classikON hears from two of Australia’s leading early music specialists – gambist Jenny Eriksson and lutenist Tommie Andersson. They’ll be performing together for Swedish Roots on November 11 2012 at The Conservatorium of Music.
What are the key features of Swedish folk music?
Tommie: Swedish folk music is mostly played on the violin; other instruments include nyckelharpa (see below), various pipes and bagpipe and, in the 20th century, the accordion. The music itself is often in a minor or modal key, with sometimes quirky rhythms and tempered notes (i.e. deliberately slightly sharp or flat).
A lot of the Swedish folk music was notated in the beginning of the 1900s by dedicated musicologists Nils and Olof Andersson (no relations of mine!), so we now have a treasure trove of some 24 tomes in the series Svenska Låtar, with some 8,000 tunes. Every summer there are fiddlers’ festivals all over the country with thousands of participants. It is an experience to be part of this, hearing small groups of fiddlers having jam-sessions from out of nowhere and attending amazing performances by some of the many fantastic players.
Jenny‘s most powerful memory of Sweden is the fiddle orchestras, they have a wonderful, raw, robust sound and people seem to love to play in them. Many of the songs are beautiful and Tommie has arranged some for this concert.
The Father of Swedish Music, Johan Helmich Roman, is one of the composers in your program. What was his role and how did he come to be given this title?
Tommie: There were, of course, composers before Roman in Sweden but he was the first of any stature. Through his studies in England (with Pepusch) he got to know Bononcini, Geminiani and Handel and when he returned he was soon appointed Chief Master of the Swedish Royal Orchestra. Through his travels he brought a wealth of music by the great composers of the time to the Swedish court which had a huge influence on the coming generations. He composed orchestral music, cantatas, assagios for unaccompanied violin and 12 flute sonatas; the Drottningholm music is considered his greatest work, written for a royal wedding in 1744. This is a personal favourite of mine; it has 33 movements and is similar in style to Handel’s Water Music.
First movement from the Drottningholm music created using digital and analog equipment, and sequencing software.
Was music a feature growing up?
Jenny: I can’t remember hearing Grandpa sing but Dad tells he played the mouth organ beautifully. Grandma, who was English, played the piano well and loved South American music. Both of my sisters are fine musicians as well. My Aunt was a music therapist before she retired and still sings in choirs.
Tommie: My home was not a musical one and the reason I started learning music at all was that a few boys in my class (in year 5) asked me to take up the guitar so we could form a band like the Beatles. I am still very fond of their music, but one thing lead to another and I ended up making my living playing lutes instead. I do enjoy playing “Blackbird” on the theorbo occasionally!
We couldn’t find a video of Blackbird being played on the theorbo, so here is the original video.