Hugo Alfvén
Hugo Alfvén

Hugo Alfvén

Hugo Alfvén is one of Sweden’s best-known and best-loved composers. His abundant output mainly comprises virtuoso orchestral music, romantic solo songs and choral songs in folk idiom.

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Born 1st May 1872 in Stockholm, died 8th May 1960 in Mora. He studied at the Stockholm Conservatory (1887-1891) and then privately with Johan Lindegren. He took violin lessons from Lars Zetterkvist. Conjointly with his conservatory studies, he also studied painting with Otto Hesselbom and Oscar Törnå. He was a violinist in the Royal Opera Orchestra 1890-1892. In 1897-1898 he continued his violin studies with Cesar Thomson in Brussels, but after that he devoted himself entirely to composition. He was awarded the Composer’s Scholar ship of the Royal Academy of Music in 1896-1897 and 1899, and on receiving the Jenny Lind Scholarship in 1900 he went abroad for three years, visiting Paris, Vienna, Budapest, Italy and Spain. He never took up the appointment of Composition Teacher offered him at the Stockholm Conservatory in 1903. In 1910 he became Director Musices at Uppsala University, an appointment he retained until his retirement in 1939, when he settled in Leksand. He directed various choirs and choruses: Orphei Drängar 1910-1947, Allmänna sången 1919-1931 and 1934-1938, the (mixed) Uppsala Student chorus 1935-1938, and, as principal conductor, the Swedish Union of Male Voice Choirs 1921-1943. An eminent orchestral conductor, he made Sweden’s first stereo gramophone recording in 1954, featuring his own Midsummer Vigil (Midsommarvaka). He was made hon. Ph.D. Uppsala University,1917; Member of the Royal Academy of Music 1908; Litt. et art. 1916. lfvén (this is preamble for english version of Hugo Alfvén Biography.

Hugo Alfvén is one of Sweden’s best-known and best-loved composers. His abundant output mainly comprises virtuoso orchestral music, romantic solo songs and choral songs in folk idiom. His first symphony (1896) made him one of the first modern Swedish composers to explore this genre. It is an impressive first effort, and the second (1899) confirmed his breakthrough, though at the same time he was branded as donnish. His infectious sense of humour was first revealed by his Swedish rhapsody, Midsommarvaka (1903). A succession of orchestral works, including another three symphonies, strengthened his reputation as the leading orchestral composer of his time. Brilliance of colouring and intensity of expression in the post Romantic spirit are the hallmarks of these compositions.

His work as a chorus master inspired a long succession of choral compositions, among which he himself rated the folk song settings as one of his most important contributions to music. They have been a firm standby of Swedish choirs ever since. His eminent position in Swedish music-making also brought many official commissions, e.g. more than ten cantatas and the choral song Sveriges Flagga for Swedish Flag Day.

Alfvén’s memoirs reveal a talent for vivid, boisterous narrative.

Stig Jacobsson
Source: STIM / Swedish Music Information Centre

Selected works:

    • Bergakungen - Balett (The Mountain King)
    • Elegi from Gustaf II Adolf - Suite for Orchestra
    • En skärgårdssägen (A Legend of the Skerries)
    • Saa tag mit hjerte
    • Synnöve Solbakken - Suite
    • Vallflickans dans (Herd Maiden's Dance) from Bergakungen (The Mountain King) - Suite for Orchestra