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You Held Me Dear – Swedish Romantic Songs, 1850 - 1930
Torsten Mossberg (tenor)
Anders Karlqvist (piano)
rec. Rixmixningsverket, Stockholm 22-23 November 2012; Olaus Petri Church, Stockholm August 2006/April 2007
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
STERLING CDA1682-2 [58:33]

Tenor Torsten Mossberg has delved deep into the treasure trove of Swedish romances. I have previously reviewed his discs with songs by Lille Bror Söderlundh (review) and Allan Pettersson (review). On the present disc he focuses on four composers from roughly four different generations and his choice of songs is interesting insofar as many of them are relatively little known, even though the composers the most prominent of their generation.

The earliest of the four, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad, can be regarded as the first important Swedish composer of romances. He wrote more than 200 and has sometimes been called “the Swedish Schubert”. That soubriquet is not wholly relevant, since Lindblad’s songs generally are of a lighter kind, more idyllic and rather to be classified as salon pieces. They were also written for and performed at literary salons in upper-class homes. But they are melodious, charming and well-crafted and they have stood the test of time – unlike other essays of the same kind from this period. I am sure a lot of Swedes still recognise En sommardag (tr. 3) and can hum the melody. This and the following En sommarmorgon are settings of Lindblad’s own poems, as are many of his other songs.

The next composer, Carl Leopold Sjöberg, is well-known to a majority of Swedish music lovers – but only through one song, Tonerna. Sjöberg was, as far as is known, autodidact as composer and wrote Tonerna in 1892 while still a medical student in Stockholm. He finished his studies the following year and became town doctor in Hedemora in Dalecarlia. He wrote some other songs as well and some of those were published, but he died before he had turned forty and never experienced the success with Tonerna during the early decades of the 20th century And through Jussi Björling’s recordings and concert appearances it became even better-known, also internationally. On this disc all his published songs are included. I can’t remember hearing any of the others before and truth to tell none of them is as distinguished as Tonerna, though at least the beautiful, idyllic Månuppgång (tr. 7) is a song to return to. Tonerna is here performed in a version I’ve never heard before. The song has only one stanza but usually it is reprised, which it is here as well. But between the stanzas the complete melody is played on the piano as an interlude.

Wilhelm Stenhammar was a precocious composer. He wrote his first piano sonata in 1880, when he was nine, and three more before he turned 20, most of his works for a cappella choir were written in his teens and a lot of songs for voice and piano were also teenageworks, including a number of Heine settings from his Buch der Lieder. The seven poems from Heidenstam’s Ensamhetens tankar (Thoughts of Solitude) were set 1893-1895, but they hardly belong to his most performed works. It is good to have them here anyway. Stjärnöga (tr. 17), on the other hand, is one of his great songs. It is a setting of Bo Bergman, whose poetry has inspired many composers, not least Ture Rangström. Six of the Rangström songs on this disc are Bergman settings. Melodie, Vingar i natten and Bön till natten all belong to the standard repertoire as do the Runeberg setting Den enda stunden and the Strindberg setting Villemo. There are also three settings of Dan Andersson, whose poetry is immensely popular almost one hundred years after his premature death. His texts have inspired many ballad singers/songwriters and I feel that composers from that category have been more successful in transferring Andersson’s emotional and fragrant poems to music than Rangström, whose rugged harmonies and a bit angular melodies jar against the warmth of the texts. I may change my mind when returning to them, though.

Mossberg’s previous discs were attractive the straightforward and down-to-earth singing – no sophisticated over-interpretation. His voice is light and lyrical and the tone agreeable unless he presses it in the upper register, when it can become harsh. This is most obvious in some of the Lindblad, Sjöberg and Stenhammar songs, which were recorded as recently as 2012. Rangström’s were recorded 5-6 years earlier and are less afflicted, even though there are signs of strain also there. The Söderlundh songs, mentioned at the beginning of the review, were recorded in 2000 and the barefoot songs by Allan Pettersson even earlier, 1997. On both those discs the voice is fresher and more attractive. Anders Karlqvist’s accompaniments are exemplary.

This disc offers a repertoire a bit off the beaten track, but there are some well-known items too.

Göran Forsling

Track Listing
Adolf Fredrik LINDBLAD (1801 – 1878)
1. Nattviolen / The Night Violet [2:00]
2. Karin Månsdotters vaggvisa för Erik XIV / Lullaby for Erik XIV [3:14]
3. En sommardag / A Summer Day [ [2:00]
4. En sommarmorgon / A Summer Morning [2:37]
Carl Leopold SJÖBERG (1861 – 1900)
5. Den långa dagen / The Long Day [1:13]
6. Aftnen er stille / The Evening is quiet [2:54]
7. Månuppgång / Moon Rise [1:24]
8. Alfvernes hvisken / Whispering Elves [2:39]
9. Tonerna / The Tones [2:33]
Wilhelm STENHAMMAR (1871 – 1927)
7 dikter ur Ensamhetens tankar / Seven poems from Thoughts of Solitude
10. Du hade mig kär / You Held Me Dear [1:50]
11. I enslighet försvinna mina år / In Loneliness My years Pass By [1:11]
12. I Rom, i Rom / In Rome, in Rome [1:34]
13. Min stamfar hade en stor pokal / My Ancestor had a large Goblet [1:03]
14. Kom, vänner / Come, Friends [1:07]
15. Du söker ryktbarhet / You Seek Fame [0:52]
16. Där innerst i min ande / Within My Soul [1:15]
17. Stjärnöga / Star Eye [1:38]
Ture RANGSTRÖM (1884 – 1947)
18. Melodie / Melody [1:32]
19. Vingar i natten / Wings in the Night [1:28]
20. Sommarnatten / The Summer Night [2:12]
21. Den enda stunden / The Only Moment [1:53]
22. Villemo [1:27]
23. Notturno [3:13]
24. Vildgässen flytta / The Wild Geese Are Migrating [1:21]
25. Den gamle / The Old Man [1:50]
26. Till smärtan / To the Anguish [1:26]
27. Trädet som dör / The Tree That Dies [2:45]
28. Bön till natten / Supplication to Night [1:59]
29. Avskedet / The Farewell [2:06]
30. Vinden och trädet / The Wind and the Tree [1:38]
31. Flickan från fjärran / The Girl from far away [2:22]

 

 




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