A melancholy fantasy
About the project
The swedish composer, organist and publisher Olof Åhlström was born on a small farmstead some miles south of Stockholm in 1756, and died in Stockholm in 1835. He was one of many children on the small farm, and when turning 16 years old, he took his walking stick and made his way to Stockholm where he entered the Royal Academy of Music, recently inaugurated by King Gustaf III. At the age of 20 he was appointed organist in the St:a Maria Magdalena church, and in 1786 he became piano teacher to the crown prince Gustav Adolph and musical advisor to King Gustaf III. From 1792 until his death he worked in St. Jacobi church.
With knowledge of nobility music and church music as well as folk music from the village fiddlers, Olof Åhlström was able to create a highly personal music language of his own.
In the 1790´s Åhlström started to compose songs on original texts by his native poets and friends, in the style of early lieder. The result was more than 200 songs, all published in his periodica “Musikaliskt Tidsfördrif” (Musical Pastime) and “Skaldestycken satte i musik” (Poems set to Music). Today Olof Åhlström is mostly remembered for having printed the works of the poet Carl Michael Bellman, but Åhlströms own music certainly deservs to be rediscovered and performed again.
New project and CD 2017:
Mathilda Orozco - The Southern Lady in the North
Sensuous, intelligent, and musical – such terms have been used to describe the woman with the fascinating name Mathilda Orozco Montgomery-Cederhielm. During the first half of the 19th century she held a widely renowned salon in her home at which such guests as the Swedish crown prince Oscar, members of the Royal Swedish Academy, British generals, baronesses, and peeresses got together.
Whether as singer, harpist, pianist or composer, Mathilda gave her friends a glimpse of the Continent through her exotic cultural personality. One of those who belonged to her circle of friends was Erik Gustav Geijer, and he sang her praises in a song with the title Söderländskan i Norden (The Southern Lady in the North). But who was she, this colourful and enterprising woman?
Mathilda was born in Milan in 1796, daughter to a Spanish father and an Austrian mother. After a short marriage to a considerably older Italian man, she married the Swede, Josias Montgomery-Cedrhielm, in 1817 and moved to the cold barren North. In only three months she learned Swedish, and together with her husband she became a very popular hostess at lavish banquets parties.
Mathilda was looked on as a exotic symbol for Italy, the country associated with love and beauty, and she lavished on her guests the latest in literature, art and music. The Swedish crown prince, later Oscar I, was one of her many guests. It is said that he was more that willing to sing duets with Mathilda. After Josias died in 1825, leaving Mathilda with four children, somewhat more than a decade of busy social life followed for Mathilda.
It was in particular the years between 1825 and 1839 that marked the highlight of Mathilda’s social activities. She had a great many friends but found also time to write and compose. She wrote about 60 songs, most of which were published and spread through popular music books. These songs reflect the life of the salon and at times the Italian heritage of Mathilda ́s youth. Her musical language is original, and from the range of the melodies one realises what a brilliant singer she was herself. When one reads of how others reacted to her voice and vocal art, one understands that she had a good command of the bel canto tradition that, with improvised embellishments, was customary in Italy.
In 1839 she remarried, this time to Carl Gyllenhaal and left Stockholm for the provinces. The salons and The Royal Court of the capital were replaced by military balls in the country.
During the 67 years of her life she collected languages, cultural expressions, and traditions from Spain, Italy, Austria, France, and Sweden. She was married three times, relocated countless times, gave birth to five children, and kept company with royalty and the cultural elite as well as farmhands and farmers. She wrote poetry and music, played instruments, sang, acted, and spread joy and vitality around her. A rich life, one might suppose, but she sometimes mourned the lack of depth and gravity in the gaiety characteristic of social life.
We who today cannot have the pleasure of meeting her in the role of entertaining hostess at her salon can instead meet her at another level through her music and be amazed at her compexity and breadth.
Text: Anna Nyhlin
Translation: Donald Lavery
Anna Nyhlin and Bernt Malmros started working together in 2005, and has since then toured with a variety of programs focusing on Swedish music around 1800. They have toured in Sweden and performed in numerous churches and festivals such as Music at Lake Siljan, Music at Sörmländska Castles and Manors and in chamber music venues. During the Linnaeus jubilee in 2005, they did a concert in Berlin, and in 2014 they released their first CD with music by Olof Åhlström.
Soprano Anna Nyhlin sings music from the 12th century up to contemporary music, with emphasis on the Baroque and Classical era. Thanks to her presence and stylistic sense she is much in demand as a soloist within these genres. She has performed with The New Dutch Academy, Drottningholms Baroque Ensemble, The Swedish Baroque Orchestra, Stockholm Baroque Orchestra, Helsinki Baroque Orchestra and The Bach Ensemble (New York). In 2004 Anna made her opera debut in Gluck’s “Orfeus ed Eurydice”. She has performed as a soloist in staged performances, as both a singer and a dancer, with for example The New Dutch Academy and Barcelona Barroc. Anna studied baroque voice performance at the Guildhall School of Music in London with Emma Kirkby and at the Royal University College of Music in Stockholm with Susanne Rydén. She has also studied historical dance at The College of Dance in Stockholm, which has led to numerous engagements where music, dancing and theatre from the 17th and 18th century have been combined. She is currently working at the Swedish Radio as a program me host, and is also freelancing as writer.
Bernt Malmros is a freelance musician on harpsichord, historical pianos, cello and violone. He is also a teacher and musicologist with an emphasis mainly on 17th- and 18th-century music, and has a particular interest in music from Sweden, the Baltic region, and Italy from this time. In the series Stockholmian music from three centuries, four CD's have been released, where Bernt features as a producer and musician together with Affetti Musicali di Stoccolma, Pasticcio and the singers Johan Christensson and Ann Hallenberg. Bernt Malmros has made numerous concerts, TV and radio appearances and recordings, in Sweden and internationally.
"Anna Nyhlin treated the audience to her crystal clear voice, rich in nuance, warm and sincere. Bernt Malmros managed brilliantly to make the big grand piano sound intimate”
ttelia (Trollhättan) 2 October 2006
”Particularly praiseworthy was Anna Nyhlin's singing, smooth and powerful. She gave these songs a special appealing lightness.”
Eindhovens Dagblad (The Netherlands), 26 January 2006
"The fresh voice of soprano Anna Nyhlin came into its own with Baroque orchestra. Her voice resonated bright and pure over the soft orchestral carpet.”
Länsi-Suomi (Western Finland), March 2004
+46 (0)70 4908169
- A program with Swedish songs from the years around 1800
The program offers music by Olof Åhlström from his own publications, with lyrics by contemporary poets.
Traveling through Europe with Roman
- ”the father of music in our country”
In 1715 Johan Helmich Roman, a 21 year old musician from Stockholm, made his first trip abroad. He travelled to the hottest place to be if you wanted to study music then - London. When he returned to Stockholm after six years abroad, he brought back with him a lot of music. He was inspired by composers like Handel, Bononcini, Porpora, Pepusch, Geminiani and Croft - Italians, if not by birth then in temperament and taste. Romans second long trip, as an established Court Conductor, firstly took him back to London, where Handel was still the major guiding force. In Paris, however, Roman choosed not to make thimself known - the city's music scene dis not impress him. In Italy though he felt at home, musically. He visited Rome, Naples, Padua, Venice, Florence and Bologna and made contacts with musicians and composers like Albinoni, Gasparini, Scarlatti, Marcello, Locatelli, Vivaldi and Tartini. The trip home went over Vienna, Munich, Augsburg and Dresden. Here were Quantz, Graun and Hasse major inspirers. Our concert program is inspired by these musical journeys. A musical salon in the spirit of Roman.
Mozart, Kraus och Åhlström
- three composers born in 1756
Mozart was born on January 27 in Salzburg, where he began his illustrious career when he was only 4 years old. Maybe his parents sensed already then what was to come. Mozart is one of our most loved and famous composers of classical music. Somewhat less well known to most of us are the two other composers in the program that was born the same year as Mozart - Joseph Martin Kraus and Olof Åhlström. Kraus was a Swedish composer of German descent who quickly gained a leading position in the musical life of the Gustavian era in Sweden. He composed both vocal and instrumental music, two operas and a funeral cantata for King Gustav III, and was acquainted to Bellman and the famous writer Anna-Maria Lenngren. Åhlström is described in the text above. This program includes lieder by Mozart, airs by Kraus and songs by Åhlström
In the shadow of a war
- Lyrics from the mutual kingdom of Sweden and Finland put to music by Olof Åhlström
200 years after the Finnish War 1808-09 we now acknowledge the shared history and cultural heritage between Sweden and Finland. When the war ended the two countries entered a new era, but during the decades before 1809, strong feelings prevailed in the mutual kingdom, and these feelings were expressed in words and music. The Swedish composer Olof Åhlström (1756-1835) was an important figure in Stockholm's cultural life. His music gives us a glimpse of the emotions that were flourishing at the time. Åhlström, who was also working at the Council of War and as a publisher of music, put music to texts by the most popular poets of his time. A rich treasury of songs is preserved from his collaboration with the Finnish-Swedish poets Franz Michael Franzén and Michael Choraeus. Åhlström also set music to poems by writers that had very strong connections to the Finnish part of the kingdom, such as Johan Henrik Kjellgren and Anna-Maria Lenngren. The texts that where written in Finland tells us about life in the shades of the war with Napoleon and the Age of the Enlightenment. Anna Nyhlin and Bernt Malmros offer a variety of programmes on this theme. A 19th century musical saloon where we dive deep into the world of emotions and end with rejoice and happiness, all through these talented artist’s work.
When Bernadotte came to Sweden
In the spring of 1808 the French Republic Marshal, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, was equipped with a troop of 33 000 soldiers in Hamburg. Together with the Danes Bernadotte intended to invade Sweden. This plan, however, was put on hold. Napoleon was fully occupied with the war in Spain, and ice conditions between the Danish islands proved to be unfavorable for the transfer of such a large invasion army. Two years later, the same Bernadotte was called to Sweden, and inherit the Swedish throne on August 21, 1810. Such puzzling, and indeed contradictory things, happened in this turbulent time. The war between Sweden and Finland ended in 1809, and the two countries entered into a new era. The strong emotions that flourished, first in the common kingdom and then after the war, were reflected in poetry and music. Or aim with this program is to convey the exciting blend of tradition and innovation that the music of this time presents. When Bernadotte was king of Sweden, composers such as Eduard du Puy, Bernard Crusell, Johan David Valerius, Adolf Fredrik Lindblad, Prince Gustaf and Mathilde Montgomery interpreted the spirit of the time. From Bernadotte’s France we have chosen music by Francois Joseph Gossec, André Grétry, Etienne Nicolas Mehul and Luigi Cherubini, and from the German repertoire Ludwig van Beethoven.