Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist

Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist (1920-2000) was a Swedish composer, mainly recognized for his film music and his symphonies. He very early took an interest in the family’s inherited living room piano. Eventually he took piano lessons, later on from pianist and music critic Yngve Flyckt. Torbjörn’s passion for music arose early, and almost as early he became spellbound by the art of film. These were the times when Stockholm had numerous cinemas, long before television made its entry in Sweden. Like so many other children, he made his pilgrimage to the weekend's matine shows, where the heroes were the likes of Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper and Charlie Chaplin. His film interest later resulted in soundtracks for many Swedish films, music signed Torbjörn Lundquist. He was also captivated by jazz and during his school days he formed a jazz band, where he himself played the piano. For a while he was also freelancing as a jazz pianist.
After discontinued studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm he went on studying composition for Dag Wirén. Early, he realized that composing music was what he really wanted to devote himself to. He also started a chamber orchestra, which came to be engaged in the newly discovered Drottningholm Theater. At this point he also began composing seriously. The first result was a Divertimento for strings and four woodwind players in 1951. A few years later, he finished his Chamber Symphony, which had its first performance under the direction of conductor Sten Frykberg in 1956.
“The Chamber Symphony is probably one of the finest orchestral works written in our country in the 50’s - a music of nerve and esprit, captivating in every detail, rhythmic compassionate, vital, clear in the contours, a stylized form of traditional Nordic dance music (“spelmansmusik”) that is varied in sound and full of interesting incidence. The simple, strict form is entirely on a traditional basis, but the tonal language is alive and personal", writes Herbert Connor in his book Swedish Music (1977).
Later the piece was reworked and became Lundquist’s Symphony No. 1, which was first performed in Dresden in March 1971.
The composition process often took long. This is especially true of his eight symphonies. He has described this event himself:
"At the end of the day, a composer becomes the slave of his themes; it's an expression that comes from Jean Sibelius and more and more I understand its meaning. My own music arise during slow processes, and I feel that the ideas have their own will, which I need to register carefully for the final work to be convincing. There are subjects that need to be sorted out of the planning sketches. After several years it may suddenly occur to me how to use it in a completely different context, and the composition turns out very successful. Fascinating! But complicated ...”
For example, he began the second symphony in 1956 during the revolt in Hungary. But it was not finished until after the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, which became the impulse and inspiration that made it possible for the composer to complete the work. The symphony also received the very appropriate subtitle "For freedom".
Lundquist has always been highly inspired by nature and was also deeply involved in environmental issues. This has been his inspiration in the fourth symphony "Sinfonia ecologica" from 1985 and his patronage later became an outlet for the seventh symphony "Humanity - Dag Hammarskjöld in memoriam" in 1988. Also the third symphony ”Sinfonia dolorosa” was inspired by nature. It became Lundquist's breakthrough symphony, and is dedicated to the composer's deceased wife Maud. The idea was given him during a mountain hike shortly after his wife's death. He tells how it all began:
"In the silence of the mountain there was an almost unnoticeable wind from far away. It grew in tremendous power - to again vanish into nowhere. ... This made such an incredibly strong impression that it gave me the full introduction to the symphony, and from that point on the whole creation is growing."
He has also told how he was forced to express his creativity in the symphony format:
"Well, it's hardly a question of what I want anymore, but what I have to do. It is the symphonies that are constantly urging me on. I always feel this compulsion to express myself in this way. And all the rest, more or less feels like pilot studies. It can be incredibly nice, but it's all sucked up in this stream, which now fills me up. ... It has been painful during these years when, for the sake of economy, I have had to do so many other things, compose so many other pieces. Then the symphonies have gone into hibernation and that has bothered me enormously. It has been haunting me at night so that I have to get up and get it off my mind, to calm my mind at all".
This compulsion resulted in a total of eight symphonies, which also illustrate his commitment to today's constant problems of environmental destruction and the struggle for freedom.
During the 60’s, Lundquist got in contact with Danish accordionist Mogens Ellegaard and his melody bass accordeon. "What Mogens Ellegaard accomplishes with his accordeon was a strange experience, at the same time shocking and enchanting", he says. The contact with Ellegaard came to result in a wide range of works for accordeon, solo and in different constellations, including "Bewegungen" for accordeon and string quartet and "Duell" for accordeon and percussion.
Earlier, already in 1954, he was asked by film director Gunnar Hellström if he would concider composing the music to the movie ”Simon syndaren”. This resulted in Lundquist becoming one of Sweden's most hired composers of film and theater music. All together: music for nearly 30 films and over 60 theater and radio plays. If the emergence of the symphonies took several years to mature, Lundquist here learned how to work at a much faster pace. He used to ask the film directors for a deadline and usually got the answer: "yesterday". Among the films, the music of Selma Lagerlöf's "Nils Holgerssons underbara resa” (The Wonderful Adventures of Nils) was especially noted and was also released on record as a whole. It was the first Swedish film music devoted to a whole LP. In some of his films, his background as a jazz pianist also came in handy. As in Gunnar Hellströms film "Nattbarn", about a young man lost among the shady Stockholm cafes and billiard halls, in addition with a suggestive camera work by Ingemar Bergman's favorite photographer Sven Nykvist. Another distinguished movie was "Änglar, finns dom?” (Love Mates) where Lundquist also produced a popular hit, performed by the film's two main characters Christina Schollin and Jarl Kulle.
Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist has also devoted himself to something he calls "serious popular music"; occasionally melodies from his various films, but he also wrote several popular songs, including lyrics by Beppe Wolgers and several songs for Monica Zetterlund. To the Eurovision Song Contest 1965 several serious composers were invited to make contributions. All the songs were sung by Ingvar Wixell and Lundquist contributed "Förtrollad stad" to lyrics by Bo Setterlind.
Torbjörn Iwan Lundquist also wrote more serious songs, such as "Ensamhetens sånger" 1965 to lyrics by Vilhelm Ekelund, "Siebenmal Rilke" from 1985, "New Bearings" 1989 to lyrics from Dag Hammarskjöld's biography ”Vägmärken (Road Signs)” and "Irish Love Songs" in 1992 to poetry by James Joyce
Among Lundquist’s works you will also find two string quartets, a violin concerto and the one-act opera "Second of eternity", which takes place in a shelter in Germany during the Second World War. The opera had its first concert performance in Stockholm in 1974
1983 he moved away from the city noise into the countryside where he could enjoy nature and devote himself to composing only. After having been taken with cancer in 1993, he spent his final years completing his last symphony, entitled "Survival" and a song cycle to poems by Jean-Luc Caron "Pour l'éternité" – In eternity. A quiet summer day in 2000 he passed away.
Curt Carlsson
Translation: Ulf Gruvberg