Dag Wirén\'s reputation continues to rest exclusively on the popularity of his charming little Serenade for Strings, an early work full of irresistibly catchy tunes. His Second and Third Symphonies (the First was withdrawn) contain themes no less appealing, and reveal a composer who combines music organically evolved from simple thematic cells, typical of late Sibelius, with something of Carl Nielsen\'s thrusting, muscular energy. Not a bad combination! In fact, Wirén\'s symphonic achievement rubs shoulders easily with the 20th century\'s finest works in the form. The second Symphony is all pastoral sunshine, vigorous energy, and glorious lyricism, while the Third portrays the eventual triumph of its song-like, rhapsodic elements over its more active, aggressive ones. The two Concert Overtures offer the same masterful thematic organization, orchestration, and clarity of purpose found in the symphonies. They are delightful, and all four works receive magnificently bold, positive performances, richly recorded.
Wirén was at heart an austere, self-critical composer who knew exactly what his strengths were. He composed slowly and deliberately and gave his scores the sort of finish, without a trace of excess fat or a note out of place, that brings to mind artists of a similar bent, if very different sound: Manuel de Falla, Edgard Varèse, and Carl Ruggles for example, as well as Sibelius, Nielsen, Webern, and perhaps above all, Poulenc. In common with Wirén, these composers all combine in their works directness of expression, obsessive technical precision, intellectual honesty, and absolute fidelity to their various aesthetic creeds. Wirén\'s faith in tonality and his musical sense of humor (like Poulenc) make it easy to dismiss his work as lightweight, but to do so would be a serious mistake. There\'s a \"completeness\" about each piece that brooks no compromise, however approachable his idiom. Sensitive listeners who cherish this quality in a composer know what a rare thing it is, and can\'t fail to recognize it in virtually every bar of the music on this disc.