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Hugo Alfvén

Publisher: Edition Wilhelm Hansen

Midsommarvaka (1903), 19
Wilhelm Hansen
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
12 Minutes
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Programme Note
Hugo Alfvén Midsommarvaka (1903), 19
Hugo Alfvén went straight to the heart of the Swedish folk tunes when he wrote his Midsummer Vigil, Swedish Rhapsody, op. 19 (1903), for a large orchestra - a festive work in the favourite rhapsodic form of Romanticism where one theme (character) succeeds another to create a varied musical narrative. The work seems to leap right out of Swedish folk music with the presentation of the theme by a playful clarinet, lightly accompanied by a harp and pizzicato strings. But before we know where we are the leaves are whirled up and the full orchestra takes over - now with a more imitative, Fortspinnung-like character. After a breakneck ride on the whirligig, the slow middle section comes in with the beautiful Vindarna sucka uti skogarna (‘The winds sigh out in the forests’) as the basic material. A particular Swedish specialty is the melancholy, slightly resigned folk melody of which Vindarna sucka uti skogarna is a textbook example.

After this the theme is unfolded again in the full orchestra, finally making the transition to the third and last part of the work, the coda, where several themes are interwoven humorously into a sparkling finale with the sound of the folk fiddler and leaping dancers somewhere in the background.

According to tradition Midsummer Vigil was written as a response to criticism, since Alfvén had been accused of being far too earnest and serious in his work. Thus he proved that the opposite could also be the case.

The list of Alfvén’s works includes five symphonies, piano works, symphonic poems, ballet music and not least choral works, for both mixed choir and equal voices. The unusually many works for male choir can be attributed to the post he held for many years as conductor of the famous male choir Orphei Drängar. Besides his activities as a composer and choir conductor, Alfvén functioned as an orchestral conductor until a few years before his death in 1960.

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    Teesside High School, Stockton-on-Tees, Cleveland, USA
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    Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, UK
    Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
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    Heidelberg Palace, Germany
    Cambridgeshire Music Youth Orchestra
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    Meiningen, Germany
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    St David's Hall, Cardiff
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    Ukraine National Philharmony
    Niklas Willén, conductor
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    Kulturskolans Ungdomssymfoniker
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    Taipei Symphony Orchestra
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    Hochschulorchester Paderborn
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  • 27 JUN 2009
    St. Mary's Church, Swanage
    Dorset County Orchestra
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    Westmorland Hall, Westmorland
    Westmorland Orchestra
    Robert Chasey, conductor
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    Saalburg, Germany
    Landesjungendsinfonieorchester Hessen
    Martin Lukas Meister, conductor

    Other Dates:
    16 August - Saalburg, Germany
    21 September - Limburg, Germany
    29 October - Wiesbaden, Germany
  • 26 APR 2008
    Church of Christ Church, Northampton
    Northampton Symphony Orchestra

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