Notes by TŌN violinist Yinglin Zhou
Music for Strings is one of the most famous pieces composed by Ingvar Lidholm, who was a Swedish composer born in 1921. He started his music journey at an early age. By the time he was 19, in 1940, he went to a musical school in Stockholm to continue his advanced musical studies. There, he would gather with his friends Sven-Erik Bäck and Karl-Birger Blomdahl, who later also become important Swedish composers, to discuss and critique music. This activity drew a lot of attention from students and instructors. Lidholm’s composing teacher, Hilding Rosenberg, was also part of this gathering, and he would often lead the discussion into modern composers, such as Stravinsky and Hindemith. Because they always gathered on Mondays, people later came to know them as the Måndagsgrupp (the Monday Group).
Lidholm began working on this piece in 1945, the same year Shostakovich released his Symphony No. 9. It is interesting to hear almost opposite characters in these two pieces. Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, different than his other symphonies, sounds more transparent and bright, whereas Lidholm’s Music for Strings sounds more tragic and intense. When I listen to the piece for the first time, the repetitive accented eighth-note patterns at the end of the last movement reminds me a lot of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Even though Lidholm never traveled nor studied in Hungary or Russia, based on what he discussed with the Monday Group, it is not hard to understand and to assume that modern composers of the time like Stravinsky and Bartók had a huge impact on Lidholm.