Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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Welin, Karl-Erik

(b Genarp, 31 May 1934; d Bunyola, Mallorca, 30 May 1992). Swedish composer, pianist and organist. He studied composition with Bucht and Lidholm, the piano with Brandel and Tudor, and the organ with Linder. After passing the highest organ examination at the Stockholm Musikhögskolan (1961) he took appointments as organist of the Johanneskyrka, Stockholm, and as a music producer for Swedish radio. Internationally known as a performer of avant-garde music, he displayed an unusual dramatic talent in theatrical works, as well as considerable ability in the realization of graphic scores. He also made a reputation for unconventional performances of Baroque music, particularly Bach; and he extended the possibilities of both the piano and the organ.

The compass of Welin’s compositional work is broad. A subdued, dream-like quality is represented by the Kinesiska dikter, Renovationes, with its shimmering orchestration and soprano vocalises, and Warum nicht?, which displays a characteristic preference for the low register of the flute. In protest against escapist and lazy listening habits, he has emphasized the romantic and traditional aspect of his music in such works as Aver la forza di …, clearly attempting to create ‘pleasing melody’, and Glazba (‘Music’), in which the intensity of feeling is very marked. The strongly dramatic side of Welin’s work is to be found mostly in the pieces of the early 1960s: Manzit, for example, has such directions as ‘with hysterical force’ and ‘all sorts of craziness’; and Esservecchia is performed with violent fist blows on the keys and strings of the piano. Later he concentrated on music of great simplicity, sometimes to the point of naivety, and he maintained the strong romantic and lyrical side of his gifts in music of some fragility, expressive of loneliness and alienation, as demonstrated in Ett svenskt rekviem (1976).

Welin created a sensation at what had been advertised as his last piano concert (Stockholm, 1964) when he played Rendez-vous 1963 by Theodore E. Libér (alias Knut Wiggen), so injuring himself in the destruction of the piano required by the piece that he had to be taken to hospital. For his own L’essai du pianiste he staged, without playing a note, a satirical ‘state funeral’ of the grand piano, which he described as that ‘most foul item of furniture’.


(selective list)


Opera: Dummerjöns [Silly Jöns] (children’s television op, H.-E. Hellberg), 1966–7; Drottning Jag [I the Queen] (op, 2 pts, S. Claesson), 1972; Christofer Columbus (music theatre, M. Meschke), actors, vv, children’s choir, synth, 1991; untitled opera (anon.), inc.

Choral: 4 kinesiska dikter, 1956; Vän, i förödelsens stund [Friend, in the Hour of Devastation] (E.J. Stagnelius), 1958; Cant. (E. Diktonius), children’s vv, 3 insts, 1960; Another Piece (L. Norén) children’s choir, Orff insts, 1969, rev. 1976; Helg [Festival] (Welin), 1970; A New Map of the Hell (Welin), 1971; Natalino [Christmas] (Welin), 1971; Aver la forza di … (anthology compiled by Welin), chorus, str, 1972; Pagabile (phonetics), SATB, orch, 1972; Joergen (H. Wiborg), 1973; 4 japanska dikter (trans. P.E. Wahlund), 1974; Viso, 1975; Ett svenskt rekviem (C. von Linné), T, Bar, SATB, orch, 1976; In silvis cum libro (V. Ekelund), male chorus, 1980; Flying Safe (J. von Heidenstam), S, SATB, fl, 1980; L’aveu (M. Gellerfeldt), vv, chorus, orch, 1982–3; Lamento (W. Shakespeare), op.41, SATB, 1986; Maxi-Min (S. George, J. Persson), SATB, 1987; Avsked [Resignation] (M. Wine), male chorus, 1987; I Am Nobody (E. Dickinson), op.51, male chorus, fl, 3 perc, 1989; Luna llena, violeta (G.B. Verdera), op.60, T, SATB, fl, 1989; 3 kinesiska dikter (Li Po, Meng Hao-Jan), op.61, SATB, 1990; Don Quijote (scenic orat, Meschke, after M. de Cervantes), op.64, vv, fl, bn, hn, 2 vn, va, vc, db, timp, perc, tape, 1990–91; Crepusculo (Verdera), op.65, boy S, SATB, 1992

Solo vocal: Renovationes (Bible), S, fl, vn, mand, cel, perc, 1960; Glazba [Music] (Welin), S, 3 fl, bn, 1967–8; Dantons Tod (incid music, G. Büchner), S, fl, vib, tam-tam, drums, pf, 1971; En bukett japanska sånger om att åldras i skönhet [A Bouquet of Japanese Songs about Aging in Beauty] (various authors), S, 3 rec, 1975; I väntan på … [Awaiting …], radiophonic work, T, B, fl, db, hp, org, 1976; Sonet (W. Shakespeare), S, fl, vc, pf, 1979; Sorgesång (B. Setterlind), 1v, org, 1980


Orch: Pereo, 35 str, 1964; Copelius, ballet, 1968; Jeux à l’occasion d’une fête, chbr orch, 1976; other ballets, music for the theatre and cinema

Other works: Sermo modulatus, fl, cl, 1959; No.3, fl, ob, cl, b cl, hn, tpt, trbn, vn, db, 1961; Manzit, cl, trbn, pf, perc, vc, 1962; Esservecchia, hn, trbn, elec gui, pf, 1963; Warum nicht?, fl, vib, xyl, tam-tam, vn, vc, 1964; Kazimir, 4 fl, 1965; L’essai du pianiste, pianist, 1965; Visoka 12, 2 hn, 2 vn, 2 vc, 1965; Etwas für …, wind qnt, 1966; Str Qt no.1 ‘Eigentlich nicht’, 1967; Benfatto, 1 or more insts, 1968; Ancora, 4 fl, 1969; Hommage à …, org, 1969; Improvisation, org, 1969; Str Qt no.2 ‘PC-132’, 1969–70; Frammenti, vc, 1972; Harmonie, cl, trbn, pf, vc, 1972; Str Qt no.3 ‘Recidivans’, 1972; Str Qt no.4 ‘Residuo’, 1974; Musik till Racines Brittanicus, elec, 1974; Str Qt no.5 ‘Min femte’, 1977; Eurytmi, str qt, pf, 1979; Denby – Richard, fl, vc, 1981; Str Qt no.6, 1982; Poème, hn, pf, 1983; Solo, fl, 1983; Solo, ob, 1983; Solo, bn, 1983; Str Qt no.7, 1984; Tema con 36 variazoni, pf, 1984; Str Qt no.8, 1986–7; Suite, pf, 1988; A Portrait (T. Berggren), improvisation, org, 1989, collab. S.-D. Sandström; Duo, op.59, 2 fl, 1989; Str Qt no.9, op.62, 1990


‘Arbetsbok’ [Workbook], Nutida musik, vi/8 (1962–3), 4–12

‘Före konserten upplever jag mig själv som en kinesisk ask’ [Before the concert I think of myself as a Chinese box], Konsertnytt, i/5 (1965–6), 29

‘Den svenske tonsättarens situation’, Nutida musik, xiv/2 (1970–71), 24–34, esp. 34

‘Tonsättarna ska användas’ [Composers must be used], Tonfallet (1973), no.8, p.2

‘Grafisk notation – genialt och bluff’, Nutida musik, xxxii/3 (1988–9), 22–3

Lögner om sanningen: memoarer (Stockholm, 1992)

‘Mannen som skrev sitt live’, Montage, no.43 (1997), 11–17


J.W. Morthenson: ‘Post compositum festum’, Nutida musik, viii (1964–5), 141–3 [on L’essai du pianiste]

H. Connor: Samtal med tonsättare [Conversation with composers] (Stockholm, 1968)

I. Laaban: ‘Extrem följsamhet, extrem självständighet’, Nutida musik, xx/1 (1976–7), 10–12

I. Laaban: ‘En Nemesis divina musicalis’, Nutida musik, xxi/3 (1977–8), 68–70 [on Requiem]

P.-A. Hellqvist: ‘Bekännelser: Karl-Erik Welin mellan två tåg’, Nutida musik, xxviii/2 (1984–5), 24–6

L. Ulvenstam: Nyfiken på! (Stockholm, 1989)

B. Anderas: ‘Karl-Erik Welin – några minnesanteckningar’, Orgelforum (1992), no.2, pp.22–4

G. Bergendal and B.E. Johnson: ‘Till minnet av Karl Erik Welin’, Nutida musik, xxxiii/3 (1992), 36–7


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