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Thomas Jennefelt (CV) by Tony Lundman

THOMAS JENNEFELT, born 1954, studied composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm from 1974 to 1980 for Gunnar Bucht and Arne Mellnäs, amongst other teachers. The attention to vocalisation is salient in his works, which extend from choral music to opera. Warning to the rich is an early and successful example of the former, and has been played the world over since its inception in 1977. Other acclaimed choral pieces include O Domine and Dichterliebe (I-X), composed to the same poems by H. Heine that Robert Schumann used, and the original a cappella suite Villarosa sequences sung to a self-created, Latinesque language.

Many of his works have earned international popularity, with their trademark profusion of choral colour, often underpinned by a regular pulse and repetitive rhythm. These features, along with a decidedly free-tonal character imbued with a melodic lyricism, are also detectable in his instrumental works. At times, this is coupled with pictorial qualities, as in the filmically evocative orchestral piece “Musik vid ett berg” (Music by a mountain) or the serenely melancholic trumpet concerto “Stockholm i maj”.

Thomas Jennefelt’s music is not unequivocally minimalist, but his means of expression and composition are often reduced to a precise minimum. This kind of focus, with its heightened sensibility for the pithy, lends his music a wholly unique directness. Jennefelt has strived consistently for this simplicity and along principles that in reality have greater affinity with American modernism than the more rigid, stylistically conservative Central European. And symptomatically enough, his music shows no signs of the sudden stylistic shifts that are found in the works of his contemporaries.

Jennefelt’s multifaceted and vocally sensitive composition is particularly suited to music drama. Notable amongst his operas are “Albert och Julia”, the full-length Gycklarnas Hamret (The Jesters’ Hamlet), the chamber opera “Farkosten” (The Vessel), to which he set his own libretto, and several other music drama scenes for different sizes of orchestra. He also wrote “Sport och fritid” (Sport & Leisure) for the Stockholm Royal Opera to a libretto by Niklas Rådström.

Thomas Jennefelt is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and has been its vice president since 2004. In 2001 he was awarded the royal Litteris et artibus medal. From 1994 to 2000 he was chairman of the Society of Swedish Composers.

Tony Lundman