Photo: Ulla Lidholm
Photo: Ulla Lidholm

Ingvar Lidholm

Ingvar Lidholm is one of the classics of 20th century Swedish music. Tradition was important to him, from antique drama to renaissance vocal polyphony. Still, he was a renewer; to simply write according to a formula would have been impossible for him. He seeked the unique in each work he composed.

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Ingvar Lidholm was a central figure in the Swedish music life for seven decades. His production is not copious, but most of his works are part of the standard repertoire. The reasons for this are not least the compositional clarity and personal integrity of his works. There is also another characteristic of Lidholm’s artistic sensibility, most visible during the 50s and 60s: the successive radicalisation of his expression. From Bach, Hindemith, Carl Nielsen and the Nordic atmosphere inspiring Toccata e canto, the 23-year old’s breakthrough work, Lidholm progressed through expressionism and twelve-tone techniques in for example Ritornell (1955) and Skaldens Natt (The Poet’s Night, 1958/81), finally reaching a challenging, avant-garde language in Poesis (1963). In his later orchestral works - Greetings from an Old World (1976) and Kontakion (1978) - there is a hymn-like nobility and greater simplicity. 

The human voice is important to Lidholm. His early songs are often performed and some of his choral pieces are milestones of the Swedish a cappella repertoire: from Laudi (texts from the Bible, 1947) to Canto LXXXI (Ezra Pound, 1956) - the work which gave Swedish choral music ”a new grammar” (Eric Ericson) - to the almost orchestral form of …a riveder le stelle (Dante, 1973).

There is often a dramatic nerve in Lidholm’s compositional language, so writing operas was a logical step for him. This is true of both Holländaren (The Dutchman, TV opera from 1967) and Ett Drömspel (A Dream Play, 1992), both of which are based on plays by August Strindberg and which contain very expressive music.

In the middle of the 40s, Lidholm - who studied composition for Hilding Rosenberg - belonged to the controversial and renowned Monday Group. The goal of the Group was to establish a new and more open sensitivity to new music, as well as a renewal of traditional musical life - a renewal on a variety of planes, including the pedagogical. Lidholm’s lifework is a good example. He was an orchestral musician (viola), conductor, radioman, and professor of composition (in Stockholm). He was also on several international juries. 

Bo Wallner

Selected works:

  • A riveder le stelle
  • Ett drömspel - Opera (A Dream Play)
  • Grekisk gravrelief
  • Kontakion
  • Laudi
  • Stund när ditt inre
  • Toccata e canto