Emil Sjögren: 100 Year Commemorative Collection
Tobias Ringborg, Anders Kilström, John Forsell, Wilhelm Stenhammar, John Forsell, Hjalmar Meissner, Petja Svensson, Bengt-Åke Lundin, Armas Järnefelt, Göran W. Nilson, Matilda Paulsson, Arve Tellefsen, Märtha Ohlsson, Emil Sjögren
In 2018, it has been 100 years since Sweden lost one of the country’s great musical personalities, which Caprice Records wants to note by releasing this 60 track extensive collection of his magnificent chamber music. Emil Sjögren (1853-1918), in spite of his decreasing position during much of the 20th century, is now seen as one of the foremost romantic composers in Swedish musical history. Especially known for his enormous production of chamber music (contrasted by an almost nonexistent production of orchestral music), it vividly illustrates his enormous talent and numerous inspirations.
Sjögren was not very much to look at, but a look from those beautiful brown eyes was unforgettable. He was below average height, slim and frail, but very well-proportioned. (…) His manner was calm and refined, and he was always very polite and considerate towards other people. (…) When he joined in the conversation, though, he was immensely witty about it, and there was a great deal of French ésprit about him. He fought like a lion for people he respected and ideals he cherished, and on such occasions his expressive brown eyes could flash with fury.
(Signe Gyllenstierna, from “Sjögrenminnen”)
Sweden in the 1880s. Modernity is on its way in; the old bourgeois idealistic Romanticism is on its way out. Writers like August Strindberg, Viktor Lennstrand and Gustaf af Geijerstam scoffed at tradition, Christianity and the family – they wanted to “introduce the harsh reality into art and bring social issues into debate”. These socialist agitators were perceived by the Oscarian Sweden as the “grave diggers” of culture. Here, both cultural elite and ordinary citizens still spoke about art and music as “the teacher of morals and the servant of the Christian faith”. They maintained that “people who have loved Geijer and Tegnér cannot love Strindbergian hatred.” Emil Sjögren too, like the painter Carl Larsson and the poet Helena Nyblom, was an advocate of the old way of thinking and living. “Our authors occupy themselves solely with social problems, and their works are simply not suitable to set to music,” writes Emil Sjögren in a letter to a friend in 1884.
In his obituary about Emil Sjögren, Ture Rangström wrote that Sjögren and his music “believed life to be good. Now that so many pinnacles and fortresses have fallen, so many beliefs and convictions have been shattered, it is invigorating to look back on those days when all was faith and conviction, all was hopeful, and all the towers and pinnacles of our youthful hope were impregnable. Of course, all was not pure and free from debris, but his music is typical of a lyrical time, whose essence was not was ruined by heavy and dull issues about what is right and wrong”.
These words were written in 1918; the First World War and the Russian Revolution had in a very short time wiped out the old, secure world that Emil Sjögren represented, and his music would soon be come to be despised by the prosaic cultural pundits of the new age. His music was excluded, for example, when in the 1940s a series of Swedish chamber music works from Johann Helmich Roman to contemporary were to be issued on record, the explanation being that “his compositions do not pose any interesting compositional problems”.
During Emil Sjögren’s upbringing in the beautiful family home, the family members devoted the evenings to reading aloud, with subsequent discussions. Emil read a great deal and participated in little plays. However, there was one thing lacking in the Sjögren home, and that was music. When he was ten years old, his father hastily died of a severe illness, and then began a long struggle to find his place in life. He did not really know what he would actually do until he was 30 years old, and he did not obtain any real position until another eight years later.
Emil Sjögren’s father is said to have been emotional and an aesthete (he had worked his way from the employment as a simple shop clerk in Kalmar to becoming a well-to-do clothing retailer in Stockholm), and his mother was a lively and imaginative woman from Värmland who took a great interest in fictional litterature. These parental characteristics formed the cultural basis of Emil Sjögren’s upbringing. After his father’s death, he had to quit school to help out more at home, but he also began to take piano and organ lessons, as well as started working as a clerk in a piano shop. He later enrolled at the conservatory in Stockholm, and studied piano under Hilda Thegerström and the organ under Gustav Mankell, and it was towards the end of this period of studies that he began composing. The composer Ludvig Norman was one of those who endeavored to improve Sjögren’s situation, and even his bosses at the piano business also recognized the burning talent when they saw it, and began to make plans to help him become a musician.
After establishing a faithful audience among Stockholm’s cultivated bourgeois salons, Emil Sjögren had his first significant success as composer in the 1880s, when in 1883 his piano suite Erotikon won the first prize in a Scandinavian composition contest in Copenhagen, and in 1888 his Second Violin Sonata attracted a great deal of attention at the Nordic Music Festival, also in Copenhagen. His works began to be published by the distinguished publishers Peters in Leipzig and Breitkopf & Härtel in Wiesbaden, and no less a figure than Franz Liszt expressed his great appreciation for the First Violin Sonata. In 1883, he managed to secure a scholarship to finance a study trip abroad, which would last for three years and bring him to a variety of cultural centers on the continent, such as Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Venice, Merano – and Paris, the city that would become so very important to him. Throughout his long journey, Sjögren had time to experience a lot of things that must have enriched him personally, and many impressions found their way into his music.
Upon his return, he found employment as a teacher in music theory at the newly established Richard Andersson School of Music, where one of his students was a young Wilhelm Stenhammar. In 1891, he became the permanent organist at the then newly built Johannes (St. John’s) Church in Stockholm, a post he would hold for the rest of his life. It was during this period that his improvisational art became something of a phenomenon in the city. It was quite the fashion on Sundays – especially among the students at the conservatory – to “go to Johannes and listen to Sjögren”.
Innumerable people were moved to reverence and supplication by Emil Sjögren’s playing. His capacity as an improviser was extraordinary, highly individual and original. His chorale preludes were often little masterpieces which I wish I could have written down. (…) Organ students at the Academy of Music and other music lovers went on pilgrimage to St. John’s Church, and to them it was a real experience listening to these ingenious, sparkling sequences of harmony on an excellent instrument, exquisitely registered.
(Otto Olsson, from ”Några minnen av Emil Sjögren”)
Of course, life had its low point even for Emil Sjögren, and after the sudden death of his mother in an accident, and suffering for several years from psoriasis, he was afflicted with a serious depression that almost caused his demise in 1895. With the marriage of one of his ex-students, Berta Dahlman (1866-1968), his luck changed however, and things started to slowly turn around. His health improved, and she became his support throughout his lifetime, continuing to work for the promotion of his music long after the composer’s death. As late as 1947, she wrote the preface to the complete edition of his songs, and in 1956 to the violin sonatas. Mrs. Berta Sjögren was a distinguished Francophile, and it was on her initiative that the couple in the years 1901-1914 often sojourned in Paris, where she made contacts and saw to it that Emil’s music was performed by great celebrities. These performances took place at prominent venues, and the musicians included the violinists Jacques Thibaud and Georges Enescu, and the pianist Lucien Wurmser. At the premiere of the Fifth Violin Sonata in Paris in 1913, Enescu played the violin and Sjögren himself the piano. His music was performed in the same halls where Frédéric Chopin’s and Franz Liszt’s music had first been heard 70 years earlier.
In 1910, the Sjögrens settled down in their own villa near Uppsala, where they resided peacefully, far from the turbulence of the world. Emil Sjögren composed and worked at the church on Sundays; they received friends – among others, Wilhelm Stenhammar and Tor Aulin, both of whom often performed his music. When the First World War broke out, Emil Sjögren became very distressed. The British Foreign Minister uttered the profound and prophetic words, “Now the lights have gone out over Europe, and it will be a long time before they are lit again.” Emil Sjögren’s trips to Paris were made impossible, his health deteriorated, but he continued to compose indefatigably. On March 1, 1918, nine months before the armistice, he died, surrounded his wife Berta and a few friends in a hotel room in Stockholm.
- 1.Poéme in C Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 40 Music: Emil Sjögren
- 2.Novelettes, Op. 14: I. Allegro vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 3.Novelettes, Op. 14: II. Andante Music: Emil Sjögren
- 4.Novelettes, Op. 14: III. Vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 5.Novelettes, Op. 14: IV. Allegro con moto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 6.Novelettes, Op. 14: V. Allegretto quasi andantino Music: Emil Sjögren
- 7.Novelettes, Op. 14: VI. Finale: Allegro vivace energico Music: Emil Sjögren
- 8.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 2, Jahrlang möcht' ich so Dich halten Music: Emil Sjögren
- 9.Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Op. 19: I. Allegro vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 10.Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Op. 19: II. Andante Music: Emil Sjögren
- 11.Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, Op. 19: III. Finale: Presto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 12.Ro, ro, ögonsten Music: Emil Sjögren
- 13.Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 58 (1912): I. Allegro agitato Music: Emil Sjögren
- 14.Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 58 (1912): II. Romanza Music: Emil Sjögren
- 15.Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 58 (1912): III. Allegro con spirito Music: Emil Sjögren
- 16.Violin Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 24: I. Allegro moderato Music: Emil Sjögren
- 17.Violin Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 24: II. Allegretto scherzando Music: Emil Sjögren
- 18.Violin Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 24: III. Andante sostenuto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 19.Violin Sonata No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 24: IV. Con fuoco Music: Emil Sjögren
- 20.Hvil over verden, Op. 3 Music: Emil Sjögren
- 21.Contrabandieren, Op. 9 Music: Emil Sjögren
- 22.Piano Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 35: I. Allegro moderato energico Music: Emil Sjögren
- 23.Piano Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 35: II. Andante tranquillamente Music: Emil Sjögren
- 24.Piano Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 35: III. Allegro con moto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 25.Violin Sonata No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 32: I. Allegro moderato Music: Emil Sjögren
- 26.Violin Sonata No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 32: II. Allegro vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 27.Violin Sonata No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 32: III. Molto andante Music: Emil Sjögren
- 28.Violin Sonata No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 32: IV. Allegro assai - Allegro energico Music: Emil Sjögren
- 29.Dryckesvisa Music: Emil Sjögren
- 30.Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 44: I. Allegro vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 31.Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 44: II. Andante cantabile e con moto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 32.Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 44: III. Allegro ma non troppo con allegrezza Music: Emil Sjögren
- 33.Two Lyric Pieces: I. Andantino quasi Allegretto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 34.Two Lyric Pieces: II. Andante sostenuto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 35.Jag giver mit Digt til Vaaren Music: Emil Sjögren
- 36.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 1, Du schaust mich an mitt stummen Fragen Music: Emil Sjögren
- 37.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 2, Jahrlang möcht' ich so Dich halten Music: Emil Sjögren
- 38.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 3, Wie soll ich's bergen Music: Emil Sjögren
- 39.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 4, Hab' ein Röslein Dir gebrochen Music: Emil Sjögren
- 40.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 5, Vor einen Auge Music: Emil Sjögren
- 41.Six Lieder from Julius Wolff's Tannhäuser, Op. 12: No. 6, Ich möchte schweben Music: Emil Sjögren
- 42.Morceau de Concert, Op. 45 Music: Emil Sjögren
- 43.I Seraillet Have Music: Emil Sjögren
- 44.Violin Sonata No. 4 in B Minor, Op. 47: I. Andante espressivo Music: Emil Sjögren
- 45.Violin Sonata No. 4 in B Minor, Op. 47: II. Scherzo vivacissimo Music: Emil Sjögren
- 46.Violin Sonata No. 4 in B Minor, Op. 47: III. Andante con moto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 47.Violin Sonata No. 4 in B Minor, Op. 47: IV. Allegro vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 48.Erotikon, Op. 10: I. Allegro agitato Music: Emil Sjögren
- 49.Erotikon, Op. 10: II. Allegretto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 50.Erotikon, Op. 10: III. Vivacissimo, 'Au bord d'une source' Music: Emil Sjögren
- 51.Erotikon, Op. 10: IV. Andantino Music: Emil Sjögren
- 52.Erotikon, Op. 10: V. Nocturne: Andante tranquillo Music: Emil Sjögren
- 53.Two Fantasy Pieces, Op. 27: I. Andante sostenuto Music: Emil Sjögren
- 54.Two Fantasy Pieces, Op. 27: II. Allegretto vivace Music: Emil Sjögren
- 55.Alt vandrer Maanen sin Vej i Kvæld Music: Emil Sjögren
- 56.Violin Sonata No. 5 in A minor, Op. 61: I. Andante sostenuto ed espressivo - Allegro con anima Music: Emil Sjögren
- 57.Violin Sonata No. 5 in A minor, Op. 61: II. Scherzo vivacissimo Music: Emil Sjögren
- 58.Violin Sonata No. 5 in A minor, Op. 61: III. Andante con nobile Music: Emil Sjögren
- 59.Violin Sonata No. 5 in A minor, Op. 61: IV. Allegro giocoso Music: Emil Sjögren
- 60.Piano Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 44: II. Andante cantabile e con moto Music: Emil Sjögren
- Total playtime