Fernström, John (Axel)

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Fernström, John (Axel)

Fernström, John (Axel), Swedish violinist, conductor, teacher, and composer; b. Ichang, China (of Swedish parents), Dec. 6, 1897; d. Lund, Oct. 19, 1961. He was the son of a Swedish missionary in China. After settling in Sweden, he studied violin at the Malmö Cons. (1913–15); also with Max Schlüter in Copenhagen (1917–21; 1923–24), and with Issay Barmas in Berlin (1921–22). He also studied composition with Peder Gram in Copenhagen (1923–30) and pursued composition and conducting studies at the Sonderhausen Cons. (1930). After playing violin in the Hälsingborg Sym. Orch. (1916–39), he was director of the Malmö Radio (1939–1). He then settled in Lund, where he was director of the municipal music school (1948–61); he also was conductor of the Orch. Soc. and founder-conductor of the Nordic Youth Orch. In 1953 he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. In addition to his writings on music theory, he was the author of the interesting autobiography Jubals son och blodsarvinge (1967). Fernstrom was an adept composer of instrumental music. In his works, he pursued a median course between traditional idioms and avantgarde styles; he wrote both tonal and atonal scores with fine results.


DRAMATIC Opera : Achnaton (1931); I-sissystarnas brollop (1942); Livet en dröm (1946). ORCH.: 12 syms. (1920; 1924; Exotica, 1928; 1930; 1932; 1938; Sinfonietta in forma di sonata de chiesa, 1941; Amove studiorum, 1942; Sinfonia breve, 1943; Sinfonia discrète, 1944; Utan mask, 1945; 1951); Symphonic Variations (1930); Chaconne for Cello and Orch. (1936); Clarinet Concerto (1936); Viola Concerto (1937); 2 violin concertos (1938,1952); Concertino for Flute, Women’s Chorus, and Small Orch. (1941); Bassoon Concerto (1946); Cello Concertino (1949); Ostinato for Strings (1952). CHAMBER: 8 string quartets (1920, 1925, 1931, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1950, 1952). VOCAL: Mass for Soli, Chorus, and Orch. (1931); Stabat Mater for Soli, Chorus, and Strings (1943); Den mödosamma vä gen, profane oratorio (1947); choral pieces; songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire