The juxtaposition of Lars-Erik Larsson and Bo Linde is a logical one. Linde studied with Larsson at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm from the tender age of 15. The early Anna’s Tales Op. 2, a cycle of 12 songs, is the work of a 19-year-old composer and is quite remarkable. The texts are from a little collection of poems by Ernst Josephson, Black and Yellow Roses. Josephson was a highly regarded Swedish 19th century painter who became a pioneer of expressionism in Scandinavia. He was also a poet and perhaps his most well-known poem is Svarta rosor (Black Roses), famously set to music by Sibelius. Most of his poetry was written after 1888, when he became mentally ill, diagnosed with schizophrenia, and spent the rest of his life in an asylum. Anna’s Tales are very strange, bordering on absurdist, and Linde’s music accordingly unconventional. They are irregular, largely tonal but odd and melodically fragmentary. The piano part is expressive (Linde was an excellent pianist) and just as important as the vocal line. ‘Weird’ my American friends would probably say. True, they are weird but at the same time fascinating.
Lars-Erik Larsson became a household name in Sweden in the 1930s with several works in a neo-classical-cum-romantic idiom. He wrote a lot for orchestra, plenty of film music, theatre music, chamber music but few art songs. The Nine Songs Op. 35 are all settings of Hjalmar Gullberg. Larsson had close relations with Gullberg, both privately and in working life, and it seems that he was particularly inspired by him. I have a couple of other songs from Op. 35 in recordings by tenor Claes-Håkan Ahnsjö that are just as attractive as the four songs on the present disc. The two songs from Op. 52 to texts by Gulli Lundström-Michanek (1931 – 1994), a poet otherwise unknown to me, are also good examples of Larsson’s lyrical idiom.
I first became acquainted with Lisa Gustafsson’s brilliant lyrical voice when I reviewed the recording of Hilding Rosenberg’s opera Lycksalighetens ö (The Isle of Bliss), where she sang the role of Zephyr impressively. She is active in both opera and musical and has a lightness of tone and easy top notes that are quite enthralling. Her accompanist Mårten Landström is excellent and the recording leaves nothing to be wished.
This is a highly rewarding disc with two romantics in disguise.
Göran Forsling, Musicweb-international