Dag Wirén

“Honest, straight to the point, balanced but uncompromising - such was the personality of the Swedish composer Dag Wirén. The same can be said of his music: it never tries to be anything but itself, it addresses the listener directly, it obeys unswervingly its own laws.”

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These are words by Jan Carlstedt about Dag Wirén, who together with Lars-Erik Larsson and Gunnar de Frumerie has come to represent the 30s generation in Swedish music. He was born in 1905 and grew up in a musical family in the region of Bergslagen. In 1926 he went to Stockholm to study composition at the State Academy of Music. Along with many other Scandinavian composers and artists he continued his studies in Paris, where he spent some fruitful years during the inter-war-period and was greatly influenced by neo classicism, Les Six and Stravinsky. When listening to Wirén’s music you also find that the Nordic tradition has been a great source of inspiration to his music, above all, Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius.

Dag Wirén t Chief among Wirén’s works from this period are Sinfonietta (composed in Paris 1934), the Violoncello Concerto (1936) and Serenade for String Orchestra (1937). The Serenade has won an outstanding popularity in Sweden and also belongs to the most frequently performed Swedish works abroad. The light, diverting, elegant style characterizing his earlier works was later combined with a more serious approach and an obvious deepening of aim and expression. A hallmark of this development is the use of the metamorphosis technique. Wirén lets one small, seemingly insignificant motif permeate a whole work, a motif that expands, and develops through all the movements. 

Symphony No. 3 (1944) and the Violin Concerto (1946) are important works marking his development, and qualitative highlights of his following writing are Symphony No. 4 (1952) and String Quartet No. 4 (1953). Dag Wirén also composed music for the theatre and for the film. Best known among these works is perhaps the stage music to Almqvist’s Amorina (1951), from which the motif to Symphony No. 5 (1964) was collected. Later works of importance include Music for String Orchestra (1967), described by the critics as a late companion to the Serenade, although more stringent in style, String Quartet No. 5 (1970), a Wind Quintet (1971), and a Flute Concertino (1972). 

Dag Wirén still belongs to the most performed Swedish composers. Musicians and audiences of today enjoy his music because of its fresh immediacy and its felicitous combination of solid craftsmanship and genuine lust for life. 

Selected works:

  • Annorstädes vals
  • Ironiska småstycken for Piano
  • Serenade for Strings Op. 11
  • Titania for Female Choir