Hugo Alfvén (1872 – 1960) jumpstarted the genuinely Swedish school of concert music in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century and sustained his effort during the first half of the Twentieth Century. Following the example of the Russian composers, the ones denominated as “The Mighty Five,” Alfvén assimilated the heady tradition of Swedish folk music to the conventions of symphonic music. Alfvén wrote three “Swedish Rhapsodies.” The first, from 1908, celebrates the vestigially Catholic and vestigially Pagan festival of “May Eve.” The composition imitates Swedish folk-tunes, but all of the thematic material in Midsommarvaka is original to Alfvén. The composition falls on the ear as spontaneous and “natural,” but the score is brilliantly unified. Midsommarvaka is, in effect, a short symphony, in four movements, on Swedish themes. I have loved it since I first heard it in the early 1970s and I am happy to share it with the community of the Orthosphere.
Alfvén wrote a ballet-score. The Prodigal Son, just after the turn of the last century. It is a Bible-based story with traditional Swedish dance-tunes, from the fiddle tradition, as its musical foundation. Kristjian Järvi, the son of veteran conductor Paavo Järvi, is the conductor of the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic. He leads the orchestra in the finale of Alfvén’s ballet, a distinctly Swedish polska. Notice how he involves the audience in the performance. Notice how he has the musicians stand up when their part comes into play. It is an inspiring performance.