Not only neglected, completely vanished for more then 50 years - late romantic Swedish composer Helmer Alexandersson (1886–1927).
This disc is currently the only opportunity to hear some of his music.
More about the man and his music below ...
This is great music, don't miss it ... I know, you will love it :)
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Overture in C minor (1910)
Symphony No.2 in G minor (1914, 1919)
Uppsala Chamber Orchestra
Recorded: Live, January 2006, Uppsala University Aula
Helmer Alexandersson (1886-1927)
Overture in C minor and Symphony No. 2 in G minor
The most sorrowful document in the history of twentieth-century Swedish music may well be located in the Stockholm City Archive: Fattujbeuiset (Certificate of Indigence) 103/1928, witnessed under oath by the brother and sister of the deceased, his fiancee, two of his work colleagues and his landlady. This certificate was required so that the City of Stockholm should agree to cover the costs of burying one of its citizens.
Towards the end of January 1925, the composer Helmer Alexandersson moved to what was to be his final dwelling place. It was located in a gloomy house built in the 1880s, on the corner at the junction of Renstiernasgata and Bondegatan on S?dermalm; it became a victim of the bulldozers fifty years ago.
There, in abject poverty, Alexandersson died peacefully on Christmas Eve 1927 after 'severe nervous suffering'. A week later his funeral took place at Norra kyrkogarden (the North Cemetery); paid for out of public funds. In happier times he had become one of Sweden's best-loved and most frequently played composers. His posthumous reputation is maintained almost exclusively by his works. Information about the man himself is thinner on the ground: he was a modest and withdrawn man who never caused much of a fuss.
He lived most of his 41-year life in relative anonymity. He came to the public's attention only on isolated occasions - starting when he won a state composition scholarship in two successive years, 1910 and 1911. The next time he saw his own work in print was after it had been awarded a prize and chosen as the official festive march of the Olympic Games (1912). The last occasion was when he won the above-mentioned scholarship a third time in 1915, in recognition of his Symphony No. 2 in G minor, completed the previous year.
He had in fact written another symphony - a youthful work in D minor. According to the composer's hand-written list in the Stockholm Music Museum, however, 'it is not going to be performed, and should therefore not be mentioned'.
The original three symphony movements from 1914, plus a newly composed and strikingly innovative pizzicato movement, were premiered on Good Friday, 18th April 1919, with a repeat performance on Easter Day (20th April); we shall return to the unusual circumstances surrounding the performance presently. The Symphony in G minor received most attention, however, when Georg Schn?evoigt, artistic director of the Konsertf?rening Orchestra, played it on two occasions - 24th January and 4th March 1923.
'The spontaneous applause that greeted the work - and gradually grew into an ovation - gradually lured the composer onto the podium. It is remarkable indeed that an unknown Swedish composer was so heartily feted at a concert,' noted William Seymer in the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. He also praised the interpretation: 'Here Professor Schneevoigt had gone about his task with seriousness and fervour, and he received excellent, enthusiastic support from the orchestra' (27th January 1923). Kurt Atterberg, too, wrote that 'the conductor and composer were rewarded with prolonged applause and shouts of "bravo" (Stockholms-Tidnimjen, 27th January 1923). Even Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, normally among the most irascible of critics, felt duty-bound to acknowledge that 'when people finally had the chance to applaud, the hall resounded with shouts of "bravo", and the composer had to put in an appearance' (Dagens Nyheter, 27th January 1923).
The second performance took place at a matinee at which the prime attraction was Jean Sibelius, who after the interval conducted some of his best-known works. At the last moment, Jakob Adolf Hagg's 'Nordic' Symphony' had been replaced by Alexandersson's symphony, which opened the concert. 'Its effortless torrent of melody, reminiscent of Svendsen and Bruckner, made a strong impression on the audience - as it had the previous time the symphony was played - and the composer was called forward and acclaimed.'
'...And then elected to the F?reningen Svenska Tons?ttare (Society of Swedish Composers', Kurt Atterberg might have appended to his review in Stockholms-Tidningen on 5th March 1923. The reticent Alexandersson was treated like a hostage when, a couple of months later, the society protested publicly against the Stockholm Konsertf?rening's indifference to modern Swedish music. In a book issued to mark the society's 25th anniversary a facsimile of a letter was reproduced, signed by eleven composers, a move intended to lend weight to the decision to forbid further performances of their music until the Konsertf?rening changed its policy. The strategy of in practical terms blocking their works was a luxury that Alfv?n, Rangstr?m or Stenhammar might have coped with. But hardly Alexandersson. By signing the letter, Alexandersson was forced to condemn himself to silence.
The following year, Schn?evoigt left his position as chief conductor - but the orchestra's general manager, Erik Westberg, took mercy on the symphony's pizzicato movement, which he included in a school concert. The organization's deputy conductor, Adolf Wiklund, also performed it at his Boxing Day concert in 1925. After that, though, things grew quiet. Not until 4th December 1947 was the symphony played again - and then it was on the radio. Two generations of oblivion stretch between Sten Frykberg's performance with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Paul Magi's rediscovery of the piece with the Uppsala Chamber Orchestra in the Uppsala University Hall on 12th January 2006. A recording of that performance is featured on this CD.
Now that we can finally hear Helmer Alexandersson's early Overture in C minor and his Symphony in G minor, listeners may well form the opinion that he possessed such talent that he should have made a fortune. But a precondition for that would have been that - like all the other Swedish composers born in the 1800s (Peterson-Berger, Stenhammar, Alfven, Rangstrom, Wiklund, Rosenberg) - he could summon up the courage to stand up in front of an orchestra and conduct his own music. Or that providence had granted him sufficient years for the network of radio orchestras to develop. After the working conditions of Swedish orchestras were reformed in 1937-39 (whereby the players received salary for twelve months per year instead of just seven), there was a pressing need for precisely this sort of varied, melodic, inventive, well-scored and immediately attractive music - exactly the type of work that Alexandersson did best.
The tragedy was that he died just before modern Swedish music attitudes took hold, and with them the possibility for a composer to make a living from his works. .....