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Swedish Rhapsody No. 1 for orchestra (Midsummer Vigil/Midsommarvaka) Opus. 19 (Alfven)

(Hugo Emil Alfven)

This piece was written by Hugo Emil Alfven in Skagen, Denmark, in 1904 and has been called “a typical Romantic-era Swedish folk based rhapsody”.

Hugo Alfven said that he had first thought about writing something on this theme as far back as 1892 when he took part in the annual Swedish Midsummer celebrations.  Midsummer is celebrated widely in Sweden and this work reflects the mood that is shown in the revelry of the night.  It starts with the main instrument being the clarinet, slows down to an English horn solo, and ends with a string of joyful dances.

It became Alfven’s most popular composition and was the inspiration for many artists who made different arrangements of it including Chet Atkins’ finger-picking guitar solo, Deep Purple’s “Lazy” and Percy Faith’s Swedish Rhapsody.  Due to its popularity the composer later wrote the ballet St. John’s Eve that expanded on the original theme.

Minnesota Orchestra recordings
Reference Recordings RR-80CD
Conductor – Eiji Oue

Royal Scottish National Orchestra recordings
Naxos 7 30099 47292 0
Conductor – Niklas Willen