Carl Ivar Natanael Widéen was born on 21 March 1871 in Bällö in the province of Småland and died on 16 March 1951 in Lidköping. In 1900 he became a cathedral organist in Skara, after which he was active on the town's music scene for over fifty years. He mainly composed songs and choral pieces, and many of his works were written for the various celebrations of the liturgical year. Widéen was a well-known and popular composer of choral music during his lifetime. He became a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1921.
Ivar Widéen received his first lessons in piano and harmony from his father and subsequently his maternal grandfather, who had himself been taught at the then educational institution of the Kungliga Musikaliska akademien (the Royal Swedish Academy of Music) in Stockholm.
Widéen studied at the Kungliga Musikkonservatoriet (the Royal Conservatory of Music) from 1888 to 1891, graduating with a degree in organ playing, church song and as a music teacher. Widéen’s years in Stockholm were quite a seminal time for him, as it was here that he became acquainted with the music of Richard Wagner, Edvard Grieg and August Söderman, which would become a major source of inspiration for him. On the performer side, organist Emil Sjögren in St John’s Church was also an important role model.
In 1900, after having spent the previous decade as an organist in Laholm, Widéen was made cathedral organist in Skara, a town in which he remained active until his death in 1951. Widéen was also head of music at the local grammar school and conductor of the Musikaliska Sällskapet (the Music Society) between 1901 and 1936. He was also occasionally engaged as a concert arranger, an assignment he was already given back in 1902 for Wilhelm Stenhammar and Tor Aulin. His contact with Stenhammar also led to a performance of Hugo Alfvén’s Uppenbarelsekantat (Revelation Cantata) in the spring of 1919.
Choral music for both mixed and male choirs held a particular interest for Widéen, who from 1914 to 1921 was the principal conductor of Smålands sångarförbund (the Småland Choral Society), in which capacity he led the choir at annual national choir festivals. He also contributed to the compilation of a new hymnbook in 1919−21.
Ivar Widéen wrote almost 200 solo songs with piano accompaniment as well as over 200 choral pieces, over half of which were printed in magazines, anthologies and other publications. The male choir songs were often published after having won a prize at the annual composition contest organised by the Manskörsförbundet (the Association of Male Choirs). One of the best known of these is ‘Smålandssången’ for four-part choir. The song is a walking tune (gånglåt) in marching tempo and was used as an entrance march at choir festivals; it also earned a place as Småland’s unofficial provincial song.
Widéen valued the folk song very highly, and held that it was there that the new style of Swedish romantic song and popular song had their roots. Many of his vocal works are also clearly inspired by folk songs with their short, strophic forms and allusions to the folk style in their arrangement − the bordune-like drone and rhythms that draw on walking tunes and folk techniques. ‘Nu vilja vi leka med löjen och lust’, ‘Och ungersvennen gångar sig åt hagen’ and ‘Maj i Munga’ are examples of such pieces.
Widéen also wrote sacred choral pieces for the liturgical year, with his larger-format works including a requiem, a Christmas oratorio and a mass. Juloratoriet (Christmas Oratorio) for recitator, soloists, choir, organ and string orchestra was premiered in 1945. Comprising eleven songs with recitations of Bible verses between the numbers, the oratorio takes half of its melodies from the hymnbook; the remaining ones are newly composed. The string parts are written as accompaniment only, and the work can be performed with only an organ or a piano when necessary. It possesses some relatively uncommon features for Widéen, such as the romantic alteration of ‘Madonnans vaggvisa’ and a closing contrapuntal movement. The oratorio has a performance time of about 20 minutes, and shares a degree of similarity with contemporary works such as Lars-Erik Larsson’s Förklädd Gud and Hilding Rosenberg’s Den heliga natten, which reached a wide audience thanks to radio performances.
The somewhat larger works include 23 specially commissioned cantatas, such as Kantat vid Falköpings samrealskolas invigning den 19/10 1911 and Kantat vid Skara gymnasiums 300-årsjubileum 1941. The cantatas are written for choir with piano accompaniment or a small orchestra, sometimes with one or other solo part. A couple of the cantatas were written for performance in Masonic lodges, such as Kantat for a 50th anniversary in Skövde in 1928. Widéen wrote few instrumental works, which mainly comprise short pieces for piano or organ.
Ivar Widéen was an important musician, teacher and concert arranger in Skara for fifty years. His compositions for mixed and male choirs were sung throughout the country. On Widéen’s 60th birthday in 1931, Stockholms Körförbund (the Stockholm Choral Society) paid tribute to the composer with a concert in Konserthuset (the Stockholm Concert Hall) featuring a programme made up exclusively of his music.
Karin Hallgren © 2015
Trans. Neil Betteridge
Carlsson, Curt: 'Wilhelm Stenhammar, Ivar Widén och Alfvéns Uppenbarelsekantat', Alfvéniana, no. 1/2 2009, pp. 9−17.
Frimureriska tonsättare och frimurerisk musik, Uppsala: Forskningslogen Carl Friedrich Eckleff, 2006, pp. 313−314.
Larsson, Karin: Ivar Widéen. En tonsättarbiografi, bachelor's thesis in musicology, Stockholm Universitety, 1983.
Widéen, Harald: Tonsättaren Ivar Widéens tryckta arbeten och efterlämnade otryckta manuskript, Skara, 1963.
Summary list of works
Works for soloists, choir and instruments (approx. 25, including Requiem, Juloratorium, Mässa), cantata (over 20, including Kantat vid Mariestads 350-årsjubileum 1933, Kantat vid Skara gymnasiums 300-årsjubileum 1941), chamber music, songs (approx. 200), choral pieces (over 200, including Smålandssången, Lutad mot gärdet, Goternas sång, Nu vilja vi leka med löjen och lust).
This list of works is a selection, mainly based on information from Harald Widéen: Tonsättaren Ivar Widéens tryckta arbeten och efterlämnade otryckta manuskript, Skara 1963.
Works for soli, choir and instrument
I Husaby (Under höbärgningen, O. Eneroth) for solo, mixed choir, organ piano or orchestra, 1900.
Kantat vid Evangeliska Fosterlandsstiftelsens 50-årsjubileum (N. Hylander), cantata for soli, choir and organ, 1906.
Kantat vid Skaraborgs läns Hushållningssällskaps 100-årsjubileum den 6 juni 1907 (A. Bokelund), cantata for soli, choir and piano or organ.
Requiem − Kom jordens barn (J. O. Wallin) for solo, mixed choir, violin and organ or piano, 1910/1935.
Kantat vid Falköpings samrealskolas invigning den 19 oktober 1911 (B. Malmström), cantata for solo, choir, piano or organ.
Kantat vid konst-, hantverks- och industriutställningen i Eksjö 1912, cantata for solo, choir, organ or piano.
Rosa, rorans bonitatem. Latin hymn from the 1300s (Nicolaus Hermanni, trans. J. Bergman), 1920 for solo, mixed choir, violin and organ.
Mass (Kyrie–Gloria–Sanctus and Benedictus–Agnus Dei) for solo, mixed choir, organ and violin 1932−35.
Kantat vid Mariestads 350-årsjubileum 1933 (G. Björck), cantata.
Kantat vid invigningen av Vara kyrka 1933 (P. Nilsson), cantata for solo, mixed choir, children's choir, violin and organ.
Kantat vid Lidköpings frimurarebröders 70-årsjubileum den 5/3 1939 (P. Nilsson), cantata for solo, male choir, violin, cello and organ.
Kantat vid Skara gymnasiums 300-årsjubileum 1941 (J. Edfelt), cantata for solo, mixed choir, organ, strings and flute.
Ljus över landet. Kantat komponerad till svenska folkskolans 100-årsjubileum 1942 (P. Nilsson och T. Rudenschöld), cantata for solo, choir and piano or organ.
Christmas Oratorio (texts from the Bible and the Book of Psalms and by Lope de Vega and P. Nilsson), for reciter, soli, mixed choir, organ and strings ad.lib., 1945.
Sång över markerna. Kantat vid Skaraborgs läns lantmäns Centralförenings 50-årsjubileum den 28 maj 1945 (K. Hed och I. Blixt), cantata for soli, mixed choir and organ or piano.
Works for choir
More than 200 compositions for mixed choir, male choir or unison choir.
Five songs (E.A. Karlfeldt, G. Fröding and Jeremias in Tröstlösa), 1909.
Hymns, psalms and songs, composed and arranged for mixed choir, 1914. [43 new compositions, 11 arrangements.]
Four songs to poems by G. Fröding, 1916.
Västgötabilder and other poems by Paul Nilsson, composed for the school and home, 1942. [44 songs.]
Examples on separate choral songs, selected because of their large divergence
Nu vilja vi leka med löjen och lust (W. Peterson-Berger), 1900.
Serenad ('Tallarnas barr och björkarnas blad', E.A. Karlfeldt), 1901.
Goternas sång (V. Rydberg), 1904.
Smålandssången ('Röd lyser stugan', L. Andrén), 1911
Lutad mot gärdet (J.L. Runeberg), 1926.
Works for solo song and accompaniment (piano/organ)
Around 200 compositions, composed continuously during Widéen's entire lifetime.
Den heliga familjen (O. Levertin), 1906.
Elie himmelsfärd (E. A. Karlfeldt), 1917.
En gammal sång (M. Bergquist), 1928.
Bland alla helgon fromma (M. Bergquist), 1933.
Hemmet (V. von Heidenstam), 1937.
En dag på Kinnekulle (P. Nilsson), 1942.
Adagio − Vattnet rörs och vinden spelar (B. Bergman), 1942
Helgmålsringning (I. Granqvist), 1949.
Works for piano or violin and piano
Jubileums-marsch komponerad med anledning av H. M. Konung Oscar II:s 25-års Regeringsjubileum 1897. [Jubilee March.]
Ivar Widéen Album. Piano Pieces, 1931.