Biography

Born on October 15 1905 in Striberg, near Nora in the Swedish region of Västmanland.

Grew up in Fjugesta south of Örebro, where his father had a roller blind factory. 

Early piano lessons and attempts at composition in a home full of various musical activities. 

1918-24 student at the Karolinska school in Örebro, diploma with major in Latin 1924.

Piano lessons in Örebro, active in the school’s arts society Brageförbundet, where he appeared both as a pianist and composer with his own pieces. He played the bass drum and celesta in the town’s orchestra society. There, he began a lifelong friendship with among others the violinist Sven Karpe and writer Erik Hjalmar Linder.

1926-31 student at the Music Conservatory in Stockholm, first in the organ class under Otto Olsson, later also studying piano (under Olof Wibergh), composition (under Ernst Ellberg) and conducting (under Olallo Morales). Presented his own songs and chamber music works during student concerts. 

His time in Stockholm supplied him with much exposure to both new and older music. His first experience of Honegger’s oratorio King David in 1927 was felt especially deeply. 

From 1931-34, Dag Wirén lived in Paris during the student seasons, where he studied instrumentation on a scholarship for the exiled Russian Leonid Sabanejev. He appeared there with his fellow student and cellist Gustav Gröndahl playing his own compositions in smaller contexts, performing among other works his Cello sonatina op. 1, which they even recorded for French radio. This work was also on the program when Gröndahl had his debut concert in Stockholm during the fall of 1931, which was also Wirén’s more official debut as a composer. During his time in Paris, he composed several of the works that would later take root in the repertoire. While there, Wirén also met the Irish cellist Noel Franks, who became his wife in 1934. 

In 1934, the couple moved to Stockholm, and from 1937 they had their own house in the suburb of Danderyd. In 1935 Wirén was accepted into the Society of Swedish Composers, where he worked until 1938 as a part-time librarian. In 1936, his String Quartet No. 2 was premiered at a concert sponsored by the Fylkingen Society, which was started in 1933 and where several of Wirén’s works were later presented. During the 1930s, he was also a frequent contributor to the Swedish Radio as a pianist. 

From 1938-46, Dag Wirén was a reviewer for the daily paper Svenska Morgonbladet. He was at the same time active with several duties for the Society of Swedish Composers and STIM.

During the Second World War (1939-45), Dag Wirén served in the military on three occasions, which disturbed his composing to a certain extent. This period also saw the first of his contributions to film music: Man glömmer ingenting (One Forgets Nothing, 1942). Wirén had written theater music already as a student (Privatskolan [The Private School, 1930]). Music written for film and theater would come to dominate his production, especially during the 1950s. 

In 1946, Wirén was nominated to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, and he sat on its board from 1948-60. 

In 1947, Annika, Dag and Noel Wirén’s only child, was born. This same year, Wirén was a part of the founding of Svenska tonkonstnärsförbundet (The Swedish Tone Artist’s Society), and was a member of its board. 

Beginning in 1948, he spent his summers on the island of Björkö, southwest of Ornö in Stockholm’s southern archipelago. The summer was “my best time,” according to Wirén, and much of his creative activity took place during these months. 

From the 1950s composition dominated his workload, including several different commissions. His last position on a board of directors, at the Royal Opera (1962), ended in 1971. 

From 1964, Dag Wirén received a newly created federal so-called artist’s income (yearly income guarantee). 

Dag Wirén died on April 19 1986 in his home in Danderyd.

Prizes and awards

1960 Prix Italia (for the TV ballet The Evil Queen) and Christ Johnson Music Prize

1964 Swedish artist’s income (lifelong income guarantee)

1975 Atterberg stipend

1978 Litteris et artibus and Hjalmar Bergman stipend

In 1995, the book 12 kapitel om Dag Wirén (12 Chapters on Dag Wirén, ed. L. Reimers) was published, containing personal memories, the first review of his critical work, a calendar, etc. 

In connection with the 100thanniversary of his birth in 2005, the book Dag Wirén – en vägvisare (Dag Wirén—A Pathfinder, ed. M.Tegen, Gidlund publishing house) was released; this work studies and analyses both his instrumental music and his film and theater music chronologically. Twelve writers take part. Wirén’s opinions and aesthetic as a music critic are researches, as well as the ideas prevalent in Paris and Sweden in the period between the wars. Wirén’s place in history is also studied. The book also contains a complete list of works with discography and a list of his work as an interpreter etc.