Carl Jonas Love Almqvist: Works for Fortepiano

Carl Jonas Love Almqvist (1793-1866) is one of the few yet current Swedish authors prior to Strindberg. Most of his writings he collected in the universal work Törnrosens Bok (The Book of the Thorn-rose), in which he wanted to unite ”picture, music and script together, and mould into a single brand” and thus create a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk.

He was also strictly speaking ”only” a talented amateur, although he often claimed that deep down he was primarily a musical person. Already during or shortly after his illustrious Värmland adventure 1823-24 – when he left Stockholm for living an idealized peasant life in the small village Köla – he produced two large note booklets, one for voices and one for keyboard. Both wear the title Free Musical Fantasies, and they associate directly to his literary counterpart, originally called “Free Fantasies, which, considered as an entity, by Mr Hugo Löwenstierna sometimes called Törnrosens Bok [The Book of the Thorn-rose].



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Carl Jonas Love Almqvist holds a special place in Swedish Romanticism. He was not only a composer but also a poet, writer, traveller and social critic, someone who spoke out for the poor and the unrepresented, and championed the rights of women.

This disc … represents the most complete collection of the composer’s piano pieces. Described as Free Fantasies for Piano-Forte, they include musical portraits of himself as well as family members and friends, and pieces inspired by events and his surroundings. It is, then, almost an autobiography in music.

The first piece in the 1847 edition saw the composer open with Marie Louise, a portrait of his daughter; it is representative of the collection as a whole. These small tone pictures are deeply rooted in the early-Romantic style of the day, something Almqvist probably heard on his many travels, and combined into his own music. There are pieces reminiscent of Weber, whilst others show the influence of Beethoven or Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words. Indeed, it is easy to imagine these pieces as sung melodies—they are very song-like. Almqvist’s music could be described as somewhat limited. There is nothing here that made me sit up and think. Rather, this is a collection of miniatures that would fit well into any concert of parlour or salon music of the period, characterful but not enlightening, yet interesting nonetheless.

I quite like the sound, as I feel it fits well with the music. It gives the recording the feel of a contemporary performance, one which the composer could have performed himself. Hedwall has also written the extensive notes for this release, translated into English from the original Swedish. The notes are very informative about the man and his music, giving each piece the perspective of the performer and musicologist. Stuart Sillitoe, MusicWeb

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