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Torbj÷rn Iwan LUNDQUIST (1920-2000)
Symphony No. 2 "...for freedom" (1970) [42:15]
Symphony No. 9 "Survival" (1996) [21:14]
Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Stig Westerberg (2)
Umeň Symphony Orchestra/Roy Goodman (9)
rec. live, 27 September 1972, Folkets Hus, Stockholm (2); 22 April 1999, Idunteatern, Umeň, Sweden (9) STERLING CDM3006-2 [63:29]
As obscure composers go, Torbj÷rn Iwan Lundquist qualifies hands down. I'm immensely thankful to Sterling Records for issuing this recording of the Second and Ninth Symphonies, the third release in their Lundquist series. I had the pleasure of reviewing the previous volumes, which included Symphonies 3 and 4 and the Suites for Orchestra (review ~ review). Once again, Sterling have mined the archive, with live recordings dating from 1972 and 1999. I'm amazed that the composer has had almost no exposure elsewhere, indeed a spot of googling only revealed one other CD on the Caprice label featuring the Seventh Symphony with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Sixten Ehrling, and that was twenty years ago.
Lundquist, a composition student of Dag WirÚn, has a fairly substantial number of compositions to his name, including nine symphonies, four concertos, orchestral works, chamber music, opera, vocal and choral works. Eight of the symphonies have titles, which are descriptive rather than programmatic, opening the door on the work's source of inspiration. Although the music is tonal, it does draw on sundry elements and influences, including avant-garde and jazz. The symphonies have a firm foothold in European orchestral tradition, yet the composer was not averse to drawing from other cultures, one example being percussion effects of Indonesian gamelan.
The Symphony No. 2 had a lengthy fourteen years gestation, instigated at the onset of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Time considerations resulted in it being placed on the back burner, unfinished. When the Soviets marched into Prague in 1968, the composer got the urge to revive it and gave it the title “....for freedom", dedicating it to "all people who fight for this undisputed freedom of primary human rights, not only in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, but wherever they are on earth - even in Sweden!" It was premiered by the Malm÷ Symphony Orchestra under his direction in 1971. The live performance we have here dates from a year later. What leaps out at me, even from the opening pages is Lunquist's deft handling of orchestration, and striving for colourful effects. The work is in four movements titled: 'Canzona', 'Tripia', 'Elegia' and 'Finale'. It's not an easy work and the first movements seem perturbed and filled with disquiet. The first movement is one of steely aggression and stark angularity. 'Tripia' seems to be a scherzo in all but name, and the relentless tread and underlying inquietude is unsettling. 'Elegia' is doleful and melancholic, concerning itself with pain and suffering. The last movement is exuberant and determined, though, at the end, the music dies away in soothing repose.
Cast in a single movement, the Symphony No. 9 dates from 1996 and bears a dedication to the English conductor Roy Goodman who premiered the work in Umeň, Sweden on 22 April 1999. It is that performance we have here. Lundquist's impressive orchestration incorporates a kaleidoscopic panoply of percussion, including vibraphone and marimba, in addition to a grand piano and, for the first time in one of his symphonies, an alto saxophone, which takes on a significant role in proceedings. The title "Survival" refers to the composer's individual life-situation, as he had been treated for cancer, and also to humanity as a whole. This one-movement canvas exploits many emotions. Intensely dramatic and ominous in parts, there are contrasting sections of beguiling lyricism and soulful introspection. Goodman surfs the ebb and flow with sympathetic understanding and purposeful cohesion.
Sterling are to be lauded for releasing these two well-recorded performances. With four symphonies now available, my hope is that the remainder of the cycle will eventually become available. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.