When Swedish composer Lars-Erik Larsson began working as a composer-conductor for his country's radio service in 1937 it meant, among other things, that his activities as a composer of serious, large-scale concert music had to be dramatically curtailed; such pieces had no place in a radio studio at that time unless they happened to be long-established masterworks of their genre. But Larsson was not content merely to supply incidental music to radio dramas and compose short theater or cantata-type works: he pioneered a new kind of radio entertainment, called the "lyrical suite," in which poetry readings and new music walked hand in hand. His 1938 Pastoral Suite (Pastoralsvit) for orchestra, Op. 19, is made up of extracts from one of these lyrical suites -- the original suite was called Dagens stunder -- and has three attractive movements.
The Pastoral Suite begins with an overture whose Adagio-tempo opening bars show the decisive influence that Jean Sibelius had on the young Larsson -- the resemblance in texture and shape here to the opening bars of the great Finn's Symphony No. 6 cannot be missed. Larsson disguises the ultimate C major scheme of the movement during this rich string-section counterpoint (all played con sordino), so that it is only when the robust Allegro kicks in after the woodwinds enter that we can be sure of our home key. The happy, tuneful Allegro main theme is first given in canon between the woodwinds and low strings; it has an elegantly-placed Lydian raised fourth scale degree. Later in the movement we are treated to lots of juicy parallel thirds (one is tempted again to draw a parallel with Sibelius' Sixth).
For the second movement of the Suite, Larsson provides an E flat major, Adagio Romance for strings alone. Its lovely melody is colored by inclusion of C flat in the first bar. After a throbbing, and ultimately impassioned central episode, this tune comes back in E major, wonderfully fortissimo, molto largamente, with a sizzling tremolo support. Recognizing its error, however, the melody winds back around to E flat.
The third movement is a quick-footed Scherzo that takes us back to C major (the trio section is in G major). Its theme sometimes turns into a little tongue-twister, circling around and around the same pivoting pitch.