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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Some Interesting Swedish Songs

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger (1867-1942)

Time of Waiting a selection of songs to texts by Erik Axel Karfeldt. Helge Brilioth, tenor; Erland Hagegård, baritone; Sven Alin and Jan Eyron, pianists. Sterling CDA 1661-2. 77:27

Wilhelm Peterson-Berger and Erik Axel Karfeldt were acquainted for a number of years and from time to time were Stockholm neighbors. But it was during the first decade of the twentieth century, when both composers were bachelors and had the luxury of time to meet in the cafes and restaurants that their friendship and collaboration was the most intense. In all Peterson-Berger set thirty five of Karfeldt’s poems, most for solo voice and piano, and others male chorus. This disc presents all twenty-five of the settings for solo voice, splendidly performed here by tenor Helge Brilioth and baritone Erland Hagegård, and quite ably accompanied by pianists Sven Alin and Eyron.

The texts are sweeping and romantic and the music is made to order, at times stormy, at others lush and somewhat melancholy, and again at others dancing and almost frivolous. Karfeldt’s poetry ranges in topic from hymns to the moon, to death, to love won and lost, and Peterson-Berger finds the seemingly perfect musical mood and nuance to express the somewhat flowery language of the poet.

Both Brilioth and Hagegård sing with a refined warmth and subtlety. I never once noticed any over-singing or excessive vibrato. Both singers have a fine even timber and a great palette of vocal color in all parts of their ranges and at all dynamic levels. They are accompanied to perfection by Mssrs. Alin and Eyron.

These are songs that are worthy of any recital program, and it seems to me that the only reason that we hear them so seldom outside of Scandinavia is that many American and western European singers might have difficulty with the Swedish language, beautiful and mellifluous as it is.

Sterling have given us a very present and warm recording, never overwrought and in very clear focus and detail. Program notes are abundant and informative and texts in both Swedish and English are provided. For any lover of song this is a highly recommendable recital. You’ll want to follow the texts for the first couple of listening though in order to get a handle on the poetry and its meaning.

Kevin Sutton

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