Bengt Hambraeus | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Bengt Hambraeus

Hambraeus, Bengt. Composer, teacher, organist, musicologist, b Stockholm 29 Jan 1928, d Apple Hill, Ont, 21 Sep 2000; MA (Uppsala) 1950, PH D (Uppsala) 1956, honorary doctorate (Uppsala) 1992.

Hambraeus, Bengt

Hambraeus, Bengt. Composer, teacher, organist, musicologist, b Stockholm 29 Jan 1928, d Apple Hill, Ont, 21 Sep 2000; MA (Uppsala) 1950, PH D (Uppsala) 1956, honorary doctorate (Uppsala) 1992. He studied organ 1944-8 with Alf Linder and musicology 1947-56 with Carl-Allan Moberg at Uppsala, organ acoustics 1949-52 with Ernst Karl Rössler in Germany, and composition 1951-5 with Olivier Messiaen and others in Darmstadt. In 1957 he joined the music department of the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation, where he was a program producer 1957-64, head of the chamber music section 1964-8, and head of production 1968-72. After a two-month tour of Canada and the USA in 1971, during which he lectured on contemporary Swedish music, he joined the faculty of music at McGill University in 1972. He joined the Swedish Composers' Performing Rights Organization and the Nordic Copyright Bureau in 1948, the Society of Swedish Composers in 1957, and the CLComp in 1977. In recognition of his international stature as a composer, organist, scholar, lecturer, and administrator he was awarded Sweden's highest honour for artists, the Royal Medal Litteris et Artibus, in 1986.

Hambraeus' music - stimulated by his investigations of early music, acoustics, and electronic studio techniques, and by non-Western and avant-garde music - displays a penchant for timbre explorations (especially bell sounds) and collage/quotation effects. His over 150 compositions are often grouped into cyclical 'families' of conceptually similar pieces, such as the Rota, Transit, and Transfiguration series (1956-63) for orchestra, tape, and chamber ensembles; the Constellations series (1958-83) for organ, percussion, tape, and voices; and the 'Choral Trilogy': Constellations V (1982-3), Symphonia Sacra in tempore passionis (1985-6), and Apocalipsis cum figuris (1982-7) for organ, choir, and instrumental ensembles. His broadcast opera Sagan was premiered in Sweden in 1980 and his chamber opera L'oui-dire, a tribute to Jacques Cartier, was commissioned by the Montreal Chamber Orchestra. Hambraeus also worked at the electronic studios in Cologne (1955) Milan (1959), Munich (1963), Stockholm (1965-6), and McGill University (from 1972). He received commissions from the Canada Council (in 1986, for a piece for Canadian oboist Lawrence Cherney), and from the Swedish Broadcasting Corp, the Scandinavian Ballet, and other European organizations.

Hambraeus' works have been performed at ISCM festivals in Cologne (1960), Amsterdam (1963), Stockholm (1966), London (1971), and Reykjavik (1973), and at other contemporary music festivals in Japan, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, and Ireland. In October 1991, Gothenburg University held a three-day Hambraeus Festival. In Canada his works have been performed by the Lyric Arts Trio (Récit de deux), organist Hugh McLean (Icons), the NACO (Pianissimo), the Toronto Bach Festival Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the McGill Symphony Orchestra and Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Quodlibit re BACH), the SMCQ (Notazioni, Relief haut et bas), the York Winds (Jeu de cinq), harpsichordist Vivienne Spiteri (Capriccio I per Clavicembalo), accordionist Joseph Petric (Trio Sonata, Three Dances - quasi una mascherata), oboist Lawrence Cherney (Sheng, Mirrors), the duo pianists Bruce Mather and Pierrette LePage (Carillon), and Luba and Ireneus Zuk (Vortex - in memoriam magni artificis MDCCCXI-MDCCCLXXXVI). McGill University's Contemporary Music Festival VI (1989) celebrated Hambraeus' 60th birthday.

As a concert organist and organ scholar, Hambraeus performed and lectured on a wide variety of organ music, from its origins to the 20th century, with emphasis on recent music. He published numerous essays and articles on topics ranging from early music to contemporary music notation, from Buxtehude to Max Reger, and in 1997 published the book Aspects of Twentieth-Century Performance Practice. He retired from McGill University in 1995, with the title professor emeritus, and produced many new compositions in the 1990s. As late as 2000, he wrote the lute piece Varianti per liuto, commissioned by the Swedish Concert Institute. In 1993 Hambraeus received the Neemi Järvi Award from Sweden's Gothenburg University, and in 1995 the Hilding Rosenberg Prize, also from Sweden. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and the RCCO.

Selected Compositions

Klassisk t spel, ballet. 1965. Tape

Experiment X, chamber opera. 1969 (Stockholm 1971). Ms

Se människan, opera. 1970 (Stockholm 1971). Ms

Sagan, radio opera. 1979 (Stockholm 1980). Ms

L'oui-dire, chamber opera (Hambraeus). 1986. Ms

Selected Writings

Codex Carminum gallicorum: une étude sur le volume'Musique vocale du manuscrit 87' de la bibliothèque de l'Université d'Upsala (Uppsala 1961)

'Preludium-fuga-toccata-ciacona. En studie kring några formproblem i Buxtehudes orgelmusik,' Swedish J of Musicology, vol 39, 1957

'Teknik och estetik i punktmusiken,' Modern Nordisk Musik, ed L. Bengtsson (Stockholm 1957)

Om notskrifter: paleograi-tradition-förnyelse (Stockholm 1970)

'Karl Straube, old masters and Max Reger: a study in 20th-century performance practice,' Swedish J of Musicology, vol 69, 1987

Aspects of Twentieth-century Performance Practice: Memories and Reflections (Stockholm 1997)


Rota. 1956-62. 3 orch, tape. Ms. Caprice

Transfiguration. 1963. Ms. Swedish Society Discofil SLT-33181 (Swedish Radio SO)

Rencontres. 1971. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1973. 1971. Caprice CAP-1032 (Swedish Radio SO)

Pianissimo in due tempi. 1972. 20 strings. Ms

Continuo - a partire de Pachelbel. 1975. Org, orch. Ms

Ricordanza. 1976. Ms. 1977. Caprice CAP-1137 (Norrköping SO)

Quodlibet re BACH. 1984. Ms

Litanies. 1989. Ms


Concerto for organ and harpsichord. 1947, rev 1951. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1960

Spectrogram. 1973. Sop, instr ensemble. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1954

Introduzione - Sequenze - Coda. 1959. 3 fl, percussion ensemble, loudspeakers. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1970

Mikrogram. 1961. Alto fl, viola, vibraphone, harp. Suecia 1964. (1980). Caprice CAP-1176/Caprice CAP-1183 (Maros Ens)

Transit II. 1963. Trb, harp, elec guitar, piano. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1965. Artist ALP-102 (Kulturkvartetten)

Invenzione I. 1964, rev 1967. Str quartet. Suecia 1969

Jeu de cinq. 1976. Ww quintet. Centrediscs CMC-0482/RCI 563 (York Winds)

Parade. 1977. Wind instr, percussion. Suecia 1982

Constellations IV. 1978. Org, percussion. Wilhelm Hansen 1985. Christophorus SCGLX-73-971 (Jacob organ, Fink percussion)

Sheng. 1983. Ob, organ. Ms. McGill University Records 85026 (L. Cherney)

Trio Sonata. 1985. Acc, trombone, piano. Ms. CONA 3 (CD) (Donatel trombone, Petric accordion, Petrowksa piano)

Three Dances - quasi una mascherata. 1986. Acc, percussion. Ms

Mirrors. 1987. Ob, tape. Ms

Night Music. 1987. Guit, percussion. Ms

Dos recerdacas. 1988. Guit, violoncello. Ms

Cinque studi canonci per due flauti. 1988. 2 fl. Ms

Tiento. 1989. Ob, 3 tom-toms. Ms

Nazdar M.J. 1989. Brass ensemble. Ms

Nocturnals. 1989-90. 15 instr. Ms

Rondeau. 1991. Guit. Ms


Cercles. 1955. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1960

Carillon. 1974. 2 piano. Ms. 1986. Caprice CAP-21331 (CD) (Persson and Scholz piano)/McGill University Records 77002 (Mather, LePage piano)

Capriccio I per Clavicembalo. 1980. Ms. SNE 542 (CD) (Spiteri)

Tre intermezzi per pianoforte. 1984. Ms

Vortex - in memoriam magni artificis MDCCCXI-MDCCCLXXXVI. 1986. 2 piano. Ms


Musik för Orgel. 1950. Nordiska Musikförlaget 1970

Constellation I. 1958. Wilhelm Hansen 1974

Constellation III. 1961. Wilhelm Hansen 1974

Interferences. 1962. Suecia 1972. Philips 839-278/Limelight LS-86052 (Welen)

Tre pezzi (Movimenti - Monodia - Shogaku). 1967. Augsburg 1973. (Shogaku) 1976. Caprice CAP-1108/Caprice CAP-1140 (Welin)

Nebulosa. 1969, rev 1976. Wilhelm Hansen 1979. Christophorus SCK-70-350 (Jacob)/Cantate 658229 (Peter Schumann)

Toccata. 1973. Wilhelm Hansen 1979

Ricercare. 1974. Wilhelm Hansen 1979

Extempore. 1975. Wilhelm Hansen 1979

Icons. 1975. Wilhelm Hansen. RCI 481 (H McLean)

Livre d'orgue, vol I-IV. 1980-1. Ostiguy 1981. (Vol III) McGill University Records 85024 (Grew)

Variations on a Theme by Gilles Vigneault. 1984. Ms. SNE 530 (Monique Gendron)

Après-Sheng. 1988

Cadenza per organo grande. 1988

Canvas with Mirrors. 1987-90. Org, tape


Responsorier. 1964. Ten, chorus, 2 organ, church bells. Ms. SR RMLP-1093 (Swedish Radio Choir)

Motetum archangeli Michaelis. 1967. Chor, organ. Eriks Mustkhandel 1969. SR RMLP-1096 (Swedish Radio Choir)/Proprius PROP-7770 (Mikaeli Kammarkör)/Simax PSC-1044 (CD) (Oslo Cathedral Choir)

Constellations V. 1983. 2 soprano, chorus, organ

Symphonia Sacra in Tempore Passionis. 1986 Vs, chorus, 10 instr, 3 percussion

Apocalpsis cum figuris. 1982-7. Chor, organ, instr ensemble

Five Psalms. 1987. Chor. Ms

Echoes of Loneliness. 1988. 4 SATB chorus, viola, percussion

Also some works for voice including Psalm CXXII (1953) recorded by Ilona Maros soprano and Bengt Forsberg organ (1987, Phon Suecia PS-CD-37)


Constellation II. 1959. Wilhelm Hansen 1974. Philips 839-278/Limelight LS-86052 (Hambraeus)

Rota II. 1963

Tetragon. 1965

Fresque Sonore. 1967. Swedish Society Discophil SLT-33181

Tides. 1974. McGill University Records 76001

Intrada: 'Calls'. 1975. McGill University Records 76001/ACM 37

Tornado. 1976. McGill University Records 76001

Also Doppelrohr II recorded on Phono Suecia PS-CD-41 (CD)

Further Reading