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Alfvén, Hugo (Emil)

Alfvén, Hugo (Emil)

Alfvén, Hugo (Emil), eminent Swedish composer and choral conductor; b. Stockholm, May 1, 1872; d. Falun, May 8, 1960. He was a student of Johan Lindberg (violin) and Aron Bergenson (harmony) at the Stockholm Cons. (1887–90); during this period, he also pursued training in painting with Otto Hesselbom and Oscar Töornå. From 1890 to 1897 he was a violinist in the Royal Opera Orch. in Stockholm. He also studied violin with Lars Zetterquist and composition with Johan Lindegren (1891–97). In 1896, 1897, and 1899 he held the composer’s scholarship of the Royal Academy of Music, which allowed him to travel abroad, including a sojourn in Brussels to study violin with César Thomson (1897–98). From 1900 to 1903 he was a Jenny Lind scholar, which enabled him to study in various European cities, including Dresden with Hermann Kutzschbach, where he also received training in conducting (1901–02). From 1910 to 1939 he served as Director Musices of the Univ. of Uppsala. He also was conductor of the Orphei Drängar (1910–47), the Uppsala student-kars allmanna sangförening (1919–31; 1934–38), and the Svenska sangarförbundet (1921–43). In 1908 he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Music. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Univ. of Uppsala in 1917. His vivid autobiography was publ. in 4 vols, in Stockholm as Första satsen: Ungdomsminnen (1946), Tempo furioso: Vandringsår (1948), I dur och moll: Fran Uppsalaåren (1949), and Final (1952). Alfvén’s early training in painting is reflected in his adoption as a composer of a carefully crafted but colorful late Romantic idiom. He won distinction as a composer of orch. music and choral works. His folksong settings for chorus were particularly successful in Sweden. Outside his homeland, he remains best known for his popular first Swedish rhapsody for orch., Midsommarvaka (Midsummer Vigil; 1903).


DRAMATIC: Bergakungen (The Mountain King), pantomime drama (1916–23; Stockholm, Feb. 7, 1923); Gustav II Adolf, incidental music (Stockholm, Nov. 6, 1932); Den fòrlorade sonen (The Prodigal Son), ballet (Stockholm, April 27, 1957). ORCH.: 5 syms.: No. 1 (1896–97; Stockholm, Feb. 9, 1897; rev. 1903–04; Stockholm, May 10, 1904), No. 2 (1897–98; Stockholm, May 2, 1899), No. 3 (1905; Gòteborg, Dec. 3, 1906), No. 4, Fran havsbandet (From the Outermost Skerries; 1918–19; Stockholm, Nov. 4, 1919), and No. 5 (1942–52; 1st complete perf., Stockholm, April 30, 1952); 3 Swedish rhapsodies: No. 1, Midsommarvaka (Midsummer Vigil; 1903; Stockholm, May 10, 1904), No. 2, Uppsala-rhapsodi: Akademisk festouverture (Uppsala, May 23, 1907), and No. 3, Dala-rhapsodien (1931; Stockholm, April 27, 1932); En skärgårdssägen (A Legend of the Skerries), symphonic poem (1904; Stockholm, March 31, 1905); Festpel (1907; Stockholm, Feb. 18, 1908); Drapa, in memory of King Oscar II (Stockholm, May 16, 1908); Bröllopsmarsch (Wedding March; 1909); F est-ouverture for Military Band (1909); Elégie (Vid Emil Sjögrens bar [Elegie: At Emil Sjögren’s Funeral], tone poem (Stockholm, Oct. 18, 1918); Hjalmar Brantings sorgmarsch (Hjal-mar Branting’s Funeral March) for Wind Orch. (1924; Stockholm, March 1, 1925); Synnöve Solbakken, suite (Stockholm, Oct. 22, 1934); Festmarsch for orkester till Stockholmsutställningengs öppnande 1930 (1930); F est-ouverture (Malmö, Sept. 24, 1944); En bygdesaga (A District Fairy Tale), suite (1944). CHAMBER: Violin Sonata (Stockholm, March 20, 1896); Elegi for Horn or Cello and Organ (1897); Serenade for Violin and Piano (c. 1902); Serenade på Mammas födelsedag (Serenade on Mother’s Birthday) for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, and Piano (1902); Andante religioso for Celesta, Harp, and String Quartet (1913; also for String Orch.); Roslagspolketta for Violin and Piano (1956); piano pieces, including 3 Skärgårdsbilder (Pictures from the Skerries; 1901–02). VOCAL: Cantatas: Vid sekelskiftet: Nyårskantaten for Soloist, Chorus, and Orch. (1899; Stockholm, Jan. 1, 1900); Uppen-barelsekantat for Bass or Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Saltsjö-baden, May 18, 1913); Kantat vid Baltiska utställningens i Malmö öppnande for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Malmö, May 15, 1914); Kantat vid Uppsala läns Kungl. Hushållningssallskaps 100-årsjubileum 1915 for Chorus and Orch. (Uppsala, Dec. 1, 1915); Kantat vid Reformationsfesten i Uppsala 1917 for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Uppsala, Oct. 31, 1917); Kantat vid Vårldspostunionens halvesekelsjubileum 1924 for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Stockholm, Aug. 16, 1924); Kantat vid Uppsala universitets 450-årsjubileum for Alto, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Uppsala, Sept. 15, 1927); Kantat vid Svenska Röda korsets högtidssammanko-mst 2 maj 1930 for Alto, Chorus, and Orch. (Stockholm, May 2, 1930); Kantat vid Sveriges Riksdags 500-års minnesfest 1935 for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (Stockholm, May 28, 1935). OTHER: Herrens bön for Soprano, Alto, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1899–1901; Stockholm, Dec. 2, 1902); many men’s choruses, including Frihetssång (1900), Gustaf Frödings jordafärd (1911), Sverges flagga (1916), and Gryning vid havet (1933); numerous folk song arrangements.


S. Svensson, H. A., Som människa och konstnär (Uppsala, 1946); P. Lindfors, H. A. berattär (Stockholm, 1966); J. Rudén, H. A.: Kompositioner/Musical Works: Käll-och Verkför-teckning/Thematic Index (Stockholm, 1972); special issue of Musikrevy, XXVI/2 (1972); L. Hedwall, H. A.: En svensk tonsät-tares liv och verk (Stockholm, 1973); idem, H. A.: Ein bildbiografi (Tierp, 1990).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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