Gershwin in Sweden – and Sweden’s Gershwin: Symphonic jazz in Sweden during the 1940s

Alf Arvidsson

This is a study of the reception of ”symphonic jazz” in Sweden. Leading Swedish composers of the twenties and thirties were not interested in jazz influences, and the jazz critics of the thirties made it quite clear that real jazz was made by Armstrong and Ellington, not by Gershwin and other representatives of ”symphonic jazz”. However, there was in the forties a growing interest in this middle ground, as shown by concerts with Gershwin music arranged by jazz musicians as well as opera musicians, and critics of classical music showing sympathy towards Gershwin as a modernizer of music. There was even a ”Gershwin Club” formed 1942 in Stockholm with regular meetings, in order to ”study jazz symphony as Gershwin shaped it and to get this music more wide-spread in this country” and to further such a trend to ”reshape jazz to greater meaning and value”. There were also some attempts from musicians in the popular music business to compose music in this style, notably Hans-ke Gfverts Rhapsodie-miniature and several works by Gerard Tersmeden, sometimes called ”Sweden’s Gershwin” by the media. However, in the late forties the interest waned as non-romantic modernism and be-bop respectively became dominant directions in the developments of classical and jazz music, and there were not any sufficient number of orchestras and venues interested in amiddle ground.

©Alf Arvidsson, 2010

STM-Online vol. 13 (2010)


ISSN: 1403-5715