Ture Rangström

“Perhaps indeed my interest in music sprang from poetry, for it was the word, the ardent word of the poet, that aroused my remorseless desire to compose.“ Ture Rangström preferred to call himself a “song poet“, and it is as one of our leading vocal composers that he has acquired an international reputation.

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Born on 30th November 1884 in Stockholm, died there 11th May 1947. He studied counterpoint and composition with Johan Lindegren for a few months in 1903-1904 and in Berlin, 1905-1906. He was taught composition by Hans Pfitzner and singing by Julius Hey. He then continued his vocal studies in Munich in 1906-1907. He was music reviewer for the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, 1907-1909 and 1910-1914, for Stockholms Dagblad 1927-1930, for Dagens Nyheter 1920-1921 and for Nya Dagligt Allehanda 1938-1942. He worked as a singing teacher during the 1910s and was one of the founders of the Society of Swedish Composers’ and a member of its first governing body, until 1942. His début as a conductor came in Stockholm in 1919. He was Principal Conductor of the Gothenburg Orchestral Society, 1922-1925, press Officer of the Stockholm Opera 1930-1936, and became a Member of the Royal Academy of Music in 1919. 

It is as one of our leading vocal composers that he has acquired an international reputation - not least through the assiduous performances of his songs given by Jussi Björling, Birgit Nilsson and Nicolai Gedda. His interest for music and desire to compose sprang from poetry, and this is reflected not only by the hundreds of songs (several of them settings of poems by Bo Bergman, as well as the archaic-style settings of Fröding’s Ur Kung Eriks visor, and settings of a long succession of our leading poets), but also by his personal, often tensely romantic instrumental music. The influence of Strindberg is apparent in Symphony No. 1, written in memory of the author, in Vårhymn written for the unveiling of Carl Eldh’s statue of Strindberg in Tegnérlunden, Stockholm, in various incidental compositions and, above all perhaps, in the opera Kronbruden. Mälarlegender is a piano suite of vignettes to a suite of poems by Strindberg entitled Stadsresan (Journey to the City). E.T.A. Hoffmann’s romantic nocturnal images are reiterated in Rangström’s String Quartet

Rangström wrote his first song at the age of 17, producing about 250 in the next 44 years. Songs were a salient feature of his entire career. This in itself is an impressive achievement, especially considering the great variety of structure and expression, but Rangström also wrote four symphonies – romantically conceived and thickly scored – and a host of other orchestral works of which the neo classical concertante works Ballad for piano and orchestra, Partita for violin and orchestra, Un petit rien and Divertimento elegiaco (these last mentioned being suites for strings) have frequently been performed. 

At an early stage, Sibelius described Rangström as “head and shoulders above any other Swedish composer“, but there were some situations in which his personal, expressionist tonal language did not readily find a response. Today he ranks as one of our greatest composers. 

Stig Jacobsson
STIM / Swedish Music Information Centre

Selected works:

  • Divertimento Elegiaco
  • Fröken Julie
  • Kung Eriks visor
  • Vinden och trädet