Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist had a varied career: bandleader, conductor, classical composer — and film composer. A musical jack of all trades and master of all. The two works in this release are suites from two of Lundquist’s films. And the performances are conducted by the composer.

As a film composer, Lundquist blended popular and classical elements together with unique results. To me, these sounded like classic scores to Golden Age Hollywood films I’ve never seen.

Lundquist masterfully paints each scene so convincingly that I seemed to know what was happening. And when I read the synopsis for each film, I found I wasn’t’ far off the mark.

Nils Holgerssons underbara (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils) is a classic Swedish story. A young boy who mistreats animals is taught the error of his ways. He’s magically shrunk and taken on a tour of Sweden by wild geese. The 1962 film is also something of a travelogue, featuring extensive aerial cinematography.

Lundquist’s score captures the whimsy of this children’s story. And his portraits of Swedish landmarks show a deep love for his homeland. This score would work equally well in a pops concert and a season subscription concert.

Gösta Berlings Saga is a classic novel of Swedish literature. The story is set in early nineteenth-century Sweden. A defrocked Lutheran priest finds redemption in this magical realist drama. Lundquist provided the score for a 1966 radio serial dramatization. Lundquist later created an orchestral suite of eight movements. This recording also features additional music that was only heard in the original radio version.

The score has a shimmer to it, evoking the mystical qualities of the story. Lundquist uses modality quite effectively, blurring the lines between the story’s present (the 1820s) and a Medieval world of magic and legend. As with “Nils Holgerssons underbara,” this is music with a purpose. Each movement sets a scene and brings it to life.

These stories — and this music — are well-known in Sweden, and not anywhere else. This release proves that at least the music speaks a universal language anyone can understand and relate to.

Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist: Suites for Orchestra
Members of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra; Bel Canto Koren
Torbjorn Iwan Lundquist, conductor
Sterling CDS1117