Notes and Editorial Reviews
A SUMMER’S DAY: SWEDISH ROMANTIC SONGS
Anne Sofie von Otter (mez); Bengt Forsberg (pn)
BIS SACD 1867(SACD: 74:50
Text and Translation)
BERWALD, GEIJER, LINDBLAD, SÖDERMAN
Although seldom heard outside of their native land, Swedish songs from the Romantic era are quite attractive works that do not compare badly with their far better known German counterparts. The main difference between the two is that Swedish songs remained far more grounded in native folk songs, and thus tend to be simpler in structure and harmony. Most of them were intended to be popular or semi-popular music, suited to the home parlor rather than the public concert hall.
This recital presents 32 songs by a quartet of leading Swedish Lieder composers: four by Erik Gustaf Geijer (1783–1847), six by Franz Adolf Berwald (1796–1868), 13 by Adolf Fredrik Lindblad (1801–78), and nine by August Söderman (1832–76). Geijer composed only as an occasional avocation, as he was primarily a historian and poet, though he also exercised considerable influence in Sweden in the fields of philosophy and theology. Ordained a clergyman in the state Lutheran Church, he also served several terms as rector of Uppsala University and was a member of the Swedish Parliament. Berwald is of course the best known Swedish composer from before the 20th century. A child prodigy on the violin, he had a difficult personality that easily alienated others, and both he and his music were regarded as eccentric. For some years he made his living first as an orthopedic surgeon and later as the manager of a glass mill and saw factory. Few of his works were performed in his lifetime, with belated recognition beginning to occur only after 1862. Lindblad studied in Germany and composed some 215 songs. Originally he was inclined toward more innovative compositional techniques, but after a public controversy broke out over what many considered his excessive harmonic boldness (he was publicly defended by Spohr), he retreated into private life and the Lieder he subsequently wrote were all cast in a much more conservative, popular vein. Söderman was the son of a director of several musical theaters in Stockholm. After studying briefly in Leipzig with Hans Richter, he returned to Sweden, where like his father he became a director of a music theater. In addition to about 65 songs, he wrote incidental music to over 60 plays, plus several operettas.
Anne Sofie von Otter had just turned 55 when these songs were recorded in 2010; most singers should sound even half so good at her age. Yes, there is a now a spread in the vibrato in her upper register, but not so bad yet as to be distracting and make listening intolerable; the lovely timbre of her voice remains completely intact, without a hint of dryness. We are all most fortunate to have such a distinguished interpreter of Lieder devoting herself to this repertoire as an obvious labor of love. There is not an inflection of meaning that she misses, and Bengt Forsberg is her gifted and fully supportive accompanist. Except for complete steadiness in Otter’s top notes, there is not a thing here that one could wish to be improved. The recorded sound is warm and spacious; full Swedish-English texts are provided. Strongly recommended to all lovers of romantic Lieder.
FANFARE: James A. Altena