Stenhammar Tirfling (excerpts)

Wilhelm Stenhammar was a Wagner- intoxicated Brahmsian at heart, and Wagner definitely wins out in his second stage-work, the opera Tirfing of 1898

Author: 
hfinch

Stenhammar Tirfling (excerpts)

  • Tirfing, I am afraid!
  • Tirfing, I have reached my goal
  • Tirfing, Father, I swear it
  • Tirfing, I am a woman, and he is a man
  • Tirfing, I am already before the court

Tirfing is the name of the magic sword wielded by the Valkyrie daughter Hervor (aka Hervardur) in Anna Boberg's heavily archaicized pseudo saga-poem. Her monologues dominate and, sung with the robust advocacy of Ingrid Tobiasson (a formidable Ortrud, Kundry and Fricka from Stockholm's Royal Opera) they provide strong and obvious excerpts for this world premiere recording.
To the accompaniment of a shepherd piping and Rheingoldian strings (evoking the waters of the Kattegatt, no less), Hervor solemnly dedicates herself to a Viking life of cross-dressing and valour. A noble, folk-like melody with a distinct Nordic feel is given Wagnerian breadth and context, if not substance, before Hervor 'kisses the sword with passionate vigour'; it also takes on any number of Siegfriedian undertones in 'Min, min ar du, Tirfing'.
As the violins take flight, Hervor falls fatally and hopelessly in love with a royal prince, Vidar, vainly trying to convince herself and us that 'I am a woman, and he is a man'. But meanwhile the Princess Gullvag - you've guessed it - has been deceived into falling in love with our Hervor. In a final graveyard scene whose gothic horror rivals Macbeth and Walkure put together, she reveals her female identity, agonizes over her murder of Vidar (too complicated to explain) and dies, with a final flourish of the sword, in what one can only describe as a 'Tirfingadammerung'.
Tirfing was well received at its premiere, but Stenhammar felt it was 'not written with the heart's blood'. He was right, I'm afraid, and despite good casting and committed orchestral playing under Leif Segerstam in the fine acoustic of Stockholm's Concert Hall, this recording will, I suspect, remain a curiosity for collectors.'

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