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Alfvén: Synnöve Of Solbakken (Suite), Etc / Willén, Et Al

Release Date: 05/29/2007 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8557828   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Hugo Alfvén
Conductor:  Niklas Willén
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ALFVÉN Synnøve Solbakken. En Bygdesaga. Elegy at Emil Sjögren’s Funeral Niklas Willén, cond; Norrköping SO NAXOS 8.557828 (73:12)

Niklas Willén’s Alfvén survey for Naxos continues apace with the sixth release in a series that has already covered the composer’s five symphonies plus assorted miscellaneous works with four different orchestras. This puts Willén and Naxos in head-to-head competition with Neeme Järvi on BIS in a survey that has the possible Read more advantage of a single orchestra—the Stockholm Philharmonic.

With this latest installment, Willén mines Alfvén’s rich vein of music for film and stage. Originally screened in Stockholm in 1934, Synnøve Solbakken is a recasting of sorts of the Romeo and Juliet theme, but this time with a happy ending: boy and girl fall in love, but there’s bad blood between the parents. Boy is stabbed and temporarily paralyzed, but experiences an amazing Freudian recovery when he is called upon to save his father who is injured in an accident. Not having seen the film, the ending makes no sense to me at all, but somehow this miraculous incident reconciles the two families, and everyone lives happily ever after. Apparently, I’m not alone in my confusion. A critic at the time liked the lead actor and Alfvén’s music, but judged the overriding interest of the plot to be the landscape and the cows. Alfvén incorporated into the score music from his ballet-pantomime Bergakungen , as well as a number of Norwegian folk tunes.

Based on a novel by Vilhelm Moberg, Mans kvinna (literally, “Man’s woman”), the movie version hit the screen 10 years later, in 1944. Darker and more psychologically complex, it tells the story of an illicit affair between a woman trapped in a dull marriage to a farmer and her attraction to a handsome young farmhand. When the farmer learns of his wife’s infidelity, he essentially places her under house arrest, claiming her as his legal property—“chattel,” I believe, is the now politically incorrect word that would have been used. The lovers end up escaping together, but the story was probably meant more as social criticism of the attitudes towards women and their rights than it was intended as a tale of lusting after the flesh. From his film score Alfvén extracted a suite to which he gave the less provocative title, En Bygdesaga (“A Country Tale”). But the music remains reflective of its subject matter—i.e., it’s not in the folksy style of Synnøve Solbakken , but considerably more dramatic and serious in tone.

Alfvén wrote for the live stage as well as for film, and in 1932 he provided incidental music to Ludvig Nördstrom’s play, Vi (“We”). One of the numbers from that score was played at the funeral services of Swedish composer Emil Sjögren (1853–1918), and was later published as a standalone piece, the Elegy , op. 38. Though very beautiful, little about it sounds elegiac. It reminded me a bit of the funeral music from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Not one to throw away a good piece of music—Sjögren after all could only be elegized once—Alfvén subsequently incorporated it, along with other numbers from Vi , into yet another suite, Gustav II Adolf , op. 49.

If you have any familiarity with Alfvén, you will already know that he was more a product of the 19th century than of the 20th, as were so many Scandinavian composers of the time. You will also know that his music is of a rich, romantic tonal opulence that often has much in common with Swedish contemporaries, Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Wilhelm Stenhammar. If you are not familiar with Alfvén, this release is as good a place as any to whet your appetite. Performances and recording are exemplary. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Synnöve Solbakken, Op. 50/R 134 by Hugo Alfvén
Conductor:  Niklas Willén
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Sweden 
Venue:  De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden 
Length: 27 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Notes: De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden (06/17/2004 - 06/18/2004) 
En bygdesaga, Op. 53/R 202a by Hugo Alfvén
Conductor:  Niklas Willén
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1945; Sweden 
Venue:  De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden 
Length: 33 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden (05/23/2005 - 05/27/2005) 
Elegy at Emil Sjögren's Funeral, Op. 38 by Hugo Alfvén
Conductor:  Niklas Willén
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Norrköping Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; Sweden 
Venue:  De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden 
Length: 12 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Notes: De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden (05/23/2005 - 05/27/2005) 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Gentle, Reflective Music April 10, 2014 By bess holloway (Boulder, CO) See All My Reviews "This all Swedish recording is one to sit back and completely relax with. I chose it to learn more about composer Hugo Alfven, known primarily for his Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, op.19 in America. It's beautifully performed. Easy to recommend!" Report Abuse
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