey he learns everything about birds, animals, his country and good behaviour, and returns transformed. The film was a lavish production with stunning aerial photography. The music, sixteen episodes in all, accompanies beautiful scenery, such as an enchanted forest and some dramatic episodes such as a musical hunt "The fox and the watchdog". Memorable places crop up along the way, like the naval city of Karlskrona, portrayed by a brisk march, Stockholm, where the tune from the bells of the City Hall's tower is recalled, and Lappland, depicted by its Sami drums.  Lundquist was under time pressure to complete this forty minute opus so did a bit of recycling and also came up with a catchy waltz, which appears from time to time.

The Gösta Berling Saga was a commission by Swedish Radio for a drama serial of another Selma Lagerlöf novel. Gösta Berling, a defrocked minister, finds a home at Ekeby manor, home to veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. A leading and poetic spirit, women fall under his spell. The action takes place in the beautiful wintry landscape of rural Sweden. The suite is made up of eight movements, to which the composer added another seven used in the radio dramatization. I prefer this suite of the two. Lundquist proves himself no mean tunesmith, with a score that is melodically generous and steeped in a beguiling charm. Listeners won't fail to succumb to its appeal. Particularly memorable are the opening piece, which depicts the protagonist, pastorally etched and oozing with rustic charm. Then there's Legend (fifth of the additional movements), music bathed in soothing lyricism.

These early sixties recordings sound very good and benefit from having the composer himself at the helm. The booklet notes in Swedish and English have been supplied by Dag Lundquist, the composer's son, with more detailed discussion of the music by Curt Carlsson. Steffan Ericson provides a biographical portrait of Selma Lagerlöf.

For those wishing to explore this composer’s music further, may I point you in the direction of the Third and Fourth Symphonies, released last year by Sterling and which I had the pleasure of reviewing.

Stephen Greenbank

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