So, this is what I love about Swedish; Vowels; there are not just 5, there are 8, 3 extra at the end of the alphabet. Each of these comes in 2 different forms; extremely long and acute, and pretty short and laxer. So that makes 16 different vowel sounds to play with. To add to this the consonants also occur in two different ways, either light, or emphatically stressed. That is a considerable sound library. Further to this is the way the vowels and consonants play off each other, a result of necessary speech fluency that is also expressive and engaging. For example take the name Rebecca. In English it is pronounced simply, not so in Swedish. The “Re” hits the “b” and the resultant trajectory of the “e” collides briskly with the “cc” producing an implosion before ending.
The stressed consonants are really something new to me…..they are a challenge. A singer needs to sing through a consonant and then open out onto a vowel again. Just listen to Peter Mattei do it!! It is the lovely interplay between the two that just makes it exciting to listen to. So even quite understated Swedish phrases may yet have a surging power.
Now to give an example of this in one of my favourite songs “Nar du sluter mina ogon” by Gunnar de Frumerie, poem by Par Lagerkvist. The title means “When you close my eyelids”. The hushed phrases have a quiet but urgently pulsing energy which is sourced from the Swedish language. And the language is able not only to narrate the simple caress but also convey the deep joy bubbling underneath. Frumerie stated his desire that all his songs be sung with the most elegant “high Swedish” diction. The result is staggering.