Lars-Erik Larsson: Adagio


Composed in 1960, Lars-Erik Larsson’s Adagio (Op.48) is a work for string orchestra. At this point in Larsson’s career, he was exploring the twelve-tone system, dissonance and unique voice leading. All of these things can be heard in the slow and mysterious Adagio. 


The Music

Opening at the top and bottom of the ensemble, the open chord creates a mysterious air instantly in Adagio. Larsson layers voices in, adding nuanced dissonances at every turn. The dissonant writing becomes more prevalent as the music goes forward, with the harmonic language becoming more experimental within the twelve-tone row. Small glimmers of brightness are heard in the climactic sections where Larsson projects the upper violins into their high ranges to create a sense of freedom within the music. 

There is always a darkness within this piece, with the lower strings leading with this idea. There is little known about this work, however one can hazard a guess that something might have been going on in Larsson’s life to make him write something so heart-wrenching. Long sustained chains of suspensions leaves the listener unsure where beats are and which key the music might be passing through. This gives a unique identity to this piece as the music slowly progresses forward. As it begins, Adagio concludes quietly as the last lines die away into the distance. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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