Although mainly known in his homeland for his choral music, Alfvén (1872-1960) was also a notable orchestral composer, and it is for this music (particularly his tuneful Midsummer Vigil) that he is most famous outside Sweden.
The large collection of rocky islands in the Baltic off Stockholm, known as the "Skerries" in English, inspirec special affection in Alfvén, who spent many fine days there in his youth. In 1903, after writing Midsummer Vigil, the place appeared to him in his visual and musical imagination. He returned to the island of Elfsten, remained there a few weeks, and came up with the musical material of this colorful and emotional sixteen-minute symphonic poem. The music is a grand and striking portrait of the natural world of the Skerries, but Alfvén acknowledged that it also encompassed a personal love story. Alfvén himself conducted the premiere in Stockholm on March 31, 1905, and the work was well received. It is a richly scored and romantic work with strong appeal and the potential for becoming a popular international success. Incidentally, Alfvén used the Skerries as the inspiration for other pieces, particularly his Pictures from the Skerries for piano and his Symphony no 4 in C minor, Op. 39, "From the Skerries".