Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist: Symphonies Nos. 8 & 5

In 1976, Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist composed a piece, Sisu, for the six musicians in the Stockholm percussion ensemble. A few years later, the ensemble was transformed and took the name Kroumata. Sisu became one of the regular works in the ensemble’s repertoire. They also recorded it. Lundquist then got the idea to compose a larger work for orchestra where he would include the Kroumata ensemble. The result was the eighth symphony, which he began in 1989 and completed in 1992. He called the new symphony, Kroumata Symphony. Lundquist, however, keenly stressed that the eighth symphony, although Kroumata has an important part, is not a percussion concerto but a true symphony. The symphony was premiered in Malmö, with the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and Kroumata in 2002. It became a posthumous performance. Two years earlier, Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist had passed away. The first performance was led by B. Tommy Andersson and is the one on this CD.

The fifth symphony was completed in 1980. It is for a smaller orchestra with just double woodwinds, two trumpets, two trombones, percussion and strings. It is dedicated to Halmstad Chamber Orchestra, which premiered it in February 1980. The fifth symphony is much more classical in its structure than Lundquist's previous symphonies. The symphony has three movements. Lundquist aptly called it Die Wienerische, probably not so much referring to the city of Vienna, as to the formally structured Viennese classical music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. There are no Viennese waltzes to find here, but an elaborated structure of a classic sonata.
Curt Carlsson, 2020

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For newcomers, the music is tonal for the most part, but fuses diverse elements drawn from other cultures. Examples are jazz-inflected influences, and percussion effects of Indonesian gamelan.

The Symphony No. 5, 'Wienerische': It's in three movements, adopting the fast-slow-fast pattern, and dates from 1980. The opening movement, the longest of the three at 11 minutes, sets the tenor for the whole work. Upbeat and affable, the mood is unbuttoned and relaxed. The Poco lento is ushered in by two bassoons and opens out into a landscape drenched in sunlight. After a while the music bubbles up and the tempo hastens, the atmosphere heightened by punctuations from the trombones. The cheery finale is brief at only four minutes, with each of the instrumental sections given its moment in the sun.

The Symphony No 8: The one-movement work contrasts strikingly with the Fifth Symphony, taking the listener on a more bumpy ride. The percussion group are sometimes pitched against the orchestra, at others integrated. Despite being a single movement structure, I detect three distinct sections. An arresting call to arms sets the Symphony going. The frenetic character of the first part is achieved by rhythmic intensity moving across the various orchestral sections. A central meditative section allows some room for thought and reflection, before intense percussion and brass eruptions enter the fray. The closing scene has marimba, woodwind and chiming bells steering everything to a pianissimo conclusion.

Sterling is making steady progress through the Lundquist Symphony cycle. With two more symphonies to go (Nos. 1 and 7), I hope we won't have to wait too long. These gripping scores are well recorded and reveal much orchestral detail. The release is well-supported with excellent annotations by Curt Carlsson and Dag Lundquist, the composer's son.

Music Web International – Classical Review


With the addition of this CD to the catalogue, all of the symphonies by Swedish composer Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist are now commercially available on either the Stirling or the Bluebell labels - and if, like me, you are coming to his music for the first time or almost the first time, then do not despair, because the excellent CD booklet has a sensitive, biographical insight into the composer by his son Dag and then an essay on Lundquist 'The Symphonist" by Curt Carlsson, followed by a fairly detailed, but not over-complicated, analysis of the two symphonies recorded here. There is also an extensive list at the back of the booklet of Lundquist's works and recordings…

…Just a word on the two orchestras. I go to Sweden almost every year and have heard these orchestras live. I find it quite astonishing that what amounts to quite small cities, population wise, like Malmö and Helsingborg, can produce such a high orchestral standard. It's clear also that they had a great understanding of Lundquist's language. We can be grateful to Swedish Radio for the fact that these fine recordings have been brought out of their archive to help in the promotion of the music of this very fine composer. I can say no more than that I hope in the future more of his work will come my way for reviewing.

Music Web International – Classical Review

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