Photo: Gösta Glase

Lille Bror Söderlundh

Lille Bror Söderlundh was a musician of many talents, who composed ballads and wrote music for variety shows, for the theatre, for ballets and for films. He wrote music for children and he also composed profoundly serious music.

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Lille Bror Söderlundh came from the province of Värmland, but after studying the violin in Stockholm he moved to Leksand in Dalecarlia in 1943. For many he will perpetually be remembered as the songwriter who set Nils Ferlin’s well-known poems to music: Får jag lämna några blommor (May I Leave a Few Flowers), När skönheten kom till byn (When Beauty Walked into Town) and other songs. He was known throughout Sweden as "Lille Bror", famed far and wide for his singing and his elegant guitar-playing. But the "ballad period" actually only lasted a few years, and all the time he went on composing serious music. Being a natural musician he saw no fundamental difference between popular ballads and serious music. 
While he was still a student Söderlundh wrote a number of serious music works: Four Little Summer Tunes (1933), for example, and an Allegro Concertante for two violins and string orchestra (1935/40), but at first his contemporaries found it hard to accept his versatility. His desire to cover the entire field of musical genres was alien to most of his composer colleagues. When he decided to present the different aspects of his musicianship in a concert featuring his own works his instrumental compositions were greeted with scepticism by the music critics. Since then judgements have been modified, and the Concertino for Oboe and String Orchestra (1944), which was given its first performance on that occasion, is now part of the orchestral repertoire and is frequently performed by Sweden’s most prominent oboists. 

A Short Composing Career - From the mid-forties onwards Söderlundh devoted himself more wholeheartedly to serious music. His most notable works from this period include Christina Music (1946), a suite for string orchestra that started off as the incidental music to Strindberg’s historic play "Queen Christina", and the popular Three Folk Waltzes for String Orchestra (1945). Compared to the other composers of his generation, Lille Bror Söderlundh's composing career spanned a very short period. His active years as a composer were limited in all essentials to a period of about fifteen years, during which time he also composed a number of other orchestral works, including Winter Moon (1945), The Emperor of Portugallia (1950), Adagio for Strings (1956), Haväng Suite for piano and string orchestra (1943-53) and instrumental works like Intrada and Allegro for Piano (1940) and Little Waltz for Two Guitars (1942). 

Lille Bror Söderlundh's real breakthrough as a serious composer came with his Concerto per violino ed orchestra which was commissioned by the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation for the violinist Leo Berlin and the Swedish Radio Orchestra. With the violin concerto, which is written in a strong, modernistic style with strictly limited expressive means, he challenged the general opinion of his talent. But despite the modernistic flavour he did not lose sight of the foundation of all his composing - folk music. And he didn't betray folk music by just borrowing its melodies, he used it as a base for further development. Despite the enthusiastic reception that the violin concerto received, Lille Bror Söderlundh decided not to continue composing on a large scale. Instead, to many people's surprise, he accepted an appointment as head of the municipal music school in the small town of Borlänge in Dalecarlia. From then onwards until his death in 1957 his instrumental compositions mainly consisted of small studies and special exercises for the pupils of the music school, as for example The Snake Charmer for Two Clarinets.

"Folk Music is the Only Thing..." - Söderlundh himself was a violinist and many of his instrumental compositions were written at the request of, or in close collaboration with, the most prominent musicians of that time. But present-day instrumentalists also enjoy playing Lille Bror Söderlundh's music, which is well suited to such ensembles as the Dalecarlia Chamber Orchestra, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in Örebro and the Värmland Sinfonietta, all of whom have performed his works in recent years. Today soloists such as the violinist Karl-Ove Mannberg, the oboist Bengt Rosengren and the pianist Bengt Forsberg play his compositions, and the conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen has also recorded some of Söderlundh's works.

Lille Bror Söderlundh worked with single-mindedness and obstinacy and he never gave up. With his artistic intuition he discovered a source of inspiration in folk music. In all his creative work he remained true to his ideal which he himself expressed in the following words: 
"Folk music is the only thing you can really stick to, it's the only thing that you have within you. He who betrays the folk music within him, he betrays himself; nobody can be a proper composer without folk music." 

Christina Mattsson