The Swedish Series: a wrap-up

So much Swedish music!

There were a few challenges in preparing this series.

At the beginning, as I said in the introduction, there were a few names that were responsible for deciding to do this series to begin with. I’d say foremost it was Kurt Atterberg, whose second symphony (and third and more) I was pretty quickly blown away by, and a quick Google for other famous Swedish symphonists (at first only symphonists) came up with names like Lindblad and Berwald and Alfvén. Jump ahead a century and there is also Gustav Allan Pettersson, whose 17 symphonies seem to merit attention if for no other reason than their numbers (but for more than just that). So we had a starting point, midpoint, and an endpoint, but lots to fill in.

The first difficulty was narrowing down what works of the composers I’d already decided on would be featured, and I discussed a bit of that in the specific articles for the works I ultimately decided on. Rangström’s second symphony lost to his third, same with Blomdahl and Peterson-Berger. Rosenberg had a handful in the running, and some others were close calls. But to be honest, many of them are worth listening and discussion.

The next thing was filling in spaces. I didn’t want to feature a chamber work (quartet/trio) of a composer who’d already gotten a feature mid-week, and another search shows so many composers of string quartets, piano trios or quartets or quintets, violin sonatas, and so much more, in the 19th century. Some very nearly gained a place, but didn’t. In contrast, it seems the first few decades of the 20th century were not really a time for chamber writing. Atterberg and Rangström had a few that didn’t get much attention, and it seemed nearly impossible to find recordings of the quartets of Otto Olsson, which was another issue in the process. Find a name and a work that fits in a timeline or studied with so’n’so, and… no recording.

In any case, this series should really be taken as a to-do list of sorts. I spent some time listening to multiple works of almost every composer on the list, and while only the beginning, middle and end had multiple pieces from the same composer (Lindblad, Atterberg, and Pettersson, respectively), other works from the same composers featured here are just worthy of attention, if not potentially more so, but that’s very subjective.

I’d make a list of highlights of this series, but actually the list of whatever the opposite of a highlight is would be shorter, and listing the weaker contributions to the series is a bit negative, so I won’t do that. It was a month of incredible music, and a series I was very excited to prepare, because this is exactly the kind of thing I hope to achieve through the blog, if anything: to call attention to stuff you might not know, and Swedish history is full of incredible composers. Unsurprisingly, then, there is a long list of names I didn’t get around to.

Honorable mentions, in no particular order:

Gösta Nystroem
Otto Olsson
Erland von Koch
Henning Mankell
Yngve Sköld
Lars-Erik Larsson
Elfrida Andrée
Tor and Valberg Aulin
Amanda Maier-Röntgen
John Fernstrom (a number of string quartets)
Oscar Byström (quartet in Cm)
Johan Lindegren (string quintet in F)
Oscar Hylén (quartet in D)

Some of the above (like Mankell and the Aulins) didn’t write a whole lot (or anything) that would have been included in the symphony series anyway, but even chamber works including piano could have been included, but I didn’t. Nystroem is perhaps the most recognizable name up there, followed maybe by Larsson and Erland von Koch, but some of the others showed up more than I’d expected. There’s lots of Swedish music for voice and piano (or orchestra) as well as violin (sonatas and concertos), and then lots of stuff for organ, as well, but that falls more outside of my listening habits.

Maybe in a year or so, we’ll come back to Swedish music and approach it from a different angle, and cover the chamber or piano works that didn’t get featured here. (segue!)

In fact, that’s what we’re doing next month. You may or may not remember a series that started at just about this time last year, an enormous one, and really the first enormous-scale approach to packaging up a timeline of music like this. It was (too) enormous, but we’re coming back around a year later for another swing at some similar stuff, sort of. There’ll be an introductory article coming out later today discussing the series for October, so stay tuned for that, and tack så mycket. Vi ses nästa gång.


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