In 1990, Gunnar Bucht
reached what since 1824 has been concidered a climactic moment in the
orchestral composer's career, the premiere of his Ninth Symphony. Ironically,
it also coincided with what is considered the grand climacteric in a
man's life, his 63rd birthday. There is little sign that Bucht intends
to rest on his laurels; 1990 also witnessed first performances of two
more, dramatically different orchestral works, a second Cello Concerto
and the remarkable "novel for orchestra", On Spring I Went
out into the World.
If Bucht is a traditionalist, as the critical convention has it, he
is a traditionalist of a rather special sort. While it is true that
he has not turned to the more extreme language of the continental avant-garde
and that he maintains an outwardly regressive loyalty to the symphonic
form in something like its 19th-century outline, he is nonetheless one
of the more daring comosers of the older generation in contemporary
Sweden. He recieved a firm grounding at the hands of Karl-Birger Blomdahl,
leader of the famous Monday Group which dominated Swedish Music, and
has some of the knobblier edges knocked off by Goffredo Petrassi (a
man with his own special stance on modern and classical tradition) and
A veteran of the folk high school and Citizens School system, Bucht
acted as Sweden's cultural attaché to what was then West Germany
in the early 1970s, before returning to teach at the State College of
Music in Stockholm. By that point, he was an established symphonist.
His Seventh, written before his return, is ironically his most transcendently
"Swedish", a big rhapsodic work, generously developed, bursting
with big symphonic ideas, barely contained by its structure, but closer
in overall effect to Nielsen than to Sibelius.
Since then, the music has become more obviously pictorial, but not programmatic.
The lovely Fresques mobiles has a dream-like quality that echoes
the "space" effects of Bucht's creation-fantasy The Big
Bang - and After, but with discontinuous elements, collage effects,
something akin to narrative suspense - that was to become the essence
of his innovative "novel for orchestra". It is one of the
most striking orchestral works performed anywhere in the last 10 years.
Bucht's music is absolute in that it obeys the organic imperatives of
the form rather than any strict programme. Nonetheless, it is opened
out to external reference of a particular, non-naturalistic sort. One
might almost say that it contains history without attempting to describe
it. That is one of the sterling qualities of Edith Södergran's
verse, of which Bucht has made some striking settings.
As if to underline his confrontational attitude to tradition, his Lutheran
Mass remains unperformed; the composer believes it may be "too
dangerous" to be acceptable to the Swedish establishment. Generally,
though, he does not seek to alienate his audience with modernist gestures
- the putative objections to the mass is a liturgical one - and continues
to produce music which is both accessible and deeply challenging, national
and universal, "contemporary" and absolutely timeless.
DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPORARY COMPOSERS