Obscure Music Monday: Munktell's Bränningar
Helena Mathilda Munktell (Nov. 24, 1852 - Sept. 10, 1919) was a Swedish composer, pianist and vocalist. She studied at the Stockholm Conservatory with Joseph Dente, Johan Lindegren, Conrad Nordqvist, and Ludwig Norman, and then moved to Paris to study composition with Vincent d'Indy and Benjamin Godard. Her compositional debut in 1885 was a success; critics were impressed with her use of harmonies, many of which were strongly French-influenced.
She wrote for various genres; she was the first Swedish woman to write an opera, she wrote choral works, a violin sonata, and several orchestral works, including Bränningar, which means breaking waves.
This nautically inspired symphonic poem is a deeply rich and colorful work, musically describing the various moods of the sea. Munktell doesn't shy away from chromatic lines; they are scattered about to great effect, whether they are hidden in the background, or in the forefront with the main thematic material. She starts of the work with a great bang, which shows up later as well, but between bursts of bombast and pomp, she creates tender melodies and lines, and moves effortlessly between them. You can hear those breaking waves, and the still, calm waters as well, making for highly interesting and engaging listening.
Thankfully there's a recording of this work for you to enjoy!