Vintage WIREN = Concert Overture No. 2, Op. 16; Serenade for String Orchestra, Op. 11; Ironic Small Sketches for Piano, Op. 19; Sonatina for Piano, Op. 25; Suite miniature for Violin and Piano, Op. 8a; Sonatina No. 1 for Cello and Piano, Op. 1; Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 10; Sinfonietta, Op. 7 – Stockholm Radio Orchestra/Tor Mann/Goeteborg Symphony Orchestra/Sixten Eckerberg/Camilla Kinberg, piano/ Stig Ribbing, piano (Op. 25)/Sven Karpe, violin/ Maurice Marechal, cello/Harry Ebert, piano/ Gustav Groendahl, cello (Op. 10)/Sixten Ehrling/ Dag Wiren, piano and conductor
Caprice CAP 21761, 79:47 [Distr. by Qualiton] ****:
Swedish composer Dag Wiren (1905-1986) survives in the minds of many music lovers through his one unqualified success, the 1937 Serenade for String Orchestra; but he created works in a variety of idioms, and this disc provides some historical perspective on a body of work though not prodigious, that always generated a sense of quality craftsmanship.
Conductor Tor Mann (1894-1974) delivers a virile Concert Overture No. 2 (1940) from 11 September 1943, a serious piece marked Allegro moderato. Tonal in nature, the piece conforms to Wiren’s strictures about conceiving “listener-friendly modern music.” The stormy syntax borrows something from Nielsen and possibly Sibelius, though Wiren claimed his great influence derived from Arthur Honegger. The ubiquitous four-movement String Serenade conducted by Wiren’s friend and colleague Sixten Eckerberg (27 September 1940) carries its fluent cosmopolitan opening Praeludium through its layered paces. The lovely Andante conveys an elegiac nostalgia over a decidedly strong pizzicato bass. The brash energetic Scherzo yields to a moment of somber meditation. The martial Finale suggests the zeitgeist of 1937, not by reverence but by passing dissonances that intimate a light for humanity’s future.
Five Short, Ironic Pieces (1942-1945) might equate to Beethoven’s Bagatelles or Prokofiev’s Sarcasms. The first is a witty march whose breeziness might look to Poulenc. The second is a choppy bit of syncopation in moving 16ths and jazzy bass figures. Promenad gives us Wiren the boulevardier in jaunty terms, often reminiscent of a Prokofiev fugitive vision or a moment from Shostakovich. A waltz follows, angular and dreamy, with a long-held second or third beat and deft motions from pianist Camilla Kinberg (14 March 1950). The last is a gaudy percussive dance in the spirit of irreverent Debussy grafted to whimsical Gershwin. The three-movement Sonatina (1950) lasts only six minutes and conforms to the martial and lyrico-declamatory style quite familiar to Wiren. Played by Stig Ribbing (10 August 1951), the piece exerts in the outer movements a student-exercise sensibility, though the Andante possesses a melancholy haunted character.
Wiren accompanies Sven Karpe (rec. 1953) in the Suite miniature (1934), a modest five-movement set in wiry harmony, akin to Dvorak’s Four Romantic Pieces, though the harmonies range towards bitonality, especially in the Adagio. The ensuing Allegro wishes to gallop but cannot quite find the momentum. The Andante espressivo hints at a chorale, though the violin plays raspy chords atop the keyboard. A quick country dance concludes this breezy, almost ephemeral piece. The Sonatina for Cello and Piano (1931) occupies Wiren’s Op. 1. The distinguished French cellist Maurice Marcechal (1892-1964) joins Harry Ebert in a recording made 8 May 1940. The balances of texture move with facility, the melodic tissue rather folksy. Attacca to the step-wise Adagio, melancholy and lyrical, a showpiece for the Marechal tone. Attacca once more to the Molto vivace, both brisk and martial, reminiscent of Shostakovich but more lighthearted.
The Cello Concerto (1936) enjoys the collaboration of Gustav Groendahl and Sixten Ehrling (1918-2005) from a performance of 10 October 1950. The repeated martial figure certainly adumbrates the Shostakovich E-flat Concerto, Op. 107, though on a smaller but equally intense scale. Sibelius seems to guide the affect of the Andante espressivo, though the figures rise in agitation soon after the plangent opening. Cello and bassoon engage in a fugal episode that gathers ferocious energy, only to relent in the cello’s cadenza, which often imitates a guitar or violin. The tango-like colloquy with the woodwinds and plucked strings ends this fascinating movement. A furious plunge into the final whimsical Allegro concludes this brief but highly gratifying virtuosic piece.
Wiren provides the “final word,” performing with a radio-symphony his 1934 Sinfonietta (4, 19 May 1948). A substantial piece, its three movements engage in some neo-classic figures by way of Stravinsky and colorful French influence. More than once, the woodwind filigree carries a hint of lyrical Roussel informed by Nielsen‘s pageantry. This marvelous sound document makes a splendid introduction to a composer whose work consistently gratifies the ear and the mind.