Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist has a musical career that almost makes him an outsider artist. He was a jazz pianist and bandleader. He began formal studies but dropped out because he felt the curriculum too confining. Instead, he took lessons from several musicians, each teaching a different aspect of music. One of them was Dag Wiren (for composition).

Lundquist became a film composer and continued to play jazz professionally in spells. He continued to compose classical works, and organize and conduct orchestras. All that experience comes together in his music.

He started composing Symphony no. 2 “for freedom” in 1956. It was a reaction to the Soviet takeover of Hungary. The 1968 Soviet crackdown in Czechoslovakia spurred him to complete the work. The four-movement symphony is massive, yet also tightly focussed.

Lundquist uses just a few motifs to build his movements out of. At times, especially in the first movement, the anger is palpable. As the work progresses, the music transforms into something different. The tightly coiled motifs of the opening have relaxed and expanded, transcending their confinement.

His orchestrations exhibit the film composer’s skill in relaying emotion. And yet it doesn’t sound tradition. Lundquist has a unique way of blending instruments — which serves his music well.

The Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Stig Westerberg give an exciting performance. This symphony is all about roiling emotions, and the musicians deliver.

Also included is Lundquist’s final completed symphony, No. 9 “Survival.” Written after a bout with cancer, this is more introspective work. Lundquist again uses just a few motivic building blocks to express himself. This single-movement work features a number of short instrumental solos, almost giving it the feel of a chamber work.

The Umeå Symphony Orchestra directed Roy Goodman to perform the work. The ensemble sound is a bit constricted compared to that of the Stockholm Philharmonic, making the album a little uneven in its sound.

That’s not a deal-breaker for me. These are two live Swedish Radio broadcasts, recorded at different times and in different venues. I’m happy we have these recordings at all. This is the second album of Lundquist symphonies issued by Sterling. I’m hoping in time they may issue the entire cycle.

Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 9
Symphony No. 2 “for freedom”
Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra; Stig Westerberg, conductor

Symphony No. 9, “Survival.”
Umeå Symphony Orchestra; Roy Goodman, conductor

Sterling CDM 3006
recorded live