3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Naxos has done a great service to Hugo Alfvén, although in general the performances of the symphonies don't quite reach the level of the BIS versions. In the film music the competition is less fierce. Neither of the movies, Synnöve Solbakken and Mans Kvinna (En Bygdesaga), have survived even in the consciousness of the most ardent film buff, but it is good to have Alfvén's atmospheric and evocative scores available on their own. Synnöve Solbakken, based on Bjørnson, incorporates both Norwegian and Swedish folk music. The most successful movements are the moving and inventively scored Grief-Pastorale and the haunting Längtan. However, it is En Bygdesaga which contains the more striking music overall; dark, stirring, emotional and almost violent. Alfvén had some memorable ideas here, and he develops them impressively, especially his moves from fiery, rather dissonant sections and bleak chorales in the "Guilty Love" and "Dreams" sections. Most impressive of all, however, is the final section, Wolf's Baying, portraying the main characters' expulsion and flight with music that masterfully captures both the darkness on the one hand and fear and joy and freedom on the other.
Willén and the Norköpping players give more than decent performances, but takes an in general unsentimental approach, and the sound quality is a little close. The alternative from Frank and Damgaard on Sterling presents the same selection from En Bygdesaga but a shortened Synnöve Solbakken (Sterling drops two of the longest but less interesting numbers), but the performances are consistently a little faster and more involved. But Sterling doesn't give us any coupling - the Elégie for Emil Sjögren is a actually a tone-poem to the (in Sweden) famous lieder and song writer also incorporated in the Gustav II Adolph Suite. It is an interesting work with several interesting harmonic touches as it moves from a more distanced homage to a more personal utterance (the idea seems to have been in the first part to acknowledging Sjögren as an artist and in the second part as a personal friend). If you want or need the longer Synnöve Solbakken suite, this is the recording to go for, but I wouldn't dismiss the Sterling issue (insofar as the Emil Sjögren elegie is available elsewhere). The music is anyway worth hearing, and there is nothing serious to complain about with this issue.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I think I must have some Swedish blood because I almost invariably respond positively to music by Swedish composers. One of my favorites among them is Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960) who is primarily known outside Sweden for his so-called 'Swedish Rhapsody' (actually it's the first of three such rhapsodies and is more properly known by its subtitle 'Midsummer Vigil'). I have been following with great pleasure the release of the Alfvén symphonies on the Naxos label and now we have a CD that contains, for the most part, music he wrote for Swedish films.
The first of these is a suite made from the music he wrote for 'Synnøve Solbakken', a 1934 film taken from the novel of the same name by the great Swedish writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. It is about the gentle Synnøve and her love for Torbjörn who has been paralyzed by a fight with a family rival. When he sees his father trapped in a cart accident he suddenly regains his ability to walk and thus save his father. Alfvén's music uses Norwegian folk-tunes and in general the tone of the entire suite is one of longing, gentleness, poignancy, occasionally enlivened by folk-dances. This almost half-hour suite is filled with lovely melodies and suave orchestration played by the Norrköping Symphony under Niklas Willén, a conductor who appears to making a specialty of Alfvén's music.
The second film suite, taken from music for 'Mans kvinna' (literally, 'Man's Woman') but better known by its alternate title 'En Bygdesaga' ('A Country Tale'), is altogether more dramatic in nature. The film is about a woman, Märit, unhappily married to a farmer, Påvel, and in love with a younger farmer, Håkan. When the husband learns, via their maid, of his wife's longing, he puts her under lock and key under the pretext that she is his 'property.' She eventually gets free and elopes with her lover. Although the music is quality Alfvén, the film was not a success and the suite itself has been less popular than that from 'Synnøve Solbakken.' In my judgment, however, it is a stronger work and I found myself transfixed throughout its entire 33 minute length, particularly by Alfvén's depiction of both longing and jealousy.
The CD is filled out by 'Elégie (vid Emil Sjögrens bår)' ('Elegy, at Emil Sjögren's Funeral'), a twelve-minute tribute to Sjögren, Alfvén's older colleague, a composer and organist of local note. The music is a slow, treading, euphonious piece in which a grief-stricken chorale is briefly interrupted by a lyrical consolatory second theme which then transforms the grief of the first theme into a benediction.
This issue is another triumph in this continuing series and I strongly recommend it, although for those coming to Alfvén's music for the first time I would probably suggest they start with one of the performances of some of the symphonies. I would suggest Alfvén: Symphony No. 5; Andante religioso or Alfvén: Symphony No. 4 "From the Outermost Skerries". Of course, for those who don't already know the 'Swedish Rhapsody' I recommend Alfvén: Orchestral Works, Vol.1