In an age when many Swedes took fancy names like Tuveklev and Mjunstedt, Astrid Lindgren gave “Karlsson” a boost with her series about “Karlsson on the Roof”, that revolved around a quirky character who referred to himself as the “world’s best Karlsson”.
Only now, that fictional favourite may be knocked off his pinnacle by a very worthy contender, Göran Karlsson, director of Karlsson Barock: His extraordinary orchestra uses music to illustrate what life is all about – passion, love, hate, and extreme contrasts.
Period instruments are used, but not just for the sake of it, they are instrumental in exploring the essentials: What exactly does it mean to be human being? And a human by the name of Karlsson at that! A common name that possibly gifts its bearers with an appealing common touch. Though skilfully conceived and performed, this is not music reserved for connoisseurs and high-brows.
In the Baroque age, happiness was not assumed to be a baseline state. There was no “Unhappy? Then you’re a failure!” mindset. No flood of self-help manuals preaching that you yourself are the master of your destiny. Back then, Fate and God still held sway over humankind.
Poor hygiene, little access to efficient medical treatment and no concept whatsoever of the importance of a healthy diet meant that death was a constant companion, regardless of your social station. Only three of composer Charles Avison’s nine children survived childhood. An obligation to be happy was out of the question. Joy was for heaven. If you got there. The alternative was hell, and compared to that, the human condition was pretty trivial.
No one talked about “expressing emotions” in the Arts during the Baroque period – that is a construction of the Romantics – but obviously music, as always, had a therapeutic aspect. Musical instruments were found at mental institutions in the 17th century, so music was literally medicine to soothe a troubled soul.
This is where Karlsson Barock comes in, side-stepping the clinical 1950s approach that period Baroque instruments should be “objective” in tone. To authentically reflect an age where the majority believed in God, Satan and magic, its music must be played with fire and blood, and that is the driving force behind Karlsson Barock.
Katarina A Karlsson
Recorded in Tölö Church, Sweden, 1–5 July, 2013
Recording, Mixing and Mastering Per Sjösten www.sound.se
Producer Per Sjösten
Liner Notes Katarina A Karlsson
English translations Ingrid Eng
“Burnt Norton” taken from Four Quartets © Estate of T.S. Eliot
by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd.
Artur Lundkvists översättning återges med vänligt tillstånd
av Artur Lundkvists och Maria Wines Stiftelse
Photos Per T Buhre, Johan Bengtsson (p 17)
Graphic Design Jocke Wester
CD Manufactured by Digibox
Executive Producers Bo Ejeby and Per Sjösten