Dag Wirén is not widely known outside his native Sweden, though his music began gaining notice internationally on recordings in the decade following his death. His early musical tuition was given in his home province of Vastmanland but at 14 he moved to Sweden and then to Paris where his heard the works of Stravinsky, Honegger and Prokofiev, eventually meeting the composers and coming under their influence. His first serious compositions date to the 1930s and divulge a neo-Classicism tinged by a Romantic warmth. By the middle of the following decade, his style had settled into a kind of early form of minimalism, but with themes, usually short, motto-like creations divulging a more complex and subtle form of evolution, relying on little repetition and thus achieving an entirely different kind of effect from that of the minimalists. Dag Wirén often said that his music was intended to “entertain and please and to create a listener friendly ‘modern’ music”. This statement rings true in all his music from his neo-classical symphonies to his 1965 Eurovision entry.
Wirén, whose credo was, "I believe in God, Mozart and Carl Nielsen,” seems to have been especially influenced by Mozart when he wrote his Serenade for Strings, a work that would become his only international success. Like Mozart’s lighter works for strings, particularly Eine kleine Nachtmusik and the K.136-138 divertimenti, Wirén's Serenade is bright, spontaneous and concise.
The first movement Preludium is an Allegro molto in which a long-lined melody seems to fly over a burbling, waterlike rhythm, with contrast provided by a witty, march-like tune. This movement evokes images of the pastoral setting Wirén’s upbringing, where countryside and a tradition stood side by side. The Andante espressivo which follows creates a feeling of restfulness and an occasionally darker tone, with a serene melody stretching over a lighthearted pizzicato accompaniment. Third comes the Scherzo. Allegro vivace, which skips around a central Trio. The trio is more foreboding, full of tension and turbulence. The concluding Marcia was used many years ago as the theme of the BBC cultural show, Monitor, and its popularity spread from there. It begins with a brisk, jolly march, interrupted by some threatening intrusions. The middle section is a also a march of a more Viennese marching band style.
© Matthew Lynch, 2009