Dag Wirén: String Quartets Nos. 2-5

review dag wirén x1 cong

The CD notes talk about the “tapestry of drama” of Dag Wirén’s work and it’s a good phrase; this is expressive music that is tightly woven and has something of a flourish to it, though it’s a touch restrained.

Wirén, born in 1905, studied at the Stockholm Conservatory from 1926 to 1931, coming into contact with music from all periods, then continued his studies in Paris, 1931–34.
As well as composing, he played the piano on Swedish Radio in the 1930s, and was music critic at the Svenska Morgonbladet.

The sleeve notes say that Wirén’s once aim was to write music that appealed directly to rather than challenging the listener, and this collection certainly is accessible, although dropping in half way through in some sections it can be surprising how accessible the CD as a whole is, as there are some darker sections.

The Second String Quartet opens (he withdrew the first and it is never played), and it’s a busy, though calm work, written after his return from Paris.

The Third String Quartet is more purposeful, from the opening; throughout the programme there are moments of English pastoral music, and this is especially true of this piece. The Fourth String Quartet is urgent and busier, even modern sounding, but more sombre, though still tightly constructed. The sleeve notes claim a nod towards Shostakovich in places.

The closing Fifth String Quartet “could be heard as the beginning of the end in terms of Wirén’s creativity,” say the sleeve notes; it’s perhaps less effortless than the works that precede it, though never heavy-handed.

Out now on Naxos, 8.573588.

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