in „Continuo" 1998 by Roy Brewer
few readers of Continuo are likely to agree with Uwe Thoden's view in
the sleeve notes that come with this CD - that „A good barometer for judging
the acceptance of an instrument is its popularity among young people"
- most will admit to finding the lucid, aristocratic sound of the lute
virtually inseparable from its prominence in the renaissance and baroque.
Unlike the guitar, the lute has been restored to the musical scene comparatively
recently; thus Stefan Lundgren breaks genuinely new ground in this recital
chosen from his own stylish compositions - thoughtful, idiomatic, sometimes
substantial works that never decline into pastiche or period fakery, and
calling for careful and repeated listening: anyone looking for a quick
minimalist fix, or unusual technical „effects" will be disappointed!
Lundgren plays a 13-course lute in „baroque" (D-minor)
tuning, and deploys his impressive resources within a harmonic schema
that, while complex and challenging, is firmly rooted in the lute's traditional
playing techniques. His crisp, persuasive interpretations are as vivid
as the pieces themselves, which range from three sets of free variations
on (Lutheran?) chorals, all of which display varying degrees of synthesis
between 17th and 20th century harmony. It is in these affectionate echoes
of the lute's more distant past that Lundgren demonstrate his delight
in clear, contrapuntal textures with modern overtones that may surprise,
but never shock. Lundgren's determination to „open our ears" to new possibilities
for the lute is strikingly shown in eight preludes (playable in separated
groups), four studies and a set of nicely-contrasted caprices, all of
which maintain plenty of interest and variety. Here Lundgren's 1975 transition
from guitarist to lutenist may prompt facile comparisons between the two
instruments; but the bourdons that give the lute its wider harmonic spectrum,
together with a somewhat shorter sustain and „drier" more silvery sound
are sufficient to eliminate any serious confusion. The texture is consistently
light and transparent, though whether players of lesser caliber will achieve
Lundgren's quicksilver scales, arpeggios and pearly fingertremolo remains
to be seen, for these are unashamedly virtuoso pieces, comparable in variety
and color to the Villa-Lobos guitar studies and preludes.
The final piece on this CD - an arrangement of
Chopin's Prelude No. 6, Op. 28 - is effective enough, though no doubt
pianists will find the sound somewhat threadbare compared with the instrument
for which it was written. Eisenhand (iron-hand), the rather opaque title
of this disk, is taken from a Swiss legend, obligingly printed in the
sleeve notes, though I must admit to finding them of in tracing the literary
allusions that are supposed to appear in the four Preludes, Op. 20, to
which it refers. It is to be hoped that all these compositions - which
I understand are at present available only in (presumably French) tablature
- will be published in a suitably-edited two-stave notation so that lutenists
(young and old!) can discover at first hand their stimulating and rewarding
by Stefan Lundgren of modern works for lute that encompasses a broad palette
of the instrument's musical and technical capabilities. Works played range
from studies with specific technical objectives (arpeggios, slurs, bass
movement) to the musical challenges embodied in chorale variations, and
to aspects of the programmatic (in the "Six Capriccios", described by
the composer himself as, ... here a drama, there a love song, now a lament,
.... And so on, for your amusement.) The CD is an appealing, distinctly
20th-century performance that avoids contemporary problems of "listenability".
For 13-course lute in d-minor-tuning. "Sonate Nr.5",
"Six Capriccios", "Ballade Nr.1", "Bellmansuite Nr.1", "Bellmansuite Nr.2"
in „The Lute" 1995 by Peter Cains.
This collection of modern pieces, composed by Mr. Lundgren
between 1988 and 1990, spans a range of musical idioms, from an atonal
Sonata at the beginning to the very tonal and almost folky-feeling Bellmansuites
at its end. From the practical playing standpoint, the collection is very
well presented, with no awkward page turns and plenty of metronome and
expression marks in those pieces of a more modern idiom, for which a meaningful
interpretation may elude the average player familiar with works of the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
All of the music utilizes the full range of the
thirteen-course lute from the low A of the thirteenth course to the high
f'' on the 'n' fret of the first course. The sequence writing in the bass
would make transposition onto an eleven-course lute very difficult, requiring
either octave breaks in some sequences or the entire run to be transposed
up an octave. Bass tunings correspond to C major and D major, and remain
constant throughout each set of pieces. Some of the pieces with D major
tunings contain accidental F naturals (or E sharps) stopped at the first
fret of the ninth course, making them unplayable at pitch on a swan-necked
This collection is prefaced by a short introduction
(four paragraphs in German) in which Lundgren briefly characterizes the
pieces. This introduction is essential, particularly for the pieces in
atonal and rhythmically irregular idioms, where the correct approach is
not obvious just from reading the tablature. Lundgren describes the atonal
Sonata no. 5 (1988) as probably the most demanding work. This has four
movements; Moderato, Largo, Scherzo and Presto: all contain unusual and
fairly strident harmonies, and the Moderato changes time signature repeatedly
(2/8-3/16-1/8-2/8). The latter two fast movements are much clearer in
their sense of direction and thus slightly easier to play.
The following six Capriccio, marked Con delicatesse,
Cantabile, Dolente, Giacoso, Grazioso, and Grazioso con slancio, are more
tonal in character, and according to the composer are made up from traditional
components of; folklike melodies, basso ostinati, imitation, arpeggio
and sequences. Many of the latter are strongly chromatic, which gives
the music a ´modern´ feeling. As the movement titles suggest, all of these
pieces convey a strong sense of mood.
The third piece, Ballade No. 1, dedicated to Mrs.
Polly Maynard, is long and quite complex, and seems to combine modern-sounding
chromatic melodic sequences with a traditional sense of harmonic movement.
It is made up of four sections with metronomic markings and is interesting
to play. Lundgren describes its thematic structure in some detail in his
The final, and in my view best, items in this
collection are the Bellmansuites. These are based on the works of the
famous Swedish poet and songwriter Carl Michael Bellman (1740 -1795),
and are selected from two collections: Fredmans epistlar (1790) and Fredmans
sånger (1791). The two suites are respectively in A minor and D major
and each contains six items as movements. They are very distinctive in
character and strongly convey the tonal feeling of their keys. Personally,
I would buy the collection for these suites alone.