The Swedish entry will not be sailing in the America's Cup Finals when they begin on Tuesday at Newport. That battle will be between this country and Australia. But to salute those races, Sweden, along with its first entry into the competition, sent over a marvelous entertainer who appeared on Saturday night in the Kennedy Center.
He is Sven-Bertil Taube, a fascinating balladeer-actor-singer, and the son of the late Evert Taube, whom Sweden calls its greatest troubadour of this century. With his fellow-country-man conductor Ulf Bjorlin. Taube sang songs by Carl Bellman, the famous 18th-century composer, and songs by his father. To these he added sea chanties, interspersing them all with witty and enlivening comments. Since Taube is a noted actor as well as singer, he took over the stage with easy grace.
His English comes out with a polish that sounds as much like the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London as it does the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm, where Taube has starred for a decade. It was a pleasure merely to sit and listen to him talk. Added to this was the material of his songs and the background against which he placed them, for the entire evening, having been done at the Newport Festival earlier this summer, was spent on music about the sea.
From Bellman's songs to the chanties should have brought a decided sea-change in sound. Unfortunately, the arrangements of both groups were played by the full National Symphony Orchestra which Bjorlin did little to hold back. Thus Bellman, of the post Handel generation, was drowned out, along with the balladeer, even though his microphone was working full blast through two loudspeakers.
In his father's songs, Taube was fortunate to have a far more delicate background. They made some of the strongest impressions of the entire concert.
It was not, however, an evening for music as much as for the enjoyment of a king of general good feeling . I mean, when the whole orchestra suddenly begins playing "Row, row, row, your boat," and goes without so much as the flick of an eyelid from that into the overture to "The Flying Dutchman," during the first few measurs of which the orchestra is drowned out by applause - well, you see what I mean.
Bjorlin played fast and loose with brief excerpts from Handel's Water Music, the Wagner piece, and Ibert's "Escales." He contributed most in an impressive account of "Sisyphus" by the late Carl-Birger Blomdahl, best known in this country as the composer of the space opera, "Aniara." Thank you, Sweden, and better luck in the next America's Cup Races.