Selim Palmgren: Snöflingor
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) was a Finnish composer and conductor. He studied at the Music Conservatory in Helsinki, where he then pursued piano performance under the tutelage of Busioni and Berger. He made a small career out of being a concert pianist, where he toured to the big cities in Finland and Scandinavia.
Palmgren was also a successful conductor, often performing in his home country and other Nordic cities. He was a visiting conductor for some of the most prestigious orchestras in the region. As well as this, Palmgren was also an accomplished composer. He composed a catalogue of works, most of which include a piano in some way. He wrote five piano concerti, plus a whole range of solo works.
Palmgren, in his later life, travelled to the USA to teach composition at Eastman School of Music. However, he returned to Helsinki to teach composition at the prestigious Sibelius Academy until his death in 1951.
Snöflingor (‘Snowflakes’) was probably composed during this middle period of his life, either just before he left to go back to Helsinki, or just as he got there. It is a work for solo piano that lasts between 3.5-4 minutes in duration. As the title suggests, the music depicts the falling of snowflakes.
Opening with a flowing quaver movement in the right hand, the left hand joins in bar three to play simple crotchet-minim accentuations. The direction of the melody line goes up and down, depicting the trickling of the snow onto the landscape. The right hand then plays a variation of the opening quaver theme by playing them in thirds. The sparkling transitions between the chords adds to the fantasy of the snow falling. The right hand reaches one of the highest points of the piano before slowly cascading down once more.
Throughout Snöflingor, the atmosphere is calm, nostalgic and focused solely on the delicate snowflakes falling from the sky. The atmosphere is kept similar throughout, without any big climaxes, as that would be out of character for what Palmgren is focusing on. The ‘climax’ of the piece could perhaps instead be seen in the high range the right hand showcases. Snöflingor ends quietly as the hands come together for one last chord, although this time in the middle of the piano.
Selim Palmgren’s Snöflingor is a picturesque work depicting the calm falling of snow. The sparkling melody paired with the simple accompaniment makes for a sparkling piece of piano music.
Ⓒ Alex Burns