Daphne 1060




Åke Uddén (19031987) was a composer and professor of harmony and counterpoint at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. During the 1920s, he studied at the Paris Conservatory and included Caussade and Tournemire among his teachers. He was greatly inspired by Ravel and "Les Six".
The basic characteristics of UddĂ©n's compositions, mostly for chamber and vocal music, come from the French role models on which his education was based.  A balanced, sober and technically-driven tonal language therefore characterises  his work, where linear playing and harmony are coloured by
impressionistic impulses. Uppsala Chamber Soloists have taken on this previously seldom-performed repertoire with enormous enthusiasm. With the release of this CD, it achieves its major breakthrough.



1 String Quartet No1. (1940): I Allegro assai

2 String Quartet No1. (1940): II Andante tranquillo

3 String Quartet No1. (1940): IIII Scherzo

4 String Quartet No1. (1940): IV Partita

5 String Trio, (1928): I Moderato - Allegro molto

6 String Trio, (1928): II Andante con moto

7 String Trio, (1928): III Allegro burlesco

8 Tendresses, from Les chanson de Bilitis, (1941)

9 Chanson,  from Les chanson de Bilitis, (1945)

10 La Poupée, from Les chanson de Bilitis, (1942)

11 String Quartet No. 2 (1955): I Allegro con brio

12 String Quartet No. 2 (1955): II Andante non troppo lento

13 String Quartet No. 2 (1955): III Largo - Agitato


 A connoisseur's composer constantly questing for subtlety, Sober and testing rather than blindingly colourful. MusicWeb-international



UDDÉN String Quartet No. 1.  String Trio.  “Tendresses.”  “Chanson.”  “La PoupĂ©e.”  String Quartet No. 2  •  Charlotte Hellekant (mz); Uppsala Chamber Soloists  •  DAPHNE 1060 (64:24)

                      In the first two lines of his excellent liner notes, Calle Friedner comes right out and says it: “There are many musicians who have been significant to their contemporaries but who have unfortunately failed to stand the test time.  Ă…ke UddĂ©n (1903-1987) is one of these.”  Listening to what would seem to be the only currently available album devoted to his music, it’s difficult to understand why.

                      After studying in his native Sweden with Melcher Melchers—the long-time professor of music at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, whose own music is also currently out of favor—UddĂ©n eventually moved to Paris to study with Melchers’ teacher Georges Caussade and eventually with Charles Tournemire.  It was there, in 1928, that he began work on his String Trio, of which he said—with disarming self-deprecation—“It is difficult and fragile but sounded fine.  When grandfather hears it, he will either disinherit me or hit me on the head with something hard.”

                      If grandpa had any ear at all, he would have been stunned by what a confidently assertive, strikingly individual work the Trio is for a composer of 25.  Instead of the predictable French influences—apart, perhaps, from a touch of late Fauré—the music doesn’t really sound like anyone else’s, nor does it waste any time getting where it’s going.  A darkly restless opening movement leads to a harmonically daring Andante which underscores something the composer wrote in a letter to his mother: “I am not myself atonal (as Schoenberg, etc.) but rather polytonal, that is I allow several keys to sound at once during one piece.  A fairly difficult art.  Even Bach was sometimes `polytonal’!!!”  In both movements, as well as in the complex, occasionally folksy finale, a finely-honed craftsmanship is also conspicuously on display.

                      The String Quartet No. 1 from 1940 actually sounds more French than the Trio, with faint echoes of both Debussy and Ravel and a highly developed ear for colors and textures that nearly matches theirs.  The gorgeous slow movement, marked Andante tranquillo is not only striking in its elegant simplicity, but also manages to sound much longer—in the best possible sense—than its barely three-minute length.  The heart of the piece is the concluding Partita, a series of increasingly clever variations on a hymn-like theme that neither loses the listener’s interest nor even threatens to wear out its welcome.  This is clearly an important 20th century Scandinavian contribution to the form and one whose total obscurity is a complete mystery.       

                      Written sixteen years later, the String Quartet No. 2 is nearly as impressive, with a complex but closely-argued opening movement and an Andante whose tender richness would make it a favorite in the concert hall, were the piece given half a chance.  The finale contains the most ambiguous music on the album, which Friedner sums up perfectly by saying: “Hesitancy is replaced by a clearer, more rhythmic and harmonic section, yet one still gets the impression that the music is in an exploratory phase, not really sure of which direction it should take.”  This may explain why the composer produced no more string quartets during the remaining three decades of his life.

                      Most instantly appealing of all are three brief settings of poems from Pierre LoĂĽis’ Les Chanson de Bilities that UddĂ©n composed between 1928 and 1945.  Each—especially “Tendresses,” which gives the album its name—is a gem:  rarified, precise, delicately erotic, and not that far removed in terms of quality from the famous cycle that the poet’s friend Debussy produced in 1901.  All are superbly sung by mezzo-soprano Charlotte Hellekant, who brings obvious intelligence and musicianship (and possibly a bit too much voice) to all three.

                      The performances by the Uppsala Chamber Soloists are not only uniformly excellent technically but are also full of an almost missionary zeal, convinced as all the players clearly are that they’re reviving something of genuine value and significance.  This fascinating album may convince you of the same.  Jim Svejda

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