Folke Rabe Biography (BBC)
‘A portrait of Folke Rabe,’ as Göran Bergendal has wittily observed, ‘would be made up of one composer (or two or even three), a couple of trombone-players (jazz trombone and member of the Culture Quartet), one actor (the New Culture Quartet), one teacher (the Sound Workshops, which helped people to find their ears), several administrators (social educator, school concert organiser, head of the concert agency and programme director at the Swedish Concert Institute) and a couple of radio producers (in charge of music for young listeners and of experimental, jazz and traditional music respectively) – all accomplished with a unique mixture of pedantic carefulness, undisputed professionalism, an elaborate turn of phrase, socialistic involvement, a suffering world conscience and a bizarre sense of fun.
Rabe’s voyages of discovery as a composer took him to rebellious cells with no respect for established boundaries – in Finland (Kaj Chydenius, Otto Donner) and the USA (Terry Riley, Ann Halprin’s Dancers’ Workshop of San Francisco), as well as to countries like Bosnia and Peru for field-studies in folk music – rather than to Swedish composers’ traditional Meccas on the Continent. Choral music and music for wind instruments have appealed to him more than the symphony orchestra or the string quartet.'
As a composer, Rabe was considered an avant-gardist in the 1960s, with works such as Bolos for four trombones (the Culture Quartet) and Rondes for choir (one of his most widely performed works). From 1983 to 1997 he was a member of the intermedia group, the New Culture Quartet, mixing electronic and live music with film projections and other visual elements.
From the 1980s music for brass has played a prominent part in his output. There are solo concertos for trumpet, trombone and horn, and a concerto for brass quintet and symphony orchestra, as well as chamber music. His electronic work What??, composed in 1967, recently became better known after being reissued on CD, while Håkan Hardenberger’s recording of his trumpet concerto Sardine Sarcophagus won a Swedish ‘Grammis’ award in 2000.