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Torbjörn Iwan LUNDQUIST (1920-2000)
Nils Holgerssons underbara resa (1962) [38.18]
Gösta Berlings saga (1966) [34.30]
Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist (conductor)
Members of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Bel canto kören
rec. 1962/63, Europafilm Studios; Swedish Radio Studios
STERLING CDS 1117-2 [72.48]

This is a most welcome return to the catalogue for two very enjoyable and accomplished scores, Nils Holgerssons underbara resa (‘Adventures of Nils Holgersson’) from 1962, and Gösta Berlings saga, written to accompany a radio dramatisation of the novel of the same name by Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940 – winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1909) in 1891. As a supplement to the suite for the latter, Lundquist wrote seven additional movements, also recorded here.

Lundquist is one of those Swedish composers whose music is worthy of wider circulation. As a lifelong enthusiast for Swedish music, I have been encouraged by recent wider interest in composers such as Atterberg and – a particular favourite – Lars-Erik Larsson, and it is good to see this mini-revival, supported by the composer’s children, Dag, Björn and Jenny, also responsible for the issue of his 3rd and 4th Symphonies – from radio broadcasts (reviews).

In addition to Nils Holgerssons underbara resa, Lunquist wrote scores for 27 other films between 1954 and 1971. One can hear why his work was so popular. From the beginning of Nils Holgerssons underbara resa, we are introduced to a big, memorable and developed theme, with more than a hint of the waltz (I was reminded more than a little of Jerome Moross’ sweeping tunes for The Big Country.) Apparently Lundquist did not take seriously an invitation from Hollywood to work there, preferring to remain in Sweden devoting himself to art music (including nine symphonies) even if at times he was a jobbing composer. The big theme is developed in interesting ways, with some delicate orchestration and variation. Lundquist had a fine ear, with particularly accomplished use of winds and horns. Nils Holgerssons underbara resa, also an adaptation of a novel by Selma Lagerlöf, was designed as a lavish production, with sweeping landscapes and many aerial photographs. The music is tonal and very attractive: it will give much pleasure.

The music for Gösta Berlings saga is no less pleasurable, though perhaps more chamber-like in character. Much is influenced by dance forms, including a bourrée, a gavotte and more than one polska (a Scandinavian dance, usually in 3 / 4 metre). Varied orchestration delights the ear, while not really pushing the boundaries of tonal style.

The remastering of the original AAD tapes (from Warner Classics, presumably originally Swedish EMI) is very fine. The occasional inner part is a little muddy, but the clarity of Lundquist’s orchestral style means that any loss is trivial.

A special word of praise for the production values as well as Sterling’s commitment in making this release possible. The notes are a model of their kind, including a lovely biographical essay by Dag Lundquist and an extended study of the music by Curt Carlsson, as well as a brief biography of Selma Lagerlöf.

Michael Wilkinson

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank

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