Claude Loyola Allgén

  • 1920 — 1990
  • Composer

When Claude Loyola Allgén, with his scores, succumbed to the flames of his chilled out, unelectrified house in Täby outside Stockholm as it burned down on 18th September 1990, he was seventy years old and in the midst of his composing. Amongst the works lost was an almost completed saxophone concert, a commission.

Allgén had always had his own position, well outside of the circle of established composers in Sweden. Even though he more or less peripheraly was associated with Måndagsgruppen — The Monday Group; a group of Swedish modern composers, musicians and other culture workers who gathered at Karl-Birger Blomdahl’s apartment in Stockholm in the 1940s, originally to study Paul Hindemith’s “Unterweisung im Tonsatz” — he still was considered an oddity by his colleagues — except maybe by Sven-Eric Johansson — and even a free thinker like Karl-Birger Blomdahl expressed that Allgén “preferred to write nine part fugues in practically unplayable tempi”, that he was a “hyper intellectualist” and that he “advocated an absolute objectivity”!

Neither did the spiritual and musical guru of Måndagsgruppen — composer Hilding Rosenberg — have much to say in favour of Claude Loyola Allgén’s compositions.

In spite of this stonewalling adversity, and even though his works hardly ever were performed, Allgén — who before he converted to Catholicism was called Klas-Thure Allgén — kept on keeping on, enduring in an intensive act of composing, through the devastatingly — partly selfinflicted — poverty of his manhood, which led to the fire that ended his life.

Many of his works were of long durations, and of a rare complexity, even though there were shorter pieces of a simpler construction in his oeuvre too. I suppose he can only be compared to his luckier composer colleauge Allan Pettersson — whose entire output now has been put onto CD — when it comes to defiance and obstinacy. Not much by Allgén has been released on phonogram. Tore Wiberg recorded the piano piece ”Ave Maris Stella” in 1964. I should insert here that Bengt Hambraeus — Swedish composer and musician of a rare integrity and stature, living in Canada — who always has had a very open mind, performed Allgén’s organ works very early, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and supported the diffusion of knowledge about these works, to get them performed. Karl-Erik Welin — late Swedish enfant terrible, composer and musician — was the one who finally, in 1973, had Allgén elected a member of Föreningen Svenska Tonsättare; the Swedish Composer’s Union.

The wind changed in 1989. When Ny Musik i Borås — the Society for New Music in Borås — with Björn Nilsson in the lead, gathered some of Sweden’s foremost interpreters of new music on 24th September for a concert solely consisting of works by Claude Loyola Allgén. The composer himself attended the event, which must have been bewildering for this loner, who had grown accustomed to dwelling in his alienation, writing extended and complex compositions that he never expected would be heard. I understand his composing these years as a kind of chess game with Satan, or an introverted game of patience in a spiritual hall of mirrors.

Those parttaking that important September day in the People’s House in Borås (Folkets Hus) were Mats Persson, pianist and composer, Kristine Scholz, pianist and Perssons long-time musical partner, Henrik Löwenmark, pianist, Anna Lindal and Staffan Larsson, violinists, Mikael Larsson, violist, Chrichan Larsson, cellist, Maria Höglind, singer, the Vocal Ensemble of Borås, the Svensson String Quartet and others. In connection with the broadcasts later of the recorded concerts, parts of an interview that Rolf Haglund did with Allgén were aired, and this interview from the fall of 1989 is a true gem. Fantastic tings are uttered, and I hope that someone of the initiated persons who made Allgén’s music their responsibility in Borås may have the will and means to supply us with an extensive biography with a worklist, also containing this shimmering interview.

Ingvar Loco Nordin