Obituary: Bo Wallner ; Captain of Swedish Musicology and Author of a Magnum Opus on Stenhammar
Anderson, Martin, The Independent (London, England)
BO WALLNER was a captain of Swedish musicology and a towering figure in Swedish intellectual life. Any music-lover with a CD of Swedish music will almost certainly have read some of Wallner's prodigious output: for decades it seemed almost axiomatic that any recording of Swedish classical music would come with a text by Wallner.
After an impoverished childhood (his father died at an early age) which left him with lifelong socialist convictions, Wallner first trained as a cellist but put the instrument aside to study musicology, with Carl Allan Moberg at the University of Uppsala. He worked as a newspaper critic but was soon active as a promoter of new music - as president of Fylkingen, an independent society for new music, and editor of the periodical Nutida Musik ("Contemporary Music").
From 1956 until 1974, he was an adviser to Swedish Radio. Per Skans, a producer there, likened the effect of his insistent passion for contemporary music to that of William Glock at the BBC:
I am well aware that he was, unlike Glock, not the Head of Department; sometimes, however, we who were working there won-
dered whether he really was aware of this, too. His words, especially on repertoire distribution between the centuries, tended to be (and maybe were intended to be) rather imperative, and it is certain that we broadcast more avant-gardist music with Wallner than we would have had without him.
Skans felt that Wallner's influence led to the relative neglect of non- modernist contemporary composers (another parallel with Glock). But he had proof of Wallner's open-mindedness in the form of
the one and only letter that I ever received from Bo. It was a hand-written praise of a broadcast that I had done on the "Mathis der Maler" crisis in Germany in 1934 [when Hindemith's opera was banned by the Nazis]; Bo urged me to do more similar broadcasts in the future. …