Highlights of the month:

The American composer and pianist Amy Beach wrote this short and superbly balanced piece for the Women’s Musical Congress in 1893 and dedicated it to the virtuoso violinist Maud Powell. Beach really does manage to make a point here, proving in six minutes that a woman was as capable as a man of concise artistic expression. A masterpiece of form and structure, the work was premiered at the World’s Fair in May 1893 by the dedicatee and the composer at the piano. Beach and Powell were unique trailblazers for female musicians and composers in the United States at this time.

Alternately vigorous and sensitive, this orchestration was made for the Swedish Dala Sinfonietta in 2020 with concertmaster Anders Jakobsson playing the solo part.

Amy Beach: Romance op. 23

The story goes that the young composer’s teacher, Arnold Schönberg, was very impressed by the first movement of what Berg had planned to be part of a larger work. So impressed was he in fact, that he told his pupil he had said “all there was to say” in one movement and Berg decided to let it stand by itself. It was written between the years 1908-9 at a time when a small group of composers were beginning to push the boundaries of conventional tonality. More than anyone else in this group, Alban Berg’s music is rooted in a passionate, yearning and expressive Romanticism and the Opus 1 Piano Sonata, his last student composition, is all of this.

The Sonata is simply perfection. Every single motif is well-balanced and beautifully shaped. I can only hope that the additional instrumental colours serve to further enhance the inner glow of the music; there are many ways to salute a masterwork and this is one of them.

Sonate op. 1 for sinfonietta
Sonate op. 1 for string septet

Written in 2019 for the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, ‘Ritornell’ emerged from a collaboration between Konserthuset Stockholm and the visionary and multidimensional artist duo Alexandrov/Klum. The piece was inspired by the beautiful pictures and texts presented by the couple and also reflects my own impression of their special combination of boundless energy and verve.

The chorale-theme presented (and later reiterated) at the beginning of the piece stems from a youthful sketch I made as a violin student in the far north of Sweden. Originally intended as an outline for a sonata for two violins it was abandoned and left unfinished. Much later I rediscovered it quite by accident amongst a large pile of half-forgotten arrangements. I was looking for musical inspiration and it turned out to be the perfect foundation for my new piece.

In Ritornell I am playing with the traditional ritornello form (A-B-A-C-A) whilst developing and juxtaposing elements from three separate musical ideas, all of which are derived from the opening phrase of the chorale. The casual listener need not be troubled by these technicalities however as he or she embraces the adventure of embarking upon an unpredictable musical journey.

It is dedicated to the team that made the concert production possible: Fredrik Andersson, Stefan Forsberg, Iris Alexandrov and Mattias Klum.

Ritornell (2019) for large orchestra