About Every Hill & Valley: Swedish Songs, Broadside & Ballads from Medieval to Present

For this CD, I have chosen both popular literary songs and ballads, from the middle ages until the present day. The early songs were released as broadsides, also mentioning which melody that could be used. More recent songs and ballads are often literary and were published with melodies in songbooks and song collections of individual song-writer’s. Those songs referring to hymns, have their numbering taken from Den svenska psalmboken 1986 [The Swedish Hymn Book 1986].

Torsten Mossberg



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"Torsten Mossberg, physician, specialist in Anesthesiology and intensive care, is also a devoted singer, both as choir singer and soloist. He has released several CDs with Swedish songs and ballads recorded during a period of about 20 years. His latest, recorded as recently as April 2018, covers a wide repertoire from anonymous medieval ballads to the 1970s. Now in his mid-70s he has preserved his tenor voice admirably. It’s free from disturbing vibrato, is evenly produced and he never presses it beyond its natural limits. His enunciation, so essential in this repertoire, where there often is a story, is pinpoint clear, so clear that one notices that in several places he diverges from the printed text. Call it poetic freedom if you like. What I regularly have pointed out when reviewing the previous discs is his natural approach: he never over-interprets the songs but trusts the texts and melodies that they can make their marks without making a lot of fuss. This doesn’t, on the other hand, imply that his singing is bland and faceless, on the contrary very much alive, but he never exaggerates things. As on the previous disc he is accompanied by guitar and harp, sometimes together but mostly one or other, discreet and lenient.

In the preface to the comments on the songs in the liner notes, Torsten Mossberg distinguishes some types of songs... Very often the music is also by the poet – but far from always. In this collection there are texts by important poets to anonymous melodies – and sometimes even to existing music by well-known composers...

The opening is a Swedish folktune – very beautiful – and the only stanza is a tribute to the girl that the singer loves. To this Torsten Mossberg has added a second verse of his own. The humoristic Elin I love rather much is also a folktune but the poet is known, Israel Holmström (1661 – 1708). It was probably written about 1700. There the poet describes Elin in poetic phrases, not all of them very flattering... The possible melody Lucidor had in mind was a hymn by Danish bishop Thomas Kingo, which still is sung today and is in the official Swedish hymn book No. 269, titled Sorgen och glädjen (The sorrow and the joy)...

We return to the 17th century for the next two numbers. Lars Wivallius had a lot in common with Lasse Lucidor: the same first name, they were both jailbirds – Wivallius was even sentenced to death – both probably wrote their most famous poems while in prison, both poems are laments and both wrote them to existing hymn melodies... Düben was an important figure in Swedish music life during the 17th century. Among other things he collected and brought home to Sweden lots of music by more than 200 composers, during his many journeys in Europe. The Düben Collection is today in the University Library in Uppsala. Two charming pieces based on folktunes (tr. 7 & 8) represent a transition phase leading to works from the mid-19th century and up to the present time. Carl Jonas Love Almqvist, one of the most important Swedish authors of the Romantic era – and a forerunner to Realism – was also a composer and some of his Songes are frequently heard. Originally composed for solo voice a cappella You do not walk alone (tr. 9) is here performed with harp accompaniment – sensitively and beautifully...

Vilhelm Ekelund’s evocative expressionist Star of the Sea is here given congenial musical garb by Evert Taube, who himself wrote and set to music so many memorable songs, which most Swedes, at least from a slightly older generation, knew and could sing. The sea was one of his favourite motifs and so he had the right feeling for the theme...
Evert Taube had in his youth been a sailor and among other things visited Argentine, where he lived for several years, and many of his songs are located to South America, but also the Mediterranean where he got inspiration. Most of all he was an unsurpassed delineator of the Swedish landscape and in particular the archipelago. The well-known Sea-eagle waltz is an excellent example of this, sung with great insight to harp accompaniment. In Tango in Nizza there are references to both Argentine and the south of France, and again Torsten Mossberg demonstrates what an engaged story-teller he is.

In the beautiful Then I am waiting at the roads, playwright Rune Lindström and the popular singer Anders Börje jointly created one of the finest depictions of Swedish summer, sung here with delicate nuances. Olle Adolphson was a prolific and inventive singer/songwriter, in particular in the 1960s and -70s, who certainly has a place in the canon of important artists in these genres. Now I have the one I wanted is quite typical with its beautiful poetic description of everyday life, permeated by melancholy. Possibly the most virtuosic word-equilibrist within the lighter song repertoire was Povel Ramel, show writer, comedian, singer and pianist. His witty and poetic Wonderful is short is performed sensitively and with a light blues feeling and Jonas Isaksson plays an elegant solo guitar interlude. For the finale we get a classic of Swedish art song: Nobel Prize Winner Pär Lagerkvist’s beautiful It is fairest in the gloaming air, set in 1942 by Gunnar de Frumerie.

In this 67-minute-long traversal of songs from medieval time until late 20th century we encounter a kaleidoscope of poems from some of the most important linguistic masters of the period in attractive settings. The readings are tasteful and civilised with no histrionics, and anyone with an interest in Swedish vocal music in the lighter vein will find many a gem here.

Göran Forsling

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