Folke Rabe, a formal biography
Folke Rabe, born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1935, studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm in 1957-64 where he had, among others, Valdemar Söderholm, Bo Wallner, Karl-Birger Blomdahl, Ingvar Lidholm, György Ligeti and Witold Lutoslawski as tutors. Travelling in Europe, the Americas and Asia has been of importance for his musical and cultural perspectives.
Apart from his composing Rabe has been active over a wide range of the realm of music: as a professional jazz musician, as an educator and lecturer, as an author on musical subjects, as a music administrator at the Swedish Institute for National Concerts (1968-80) where he was the program director through the last four years. From 1980 through 2000 he has been working for the Swedish National Broadcasting Corp. (as an editor, editor-in-chief and program manager) but now he continues as a freelance composer and introducer of music performances. He has also been interested in music ethnology, making field recordings in e.g. Bosnia and South America.
As a composer Folke Rabe was considered an avant-gardist in the 1960:ies with works such as "Pièce" for speaking choir, "Bolos" for four trombones (in collaboration with Jan Bark) and "Rondes" for choir which is one of Rabe's internationally most frequently performed works. Among his choral compositions also "Joe's Harp" /1970/, "Two Stanzas" (poem by Göran Sonnevi) /1980/ and "to love" (poems by e.e. cummings) /1984/ should be mentioned.
From the 1980:ies music for brass instruments has a prominent position in
his production (Rabe is a trombone player himself). There are solo concertos
for trumpet, trombone and French horn and a concerto for brass quintet and
symphony orchestra as well as chamber music, e.g. "Basta" for trombone
solo, "Tintomara" for trumpet and trombone, the brass quintet "Escalations"
and "Jawbone Five" for trombone and percussion ensemble. Furthermore
Rabe has composed music for symphony orchestra "So that this song will
not die" /1998/ and electro-acoustic music "What??" /1967/
and "Cyclone" /1984/.
A less formal biography
Folke Rabe born 1935:
‘A portrait of Folke Rabe,’ as Goran 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.
From the B.B.C. PROMS program booklet, August 2004