Sweden Chamber Music in the Open: Soloists, Samuel Skönberg (piano), Vattnäs Extended Chamber Orchestra / Gudrun Dahlkvist (conductor), Vattnäs Concert Barn, Dalecarlia, Sweden 7.7.2019. (GF)
‘Chamber Music in the Open’ said the advertisements for the concert in the afternoon the day after the premiere of Das Rheingold. (review). However, rain had been forecast and as the audience gathered there were dark clouds above the concert barn, prompting the organizers to move the whole concert inside, which turned out to be a wise decision, since it was drizzly and chilly and hence there were no complaints from the numerous visitors. They were met in the foyer by a trio of clarinettists who entertained before the concert proper.
As for the opera the previous evening, the orchestra was seated on the balcony behind the audience and the string section opened with Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, one of his earliest compositions, wherein the central larghetto in particular is very attractive and points to the mature master. After a short introduction by the host of the afternoon, Anna Larsson, artistic director of the concert barn, young dramatic soprano Maja Frydén (Freia in Das Rheingold) gave a fresh reading of Elisabeth’s greeting song from Tannhäuser. More Wagner followed suit in the shape of one of his few non-operatic works, the Siegfried Idyll for orchestra, a birthday present to his wife Cosima upon the birth of their son Siegfried. Anna Larsson then sang Richard Strauss’s Morgen with piano accompaniment and violin obbligato, i.e. the solo violin part from Strauss’s own arrangement for orchestra. It is one of Strauss’s most beautiful songs and it was sensitively performed. Like the Siegfried Idyll, this was also a present to the composer’s wife, this time as a wedding gift.
It should be mentioned at this stage that the excellent pianist Samuel Skönberg had a busy afternoon. Not only did he accompany several of the songs, he also deputised for the harp in some of the orchestral music. The young tenor Simon Petersson (Froh in Das Rheingold) then sang two Swedish songs, August Körling’s Aftonstämning (Evening Mood) and a composition of his own, När jag såg dig första gången (When I saw you for the first time). He has a beautiful lyric voice and the songs were attractive. A string quartet then entered the diminutive stage and performed two quartet movements by two Swedish female composers: one of the leading present day composers, Andrea Tarrodi and the pioneer of the second half of the 19th century, Elfrida Andrée. Excellent music from both and the etheric piece by Ms. Tarrodi is certainly a masterwork. A recording of her complete string quartets (so far) was awarded a ‘Grammis’ a few years ago (the Swedish equivalent to the American Grammy). In the last piece before the interval, Anna Larsson and her tenor husband Göran Eliasson joined forces in Grieg’s Jeg elsker dig (I love you). A truly charming performance.
The bassoon is rarely heard as a solo instrument but after the interval we were treated to a veritable feast in a concert by ‘the French Mozart’ Francois Devienne, himself a brilliant bassoonist, consisting of three catchy movements that drew ovations from the audience. The rest of the concert offered vocal pearls: Simon Petersson with Tamino’s aria from Die Zauberflöte; Maja Frydén with the song to the moon from Dvořák’s Rusalka; Göran Eliasson deviated somewhat from the ‘classical’ path with Speak Low from Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus, a song he does extremely well; Maja Frydén returned with a dramatic and deeply felt reading of Sibelius’s Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte, usually titled The Tryst in English, whereupon Anna Larsson – a Mahler specialist if ever there was one – sang two of the five Rückert songs, Ich atmet einen linden Duft and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen. Time literally stood still during the latter. After this song I usually don’t want to hear anything else, but this time all four singers got together in a sensitive reading of Sjöberg’s Tonerna, and that was also a worthy conclusion to a concert with several items from off the beaten track. A well spent Saturday afternoon!