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Hugo Alfvén


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Hugo Emil Alfvén (1872–1960) was a Swedish composer, conductor, violinist, and painter.

Alfvén was born on 1st May 1872 in Stockholm. He studied at the Music Conservatory there from 1887 to 1891, with the violin as his main instrument. He also took private composition lessons from Johan Lindegren, a leading counterpoint expert. He earned a living by playing the violin at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, and played the violin in the Hovkapellet (the Swedish court orchestra).

Starting in 1897, Alfvén travelled in Europe for much of the next ten years. He studied violin technique in Brussels, and conducting in Dresden. From 1910 he was music director at the University of Uppsala, a post he held until 1939. There he also directed the male voice choir Orphei Drängar until 1947. He toured Europe as a conductor throughout his life.

Alfvén became known as one of Sweden’s principal composers, together with Wilhelm Stenhammar. Alfvén’s music is in a late-Romantic idiom. His orchestration is skillful and colourful, reminiscent of that of Richard Strauss. Like Strauss, Alfvén wrote a considerable amount of programmatic music. Among his works are a large number of pieces for male voice choir, five symphonies, and three orchestral “Swedish Rhapsodies”. The first of these, “Midsommarvaka”, is his best known piece.

He died on 8th May 1960.


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